In this article, I give teaching candidates specific information about what principals, in particular, look for in new hires.
Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, all school principals, whether elementary, middle or high school, are under increasing pressure to create high-performing schools. They face:
• Competition with charter schools
• Children who bring more and more social and behavioral problems to the classroom
• Decreasing budgets
• Increased parental pressure, even as parental involvement decreases
• Inclusion and special accommodations for children with disabilities.
• A marked increase in the importance of standardized test scores
• More job responsibilities, which translates into less time and more stress
• School report cards
• Community image
Additionally, high school principals face pressure to increase graduation rates and college admissions, as well as to maintain good sports teams and other extracurricular activities.
Principals have perhaps the most stressful and demanding job in a school district. They face pressure to please the superintendent, the board of education, parents, and teacher unions, while at the same time maintaining a focus on what is best for children. Naturally, it is impossible for them to please everyone, resulting in job burnout.
Most people today do not understand the demands that a manager faces on a daily basis. The image of a principal that stands out in most people’s heads, typically a (man) in a suit sitting behind a large desk in the office talking on the phone, mentoring disruptive students, and holding a conference with parents, it’s only a small part of the director’s career today.
The effective director today is rarely in the office. Maintains visibility throughout the day by doing classroom tours and observations, monitoring common areas such as bus arrival and departure, breakfast and lunch, recess, attending committee meetings, and working to prevent discipline and other problems happen before they start. Middle and high school principals must also attend and supervise extracurricular activities.
Additionally, and probably most importantly, principals today must serve as the instructional leaders of the building. The principal is expected to analyze test results, plan and implement intervention strategies, supervise or, in some cases, direct professional development for teachers, and supervise grade level and department meetings.
That said, principals are looking for quality teachers who can help them deal with all of these demands from the variety of constituencies. When looking for a teaching job, find ways to highlight the following characteristics and qualifications that will help the principal achieve his or her goals.
1. Energetic: an enthusiastic person with a lot of energy to bring to the table; someone who cares about children.
2. A great classroom manager: the ability to manage a classroom full of challenging kids with minimal, if any, assistance from the office. Principals want to walk into their classroom and see at least 90% of their students participating in the lesson or activity.
3. Knowledgeable: The ability to teach lessons consistent with current theories of best practice teaching strategies that will raise standardized test scores. The ability to teach any child to read regardless of age level and to individualize lesson plans for the unique needs of each student is imperative.
4. A family bond: the ability to work and gain the trust of parents of diverse backgrounds. Principals don’t want phone calls from parents unless they tell them what a good job you are doing. They want parents to go out into the community and spread the word about what a good teacher you are.
5. Creative: With very little money available for school supplies, principals are looking for teachers who are able to maximize the use of the materials given to them and who find creative ways to obtain free materials if needed. Examples include: readiness / knowledge of grant writing, using websites like Donorschoose.org, and working with parent-teacher organizations to raise funds, make your own classroom materials, or find them for free online.
In short, you need to show your talents clearly and concisely. When creating a resume, portfolio, or cover letter, focus on displaying the five attributes above. During your interview, continually highlight and refer to the five attributes above.
What attributes do you think are important to managers today?