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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Time's Right for Your Principalship!

The Time’s Right for Your Principalship!

By Dr. Ryan Donlan and Dr. Steve Gruenert
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

Talking with colleagues last week, we shared a few reasons why if we had to do it all over again, we would definitely still go into the principalship.  No better time in education exists than RIGHT NOW to be an educational building leader. 

Admittedly, some considering principal preparation programs are concerned with recent trends in legislation or prescriptive mandates regarding aspects of a principal’s job, and they have questioned whether or not a principalship would be right for them.

Thus, we feel we should share what is being discussed as we travel -- The reasons why the principalship is still one of the best careers on the planet … and why it will be long into the future.  These points – some our own … some gleaned from K-12 leaders – are listed below in no particular order.  Please give them a read and offer your own if you have time.

Managerial rights are increasing.  The trend toward scaling back on the power of such items as unionism and tenure protection of teachers allows principals to incentivize those who are great for children and to dis-incentivize those who are not.

No one is in a better position to positively enact change and influence a school’s short-term climate and long-term, organizational culture than a principal.  Better than anyone, principals can make school a positive place for children.

To extend on the prior point … perhaps with the new changes at the state and federal levels, although they may seem frustrating, they have actually unfrozen many school cultures, thus, positioning them better to receive any new changes, ideas, or innovations. In these times of stress, teachers are looking for some kind of relief.  The principal can be the hero.

As principal, your workplace becomes more a reflection of your values the longer you stay in the role.  It resembles your personality.  What a great way to spend a full time career than in a place that is a “fit” for you!

Although some decisions need to be made lickety-split, in most cases as compared to classroom teaching, principals can take a bit of time to deliberate on the more important things that come across their desks.  I found that I had much more time to “measure twice and cut once” on items that affected my professional present and future.

Related to the above, principals are privy to more information and context with which to make decisions.  As principal, your lens is wider, and you are entrusted with more pertinent information.

Having a “choice spot” from which to watch all sporting events and extra-curricular activities is a bonus, if you’re resourceful enough to hire others to chase around children under the bleachers.

Whether it’s through your State Principals’ Association or via the collegiality on your administrative team, as principal, you will have a great cohort of folks through which to garner support in challenging times.  These friendships and support networks can last a lifetime.

As principal you can create your own level of fun on the job, as within your shop, you set the tone.  You serve-up the building’s personality each day.

Imagine how well you will be positioned, as principal, to know the children whom your own children should befriend, and whom they should not (a side benefit … but worth mentioning). 

If things are going well, your superintendent has no desire to replace you, as breaking in a new principal is a variable that most superintendents do not want to deal with … too much of a gamble.  Too expensive.  Too political.

You typically have job security through multi-year contracts, as a variety of employment arrangements are available and most are negotiable upon employment.  Some contracts even roll over automatically, so that each year, principals are on the first year of another multi-year employment package.

Unlike most faculty members in advanced stages of their careers, if things do not go well and layoffs occur, a principal’s position is one of the most highly sought after in education.  As principal, you are much in demand professionally, and the job market is a seller’s market (for your skills).

The skills you acquire, hone, and refine in the principalship command worthy consulting fees in retirement – OR even during employment, if they can be arranged outside school hours.

The principalship serves as a platform, or better yet, as a direct path of skill sets and experiences to getting one’s PhD. The further transformation of professional efficacy that would occur in the doctoral program, along with the relationships within the cohort in which you would study, will last forever.

There’s never a dull moment in the principalship.  As principal, you’ll certainly have lots of great dinner table conversation for those things you can discuss.

As principal, you are best positioned in a career in education to protect kids and save lives!


Dr. Ryan Donlan and Dr. Steve Gruenert travel the state of Indiana meeting principals and seeing, first-hand, the processes and products they have put in place on behalf of children and community.  Please let them know your thoughts on a career as a principal by e-mailing them at or

1 comment:

  1. The comment that "...your workplace becomes more a reflection of your values the longer you stay in the role..." really hit home with me. This is one reason not only to become a principal, but to remain in the same position over the long term. There are so many benefits to longevity, both for the principal and for the school. I have seen many examples of how over time a school begins to resemble the personality of its leadership. Thanks for your post. It gives those of us who are currently in a principalship as well as those who are considering becoming a building leader a lot to think about.