Brian D. Hadfield, Middle School Teacher, Chippewa Valley Public Schools, Michigan
For many students, these individuals may be the ones who see them safely on and off the bus each day, protect them from bullies or keep order in the cafeteria. For some children, they are the larger-than-life “sheriffs” – respected figureheads in the school.
They are the assistant principals.
Sometimes called vice principals, these school administrators serve a wide variety of functions for a wide variety of people. Their role is integral to the smooth and successful operation of a school.
Like principals, assistant principals generally have teaching experience as well as a master’s degree, perhaps in educational administration. They typically are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations as they relate to students and faculty as a whole. Athletic events, dances, after-school clubs and field trips, for example, may require the oversight of an assistant principal.
In addition to handling such activities, duties including conducting and mediating after-school meetings with parents and managing school detentions can mean the workday of an assistant principal fluctuates considerably and often.
As standardized testing continues to assume a more prominent place in the U.S. education system, an assistant principal’s role in monitoring staff members on goal progress and achievement has become even more imperative.
Assistant principals must often share the duties of evaluating and documenting staff performance with the principal. Annual evaluations of proficiency and goal accomplishment are common, with the assistant principal charting progress and offering feedback to staff members.
In this way, the assistant principal acts as a mentor to teachers who need guidance or direction and also provides reinforcement and praise to those who meet or exceed expectations. Performing this task well can circumvent the need for formal reprimands or other disciplinary action.
Many people are familiar with the role of an assistant principal as a disciplinarian. Certainly, there may be days when an assistant principal’s schedule is filled with investigations, inquiries and phone calls to concerned or upset parents. Some students may need to be consoled; others may need to be disciplined.
Given their role in communicating information among students, teachers and parents, assistant principals must be socially skilled individuals, capable of maintaining calm and reason even in the most tense of situations.
In a time of funding cuts and job consolidation, assistant principals may find themselves with more responsibility than ever before. However, the functions and duties of an assistant principal typically make an ideal proving ground for individuals looking to move up to become a principal.
Although demanding, the role of an assistant principal can be equally rewarding by helping to set and maintain a positive tone and climate for the school.