Too often, principals are handed the keys of the school-house and told, “Good luck!” The principalship is arguably the most influential, and most challenging, position in today’s educational landscape. Serving as middle-management (supporting district and state initiatives) and sitting at the helm, inspiring a school community and managing the physical plant, requires a diverse array of skills and dispositions.
Going it alone is rarely a viable strategy.
Fortunately, districts are beginning to embrace the value of providing direct mentoring support to principals. According to a Wallace Foundation report, “The primary goal of mentoring should be clear and unambiguous: to provide…principals with the knowledge, skills and courage to become leaders of change who put teaching and learning first in their schools.”
Knowledge and skills: That’ll compel principals to partner with expert leaders, those who understand the mentor’s role is to build capacity, not to replicate their own practices.
Courage: That’ll require something with more integrity than a “buddy system.”
Leaders of change: That’ll need mentors who can pose self-reflective questions and differentiate their support based on the principal’s context and goals.
So let’s grab those keys…and immediately request an external (outside the system) mentor, affording us the support, advice, shoulder, opportunities to reflect, and sounding-board necessary for our initial, and long-term, success.
Pete Hall is a professional development agent, former award-winning principal, speaker, and author of six books (including Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders (Eye on Education, 2011) and Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building your capacity for success in the classroom (ASCD, 2015). He shares his perspectives in 212-word entries when a topic captures his fancy. He can be reached for speaking engagements, professional development, or other queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.