Great Principals Do This. I Don’t.

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I have been contemplating (better word than thinking… thanks thesaurus) what it takes to be a good principal or school administrator.

After much thought, I have concluded that I am lacking in a most important area.

Principals must have certain traits to succeed at what can be a very challenging job.

The qualities that came to mind quickly included organizational skills, leadership, and time management. To be successful, one must make good use of time and be able to take care of details.

Then I thought about decisiveness, a sense of fairness, and the ability to control one’s temper (sometimes easier said than done).

As I continued mulling this topic over, it occurred to me that the qualities needed to lead a school were almost endless.I am Not Allowed to Wear Theme Ties.  Ever.

A great principal must have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and even more importantly how the staff and students should get there. Then have the ability to guide by encouragement and sometimes even a little arm-twisting.

Principals must always be believers, in themselves and the students, and certainly in what they want to accomplish.

Next, I thought they must be willing to work longer hours than most. This is really a requirement of all people who are really good at their occupations.

When working in schools one must be available to work days, some nights, occasional weekends, and certainly be flexible enough to change your personal plans on a moment’s notice.

While the job pays well, an administrator needs to work harder than the people around them. For those who are paid the most; a lot is expected.

If you are going to be a great principal, you need to accept responsibility for all of your decisions. And then be prepared to accept the responsibility for the decisions of others, whether good or bad (just a head ups… not usually good).

Just as important is being prepared to hand the credit to someone else when things go well and take the blame for almost anything or anybody when things go badly (and things always go badly, sooner or later).

All of the really good administrators that I have met are understanding, kind, enthusiastic, driven, and have a sense of humor.

The ability to laugh may be the most important skill of all. To be successful in education, one cannot take themselves too seriously (if you can’t laugh at yourself, someone else will).

Lastly, it occurred to me that most successful principals regularly exercise. You have to make your health a priority. A structured exercise program also helps with mental health.

I thought that I had come up with a pretty good list of qualities about what makes a great school administrator until… it was pointed out that I don’t wear theme ties.

No ties with drawings from small children. No ties with baseballs, soccer balls, or basketballs on them. No ties with pictures of crayons. No Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob, or Superman ties. And none with addition, subtraction, or multiplication problems on them.

Worse than this, I can never remember to wear the appropriate color on holidays. No red on Valentine’s Day, green on St. Patrick’s Day, or orange on Halloween.

A great principal should dress the part.

And I can’t even bring myself to wear a theme tie. I hate to admit this, but I don’t even own one. Not a single solitary theme tie. I am truly a failure.

Kids don’t care about organization, time management, vision, or work ethic. They want to see a colorful and cool tie. I am not fit to work in a school or be around children.

The state should repossess my administrative degree.

Worse than this, I don’t even have my school keys strapped to my belt. I am such a loser.

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10 Responses to “Great Principals Do This. I Don’t.”


  1. Pat
    on Mar 19th, 2008
    @ 3:34 am

    I had the best principal in the world! I didn’t always agree with him or like what decisions he made but he tried his best to be fair. He was always at school before I got there (and I was one of the first teachers to get there) and he was there long after I left in the afternoons. He always tried to show up at school functions, even if it was just for a little while. He walked the halls and showed an interest in the students. The best part for me was that he stood up for the teachers (now he might fuss at us privately) but he stood up to us whenever a parent was upset with us. I also learned that when I told him something confidential, it stayed that way. He did his best to make us feel like a team and be part of the decision making process. And I guess the best part is that he believed in being open and transparent with the teachers, the parents, and the students. I couldn’t ask for more than that. I could have cried when he accepted a job in another district because he didn’t feel appreciated in ours.


  2. nrb5
    on Mar 19th, 2008
    @ 7:16 pm

    My present principal does not wear theme ties, and I am sure he does not own one…
    and the worst principal I have ever had wore them…
    and short sleeve dress shirts…
    enough said.


  3. Tim
    on Mar 19th, 2008
    @ 10:17 pm

    Been reading for awhile. If you would like I’ll send you a theme tie. It will be colorful and cool. Let me know.


  4. micsmith
    on Mar 20th, 2008
    @ 7:39 am

    This isn’t one of those deals where the first one is free- then you start charging me when I am hooked is it? My parents warned me about people like you.


  5. Mike Parent
    on Mar 30th, 2008
    @ 11:36 am

    I am in the middle of the interviewing process for a high school principal position. I might be out of luck if they like themed ties…

    Other than that, I think you hit it all. In fact, this post might be a cheat sheet of “things to say” for principal interviews. I’ll send my buddies this way to get some pointers.

    Love, love, love your blog. It’s now in my reader and a link on my blog!

    If I get the job, I’ll make it a point to thank you.


  6. Alden Stewart
    on Nov 14th, 2008
    @ 8:08 am

    Although you state, and I beleive that to a certain degree that it is true that “Kids don’t care about organization, time management, vision, or work ethic.” It is important to have these skills in order for kids to see that a principal is good at his or her job. Your second part of that statement “I am not fit to work in a school or be around children.” is tongue-in-cheek, because we all know that kids want the cool parent, the cool teacher and the cool teacher; however as much as we try to impress, it seems to me that we lose the goal of why we have chosen the profession and that is to make sure every student has a chance and achieves to the best of his or her ability.


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  10. Jan Rossi
    on Sep 16th, 2012
    @ 11:36 pm

    In general, the whole “look at me i am wearing a cool tie today” thing takes away a bit of your authority. You are the go-to guy for the rules and there are lots of times when you can laugh and be casual, but when giving discipline to a student who needs it – that goofy tie kind of undermines your authority. Not to worry. The person that told you this runs their life on themes. They are the people with lots of holiday decorations languishing in the basement until they can reveal them for 2 weeks around Christmas. Be who you are and all is just fine….that’s the message you tell the kids, right? Keep on, keepin’ on!! Nice blog you have here….

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