Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Impact of Principals

Todd Whitaker WHAT GREAT PRINCIPALS DO DIFFERENTLY18 Things That Matter Most

Many of us have met or worked with a principal who exuberated their passion for teaching and learning. Their optimism and belief in student growth and achievement were simply contagious. Engaging in conversation often left you more inspired because you were valued and recognized for your individual strengths, and were given knowledge in the form of ideas and possibilities for your next steps. You didn’t want to become like them, you wanted to be the amazing educator they believed you were working to become.

In author Todd Whitaker’s book, What Great Principals Do Differently he has identified those “things” great principals do “that matter most” every single day, specifically 18 things. Although what is important to remember when reading Whitaker’s book is no one principal is an expert in all of these specific actions. Great principals are continually fine tuning their professional practices. They incorporate these qualities in their roles and responsibilities every day to have the greatest impact on teachers, who in turn can facilitate the greatest impact in their classrooms.

What a great principal does every day starts with recognizing “it’s about people, not programs” (p. 5). There is no program you can buy or system you can develop that can trump the relationships you develop with your teachers. School improvement is hard work. To incorporate needed change, great principals recognize we must develop and support our greatest resource--the teachers.  By focusing on the teachers, we can create those exceptional learning environments needed for our students to learn and grow and reach their potential.

Great principals don’t spend their time in their office, they are out and about in classrooms and having conversations. They are celebrating and recognizing what is effective and working for students. They observe and provide targeted specific feedback to teachers, which allows our educators to be the effective resources needed in our classrooms. These on-going discussions help teachers to understand what is prioritized and valued in our learning communities. Great principals realize we can also learn from each other and provide systems where novice and ineffective teachers can learn from “superstar teachers” and become a critical means for change. 

Whitaker’s most important message comes at the conclusion of his book. Great principals understand they are the “filter” for what happens in their school. Adhering to their core beliefs and not letting the overwhelming amount of distractions persuade them to do differently than what is best for their students is what great principals do every day. As John Hattie would say to teachers and leaders, “Know thy impact.” Whitaker agrees, “Every principal has an impact” (p. 141). Great principals do things differently with what matter most every day. 

To see the list 18 things that matter most check out Education World infographic @

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