Friday, June 22, 2012

Professionalism is Appreciated...Everywhere?

Although the real intent of this blog is to present evidence based education practices to improve learning for all students, I'm going to discuss a personal situation with this post. A few days ago, I was transferred within my school district from the position of principal at one K-5 school to another. The transfer takes effect August 27, 2012, so I still have some time to tie up loose ends and get our current school in shape for the start of another school year.

I developed great relationships at this school over the past four years with our students, their families, and of course with our staff. I had an especially strong connection with our fifth graders who just left us for middle school, because they were young second graders when my tenure as principal began in 2008 at this school. The connections I made with many staff members, along with their comments to me over the past few days, has caused me to reflect on my role as principal and to think about the influence of school leaders. 

Throughout my time as a principal, I've tried to lead from a professional orientation. That is, I treat people as professionals, I trust them to do what is best for their students, I provide them with as much autonomy as possible while still following district policy, regulations, and mandates, and I lend a helping hand whenever needed or asked for. The kind words that many of our staff members shared with me over the past few days confirms to me that this leadership approach helped to make many of them better teachers. Rarely did I direct any of them regarding specific actions to take in a particular situation or for an individual student. Rather, I helped them to find the answers on their own, and the overwhelming majority seemed to appreciate this approach. 

This anecdote is specific to the situation at this school and far from generalizable, however, leadership from a professional orientation seemed to improve student learning in our school. I'm curious, though, so please share your thoughts if you've experienced a school where professionalism was not appreciated and the staff yearned for a more directive leader.


  1. I think professionalism is a vital part of school culture and climate. Like most school level variables, it is one piece of the all important puzzle of student achievement. Breeding professiolism is not unlike breeding trust or efficacy in that it takes an honest and transparent leader to either create it and/or sustain it. Conversely, leaders who are directive based and strict theory X followers rarely have the confidence to be open and see it as vulnerability rather than an opportunity to grow.
    I agree that one of the many roles of adminsitrators is to model this kind of behavior. I am certain it helped faciliate your past successes and will assist you immensely in your new setting. Best of luck to you.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Joe. I'm glad you brought up Theory X, because I wasn't thinking that broadly when I wrote this post. You are correct, and I will add that Theory X'ers don't hold much hope in their employees to get the job done. As school leaders, I believe it is crucial that we help teachers learn and grow as professionals. One way to do this is to provide them with the autonomy to take risks to do what is best for their students. This takes more time, effort, and patience as compared to taking a more directive approach, however, in the end, the evidence tells us this approach improves student outcomes.