Monday, September 12, 2011

Principles for principals

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Everyone has their own personal set of guiding principles. Those of us in the field of education often examine our principles, our values, our morals, as we are frequently teaching them explicitly to others. Our principles become especially important during times of stress or strife, particularly during  those times when we disagree with others.

Here are several ways I strive to put principles before personalities at school:
  • during my conversations remember that my focus needs to be on serving the needs of students
  • it is okay to disagree without being disagreeable
  • not everyone shares the same values as I do, but they are still deserving of respect and dignity
  • I am in a position of trust, and need to represent the interests of many diverse parties
  • most importantly, treat others how I would like to be treated
My list is not comprehensive, and there are many great resources for this sort of thing. I like to keep a few of these simple ideas on post-it notes on my bulletin board. It helps to keep me focused and serving the needs of students. 


  1. Great reminder for us in the many relationships we engage in (father-child, spousal, administration, facilitator-learner).

    I would also suggest: Listen. Listen for understanding of the real issues. Listen for winning solutions/opportunities. And talk less.

  2. Came across this the other day while doing some research on how principled staff meetings fit into school improvement...

    Nancy: "How can principals shape culture through their daily interactions?"

    Peterson: "Principals shape the culture in all of their daily interactions. You know, leaders’ work is characterized by brevity, variety, and fragmentation. And, that is what school leaders work is like as well - a lot in interruptions, enormous number of interactions with people. The daily work is a great time to reinforce the culture. You can spend the school tour, or the district tour, talking with people and communicating your values. Every interaction with a staff member or a student is a chance to reinforce the culture. Every time you step into a classroom, it’s a chance to not talk about the ceiling tiles that need to be replaced, but to talk about student learning, and curriculum and instruction."