If you are considering traveling the administrative track, there are some things that you must know about the position you are vying for. Take all factors into consideration before making your decision, and talk to other administrative educators to find out what their experiences have been like. Evaluate your skill sets and determine whether this is the right position for you. In the meantime, consider the pros and cons of leadership in education:
1. Salary and benefit increase
When you consider that the average mean salary for a teacher is $55,000, it can make the jump to over $100,000 very attractive for a position such as this. With the increase in salary comes much responsibility, however, and this is not to be taken lightly. You'll be making decisions that affect the welfare and well being of children and employees in your care. Consider this carefully, and do not allow yourself to be lured in based on salary and benefits alone.
2. Daily responsibilities vary, and keep your position fresh
For a principal, no two days are alike; there is much variety. Each day brings with it new problems, new challenges, and new opportunities to demonstrate ingenuity and greatness. On the other hand, if you are someone who likes to plan and cross things off of a "to do" list, then this position may not be for you. Often, unexpected issues will arise that make it impossible for you to accomplish the things you set out to do that day. If you are able to let go of the little things in favor of accomplishing bigger picture items, then perhaps you have what it takes to make an effective administrator.
3. You'll have more control
As a site leader, you'll inevitably have more control over virtually every aspect of how your school is run. You'll also be responsible for promoting building climate and setting high expectations for students and staff alike. Are you up for the challenge? Can you inspire and motivate people to keep going when the going gets tough? In order to exercise effective control, you must be comfortable making decisions that you know will impact everyone in your school community. Choose wisely, and always seek more information and input from more experienced voices in your community to be a sounding board for your vision and ideas for the future.
4. You'll receive credit for successes
As a leader, you'll have the unique opportunity to celebrate successes that your school achieves, and as such, you'll also be accountable for shortcomings and failures that you as a school community often face. Developing a diplomatic approach to problem solving and refusing to take failures personally will help you through some tough times and enable you to keep the bigger picture in mind.
5. You have a significant impact
As a principal, your influence extends far beyond a single classroom. You have the opportunity to touch and inspire every student, teacher and support staff member that you work with. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly; you will make or break your community with your communication and leadership style; speak and act with integrity, and be confident as you choose a direction for your school that will positively impact everyone involved.
1. You'll spend more time at school
Principals are often the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave their building. There are community building events that take up nights and weekends, and your commitment to all will demonstrate the level of investment that you have in your school, your staff, and your students. Be prepared to go the extra mile and do some of the nitty gritty work to ensure that all aspects of your school are running smoothly.
2. You have more responsibility
More responsibility is a double edged sword---you'll be making more decisions that affect everyone in your care, but you'll also be responsible for how everything functions. Taking responsibility for both successes and failures will be instrumental to the success of your school community.
3. You'll have to deal with the negatives
Quite often, the buck stops with you. For those students who struggle or have difficulty following routines, you will have to work with both them and their families to develop plans for their success. You will have to have some very difficult conversations where you and families will not see eye to eye, and there are likely to be some disappointments as you attempt to guide and direct all toward success. Realize that this negative is a part of the position, and refuse to take these issues personally as you strive to do your best in each situation, each day.
4. This position is highly political at times
There is a big political component to being in educational leadership. You must be very diplomatic in your approach to parents, students, and staff. You cannot always say what you really want to say in certain situations, and you must adopt a professional, calm demeanor at all times.
There will also be situations where you will feel enormous pressure to make decisions that make you uncomfortable, or situations where you disagree entirely with what the outcome will be. This pressure can come from prominent parents in your community, other community or political party members in your city, and members of the school board. Maintain an ethical stance as you stand up for what you believe in and what you believe is best for your school in these situations, even though it may cost you dearly. The political game can be hard to play, especially when your own success and well being are on the line. Refuse to give up your personal sense of what is right in these situations, and you'll retain your respect regardless of the outcome.
Principals are at an exciting crossroads of policy and practice, which make them ideal advocates for strong schools and sound educational policy. When change becomes necessary, principals have a responsibility to shape discussion and direction of leadership, making them powerful instruments of change. If you are excited about the prospect of positive change, and you envision yourself a pillar of strength in an ever increasing world of educational demands, then embrace this new career path. We need strong people like you changing the face of education today.