7 Back-to-School Reads for Principals

Stories and Advice by Leaders, for Leaders

Principals are naturally energetic, positive, and inspirational people. As the leader of an entire community of teachers and learners, it’s up to them to set the tone for the school climate, keep everyone on track towards important goals, and make everyone feel empowered, welcome, and valued within school walls. Back-to-school season is every principal’s time to shine, when every teacher and student looks to their leaders to understand what kind of school year they have on the horizon.

From our interactions with principals as part of the Art of Teaching Project, we’ve found that because of their positive energy and inspiring nature, principals are generous with their knowledge, and they’re always eager to share advice and stories with their peers!

Whether you’re a principal yourself or a teacher leader looking for some advice, we’ve gathered these stories from principals across the country to help refresh your leadership skills and vision this back-to-school season:

On leadership →

“So, before the first days of school approach, and the teachers report to their positions, I have been behind the scenes creating master schedules, approving supply lists, confirming book orders, meeting with vendors, easing the nerves of new parents, and everything else the dealer throws out that day. It is as if, I am setting the stage for a great stage production. It is the calm before the storm.” — Stefan Joly, Principal
“The visual I like to use for feedback is instead of pointing in a direction and telling people where we are going [standing apart from them] I am wrapping my arm around their shoulder and having a conversation of fears and hopes all the while we are both stepping forward. Pace of progress is irrelevant — the relationship is most critical.” — Derek McCoy, Principal

On student empowerment →

“It will be very hard to inspire your students at all if you do not take the time to get to know them. Ask questions, listen, and engage as much as possible because this will help you become a more effective instructor. This will also show your students that you care about them. For some students, you may be the only person that truly has their best interests in mind.” — Zach Bruner, Principal
“When I became a principal, my goal was not to simply to create an academic institution that focused on exams, but a holistic learning environment where children could thrive from a safe space that honored their voices. My goal was to empower the next generation of students to become advocates and explorers of the truth.” — Nadia Lopez, Principal

On digital learning →

“Digital citizenship should not just be a scheduled lesson. It should be part of everything we do related to the use of technology in the classroom. It’s something educators must model and discuss regularly. Moreover, it’s part of the bigger issue of developing good citizenship in the broadest sense. How are we helping students contribute as positive, productive members of communities online and in physical space?” — David Geurin, Principal
“A traditional approach to education, with smart technology, is advancing in whole group, small group, and individual instruction, with smart automated devices. Schools have teams of teachers and support staff to help those that are unsure of the path with this progressive approach. The excitement of these teachers, who are willing to help, is overwhelming.” — Stefan Joly, Principal

On creativity and innovation →

“Students need to feel challenged, with that, they need to explore, question, evaluate, and learn how to seek out the answer to their questions. Some of those questions will not be answered, which is okay. The most important piece is the process that they follow. Students need to be able to develop a course to answer their questions through a design process to ascertain the solutions to their questions.” — Jerry Paterson, Principal