The Principal’s Role in Quality Instruction: Take the Time to Get Involved

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There is a great deal involved in being a good campus leader. Principals’ duties include instructional leadership, campus management and school safety. Although their list of responsibilities may seem quite lengthy, principals know that sharing these duties and delegating tasks are essential to getting the job done.  Campus administrators understand that the key to being a good leader involves prioritizing tasks and identifying the things that require their personal attention. The key area that requires the principal’s on-going involvement is instructional leadership.

Principals play the most important role in classroom instruction.  They provide the support and guidance needed to ensure quality instruction occurs. Just as students need support from teachers, teachers need the support of their principal.  This includes being visually present during the school day.  Having the principal present and available gives teachers and opportunity to get to know them better and helps principals understand the needs of their teachers. Schools are all about teacher instruction and student learning. Principals must make time in their daily schedules to step out of the office and go where the action is happening.

Take the information that you gather from campus data and interactions with your staff to plan training and assign mentors. You have the opportunity to create a culture of adult learning (NAESP, 2001).  Setting up teacher and paraprofessional training and providing job embedded learning opportunities provide both teachers and administrators with the tools needed to support student learning. It is essential that the principal be a part of the adult learning circle.  You can’t provide support for things that you don’t understand.  Principals must be familiar with the curriculum, teaching methods and learning strategies that work for diverse learners.  This includes understanding the needs of students receiving special education services.  Understanding these needs assists in making appropriate educational decisions for students with disabilities can positively impact student learning.

Principals spend a great deal of time dealing with issues that occur a small percentage of the school day.  While many administrators find it difficult to find time get out into classrooms or participate in teacher trainings.  Classroom instruction is what schools are all about.  Therefore, a sufficient amount of time should be given to improving instruction. Whenever possible, let rules, systems and procedures that are already in place assist you in dealing with other issues that may occur. Even when you feel overwhelmed with state and federal standards and disciplinary issues, don’t forget to take the time to address instruction.

Instructional support can take many forms.  It may include participating in data reviews with staff, planning meetings, setting up teacher training, “wall throughs” and simply being present during class changes.  You can’t be available for everything.  But, when you are available, make it count. There are always opportunities to support instruction, even when you are walking in the hallways.  Principals can model appropriate behavior, acknowledge good behavior with a nod or thumbs up, as well as provide reminders about the behavior you expect from students. 

If you support good instructional practices, no matter what the setting is, positive changes will have an impact in other areas.  You are the instructional leader.  Therefore, you must walk, talk and act the part. 

If you aren’t a part of the solution, you may be a part of the problem.

Deal with instruction head-on and work with your teachers and administrators as a team to improve instruction and make it a priority.

References: Sergiovanni, Thomas J. 2001. The Principalship: A Reflective Practice Perspective, 4th edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Kathleen Trail, Taking the Lead: The Role of the Principal in School Reform, Connections, Volume 2 Number 4 October 2000 DuFour, Richard. The Learning-Centered Principal Educational Leadership 59, 8 (May 2002): 12-15 Knapp, M., Leading for Learning Sourcebook: Concepts and Examples. Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, 2003.

Written by Lynne Guidry, M.Ed.

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