As a specialist in the education sector, Cameron Gonzales is well-placed to offer her advice about the ever-changing role of the school principal. Having written a dissertation focusing on successful principal leadership in high achieving Title I schools, she knows a thing or two about this challenging role and how it has altered over the past 15 years.
“Having been a university professor for 15 years and as an education specialist, I know a lot about what goes into being a school principal,” Cameron says. “However, many people lack an understanding of this vital role. The image that most people have of the average school principal couldn’t be more wrong in today’s modern world of learning.”
Cameron Gonzales believes that most people picture an authoritarian, outdated stereotype when they think about a typical school principal. Yet these days, this is a completely wrong idea. The modern education environment is a rapidly changing one, and principals are no longer just a chief disciplinarian and administrator, but also have a vital role to play in their students’ success by establishing their school’s culture through their leadership and behavior.
How Has The Principal’s Role Changed?
Perhaps the most important change when it comes to school principals is the role itself. At one time, not too long ago, principals were only middle managers and administrators. Their main tasks centered around overseeing discipline, schedules and budgets and their primary goal was to be decisive and strong. These days, though, the role is far more demanding and hands-on.
“Successful principals these days are expected to be much more visible to parents than ever before. Principals have to greet students and parents every morning. They have to be a high-energy type who is prepared to circulate through the school constantly, setting standards, offering feedback and, in effect, being the social glue that holds the institution together,” Cameron says. “Principals today must alter norms and raise expectations.”
The Present Principal
Whereas at one time principals were rarely seen outside their offices, today this has changed dramatically.
“When the leader is absent, student achievement cannot be improved,” Cameron Gonzales says. “Leadership cannot be achieved via authority or fear. Instead, it must be built on a basis of empathy, collaboration and engagement.” The most successful school principals, she notes, make regular classroom visits and make their presence known both as a collaborator and supporter for teachers and students alike.
Making A Team Effort
A principal must establish a collaborative culture if they are to recruit the best teachers and ensure the best outcomes for their students. All principals are keen to create a school environment that is positive and welcoming, and that allows children to thrive. This begins by creating a school environment in which teachers can thrive.
“Newly hired teachers will only stay committed to their school if the principal can collaborate and work with faculty members effectively,” Cameron says. “Since the modern education landscape is one of competition and choice, it couldn’t be more obvious that optimistic, energetic and determined principals are needed to keep the school on course for success.”