Easy To Forget: School Principals Set The Tone And School Culture By Robert Bacal
I first noticed, as a high school student, that my friends going to other high schools seemed to have very different experiences than I did. Of course I didn't have any idea WHY, or HOW, being a callow youth, but I had this gut feeling that somehow, one school within the same school board was...well different.
Later on, as an adult, I had the opportunity to coordinate and supervise practice teaching in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and got to visit a good fifteen different high schools, meet with the principals, and sit in on classes to observe and supervise my students.
Role Of The Principal: Different Principals, Different Climate
What first jumped out were differences in the "feel" of different schools -- something that I could feel on my initial visits to talk to principals about accepting my practice teaching students. I noticed, even on walking through the halls, that some schools were happy, with students helping each other, lots of laughing, and a comfortable atmosphere, while in other schools, there didn't seem to be the same energy.
What was interesting was that when I got to talk with the principals, I found that the positive school climates always existed when the principals were also positive, upbeat, and willing to accept our practice teachers. Schools where the feel was differerent, and less positive, had principals that were hesitant to host my students, or outright refused. Their interpersonal demeanor was gruffer, harsher, and much less inviting.
It was clear to me that each principal had a strong influence on the students, but also on the teachers in each school, in fact a much stronger influence than I would have thought.
It's Easy To Forget That Part Of The Principal's Job
Let's face it. Principals have so many items on their plates, dealing with teachers, students, and parents in their schools, but also have to deal upwards with superintendents, school boards, and of course, they have to handle all the standard administrative tasks. It's a very difficult and demanding job. Sometimes overwhelming. So, it's not surprising that one can forget that principals are school leaders, who shape the school climate, which ultimately reflects their own styles and attitudes.
It's worth taking a few minutes now and again to reflect on the question:
How does my behavior, style, and communication tone affect the school culture, and how students and parents perceive my school?
While teachers are the main contact with parents, principals are also important in a number of ways for building bridges between home and school. In this section, you'll find advice, ideas and methods for increasing parental involvement and working more effectively with parents for principals
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