Christian School Principals Read and Lead

by Jonas Sauder

This post describes ten aspects of the school program that principals must constantly be aware of and monitor for the health of the school.

Effective principals “have their senses (powers of discernment) exercised” (Heb. 5:14) to constantly “read” key symptoms of the health of the school they lead. Although this “sixth sense” can be trained intentionally by focusing on individual symptoms, principals should eventually cultivate the ability to feel subliminal clues, articulate their meaning and significance, and address them appropriately. This skill is as important for identifying and affirming successes as it is for identifying and addressing problems.

  1. The spiritual tone of the school as evidenced in board, committee, faculty meetings; school classes and activities; and in communications. Is it healthy, inspiring, invigorating, and dynamic in a way that exhibits godliness?
  2. Faculty/Staff harmony and fellowship. Are teachers free, open, cheerful, respectful and supportive in their interactions with each other—and with the nonteaching staff?
  3. How the Christian philosophy of education imbues the school program, generally and specifically. Do both the planned and the hidden curriculum of the program smell Christian, even inadvertently?
  4. Effective communication. The principal “knows everybody and everything” from the center, and can easily forget who doesn’t know what. Are the various people in the program, from bus drivers to board members, teachers, volunteers—and students—informed appropriately, sufficiently, and effectively? How?
  5. Teacher support. All teachers seek support/affirmation in various ways—with difficult students, challenging instructional materials or methods, frustrating parents, time constraints, understanding and completing professional tasks, etc. Are you aware of which teachers are wanting which kinds of support? They may actually be unaware of what they “want.” You may need to gently probe with questions such as “What are some of your frustrations?”
  6. Your relationship with the student body. Can you move among them freely and interact with them, both formally and informally? Do they know that you are aware of them and care that they are present?
  7. Facility atmosphere. Test this when the building is empty. What is the feel of the place as you walk in the front door, wander the hallways, enter restrooms, classrooms, storage room, workroom, gym? What subliminal signals come to consciousness? Is this an inviting place?
  8. School spirit. Test this independently of facilities. It’s the peculiar total personality of board and support staff, faculty, and students. It includes their attitudes, interactions, goals, and habits. No amount of funding, staff, or facilities can achieve success in the face of poor school spirit.
  9. Classroom functioning. Every functioning classroom has its own feel, due to the teacher’s personality and style, the class’s personality and its interaction with that particular teacher, the grade level of the students, and the teaching methodologies being used. Are things going well? Can you sense dysfunctionality in a classroom, identify its sources, and help the teacher address them?
  10. The leader’s influence. What aura do you exude as leader? Do you want to be here? Why? Are you providing leadership? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you approachable? Do people seek you out or avoid you? Do you find your work energizing or enervating?
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