I am on a district committee with the task of developing principal evaluations using the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC pronounced izlick) Standards. These standards have been adopted by 43 states as the measure of a principal's success. They are what one would expect from something with a bureaucratic acronym like Izlick. They're accurate enough, but as dry as toast. I am tasked with translating the standards from Administrative Educationese to Plain English, and it occurred to me that teachers might have an opinion on what makes a good principal. Anyone care to share?

What did your best principal do for you, your school, your program? Any horror stories? No names, of course, please. And all in the name of making sure that whatever that principal did poorly, we would expect the opposite to be true for a good principal.

Tags: administration, administrator, horror, isllc, principal, standards, stories

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I'll start with my worst principal story. Mr. X believed that if he walked into a teacher's room for an observation or evaluation, the teacher would teach differently and Mr. X wouldn't see a typical lesson. Instead he stood outside the open classroom door and listened, but couldn't see what was going on. This didn't work well for the "foods" class, back in the day before it was called Home Ec or FACS. He couldn't hear enough. Instead he went outside the building and peered through the windows to see what the teacher was doing. The teacher sees some man with his head pressed against the gray-tinted windows and doesn't recognize him. She screams. Her students scream in response. Teachers from neighboring rooms come running as she yells, "There's a pervert peeping in my windows." Many teachers run outside to catch the perpetrator. Our principal hears the screams and tries to move away from the windows but he stumbles over a bush and falls face down. One of the history teachers sees him struggling on the ground and in a pure movie-style move, throws himself on the man struggling to get up. The history teacher quickly grabs the "perpetrator's arms and pulls them behind his back and sits on Mr. X until others show up to help. It was the last time he looked through windows for an observation but he continued to stand outside of doors to get a "true impression" of a how a teacher teaches. We were required to teach with our doors open.
That's hilarious! Obviously, this principal had not read Standard 2 which states that a principal sustains a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. So we could rewrite it to say that to have a good school culture, principals shouldn't spy on their teachers.
Mr. X was obviously unprofessional in how he dealt with teachers. Fortunately that was a long time ago and I've had better principals since then. One of the best ones I had allowed me to make mistakes and then posed hard hitting questions that made me analyze what I did, why it failed and what I should do in the future. He could have stopped me from making some of the mistakes but he knew that experience is a better teacher than advice. I don't have any specific examples but I know that he helped me grow as a teacher.
Our Principal in an elementary School shacked up with a guy and had a baby out of wedlock..such a fine example for the young girls and boys. She would run down the hall screaming at the top of her lungs. In meetings if things didn't go her way she'd start crying. She made bad comments about student's parents behind their back to staff. Support staff caught her lying and distorting facts. She would ignore speed limits in the parking lot and speed near children. She did nothing to see that unsafe conditions in the school were fixed. What a horror show.
Wow. Ummm. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that she hadn't read Standard V which states: A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.
You are right on...only pretended concern for students & staff. Worse was that she had the support of the Superintendent of Schools who had a similar lack of ethics & morals which impacted negatively on our community. Parents spoke up on matters of concern but in the end finally gave up resulting in those who could afford it moving away, or enrolling their children in private schools to get away from a failed system.
What a shame. Any 'Best Of' Principal stories?
My best principal---who unfortunately I only got to work with for one year---would drop little notes in teachers' boxes very frequently praising them for something specific that they had done well---what a great morale booster!

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