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Gone are the days when principals were sole decision makers who spent the bulk of their workdays behind closed doors. Governing schools while keeping interaction with teachers, students and parents to a limit is no longer the model for a principal’s success. In today’s demanding educational environments, principals need to collaborate. They have to be great at networking and building trust. The best will search out wisdom from the teachers and parents around them. An adept school principal won’t just make final decisions presented to them without having been involved in the moving parts and pieces that paved the way. While most agree that the ideal school principal should always be actively developing their abilities to perform such a highly complex job well, what sorts of professional development skills should they be building?


School principals must be adept at communicating effectively with all kinds of kids and parents. Breaking the ice with parents helps build awareness of the cultures and opinions that inform the student experience in classes as well as extracurricular spaces of the school. It can also enable a more clear understanding about the role that education plays in student’s home lives. Staying aware of how students and teachers interact as well as creating opportunities for parents to provide feedback, should encompass as much of a principal’s time as reading reports about academic competence and other bureaucratic matters. School districts that are bilingual benefit from having principals who can communicate in the languages other than English that parents speak with their kids. The cohesive effect that engaging in informal conversations with students and their families on a daily basis can seem beyond the scope of a principal but isn’t.

Empowering everyone

Principles were once the sole arbiters of important decisions, but those most successful today lead through consensus. Teachers, students and parents should be mutually involved in creating resolutions to problems. When a principal shares decision making among all parties involved, they know their opinions matter. Resentment about not being valued members of the community they belong to won't build. Although students spend most of their time in classes, many remain disconnected from those around them, unfortunately. Principals who make an effort to link problems such as low academic performance with low involvement in the activities of the school around them will ultimately develop the tools to motivate higher numbers of their students to engage in clubs and sports programs.

Keeping abreast of the latest educational instructional trends

Principals shouldn’t only perceive of themselves as administrators of their schools without actively staying on top of the most recent advances in education. A principal can’t determine if members of their teaching staff are providing the highest quality of instruction to students without being aware of what the choices are. Surveying students about the types of projects they engage in that lead towards higher scores and understanding is one overlooked form of assessing how well they’re benefitting from the educational instruction in place. Education is evolving faster than ever before. There are a growing number of theories on how learning happens. Some are just fads and some lead towards positive results. A principal in touch with their student body’s academic strengths and weaknesses will be able to assess if teaching styles and techniques are aligned with their needs


Nothing plays more of an active role in our daily lives than the Internet and the many devices related to it. Technology goes beyond doing searches and tasks, however. It’s the basis for society’s new infrastructure and the force that drives daily transactions. It’s a crucial part of how healthcare, among other services, are delivered. Principals must be avid frontline advocates for populations of students without adequate access to technology, even when the costs of acquiring tech tools in their schools classrooms exceed existing budgets. The most rigorous education will provide access to computers among other digital resources. Teachers are more relevant to young learners when provided with the most cutting edge and dynamic teaching tools. Principals should be passionate about tech adoption and pursue every option when it comes to making the latest hardware and software available in their schools. They shouldn’t become passive about using digital resources in the classroom once they’re acquired either .

Identifying resources that will augment learning

While budgets often impede the acquisition of cutting edge equipment and materials, schools are better able to plan expenditures or seek funding when ideas about what should be purchased and their benefits are laid out in advance. A principal’s capacity to lead a school towards being most conducive to educating should include assessing everything from the role that textbooks being used are playing in test scores to behavioral issues. While traditional desks and chairs have been the norm for decades, recent evolutions in classroom design show that furniture that encourages interaction and facilitates problem solving is one example of how comprehensive education can be Increasing evidence shows that students like being mobile and not restricted to rectangular desks facing a blackboard. Though state-of-the-art classes depend on generous budgets, a principal who stays aware of all the options in classroom design will have the ability to request grants or organize fundraisers that support larger purchases. While leadership in education once relied heavily on approving teacher decisions, principals should leave no stone unturned in gathering insights on the most optimal learning environments.

Being a principal was once a role largely performed in the background of K-12 schools. There was a time when many in the profession limited their participation in the daily lives of their schools to tracking the overall progress of their staff and students from a distance, only suddenly intervening when crises arose. Schools as well as the wider societies that depend on being empowered through education have acquired a broader spectrum of needs that principals need a growing array of skills to address. Career development in the profession not only needs to keep up with the pace of change in the communities in which schools are based, it has to be forward thinking. In fact, the best learning programs will enable a school principal to stay one step ahead.

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