A principal’s joy

encouragementAs a Christian school principal what is the most valuable thing for me to do in my day? I believe that principals have one of the toughest jobs going, balancing many needs, wearing many hats, and if really effective, doing the tough things of leadership as opposed to avoiding conflict and just reacting to daily fires. Given the fact that there are limited hours in the day, what is the most effective way for principals to allocate their time? This was a question I pondered each day of my eleven years as a building principal and over my 28 years in education.

I will admit that I have changed my mind on the answer to this question over the course of my career. One certainly could argue that the answer might be dealing with students, keeping parents or boards happy, raising money, or doing teacher observations. Yet, I believe that if I had to sum it up I would say it this way: The best use of time and the greatest joy of a Christian school principal is . . .

Encouraging the encouragers to nurture faith in students.

In a Christian school it is all about nurturing faith – it is why a Christian school exists.  If the education delivered in a Christian school is not challenging students to see God in all things then it may as well close its doors and give up on its mission.

How is faith nurtured in students? A principal must encourage his/her teachers to pay close attention to, and assist them in, three areas:

Curriculum – how am I helping my students see God through the study of this subject? How do we see brokenness and redemption in this discipline? What is God’s intention for this aspect of his created order? How might we be a part of his plan to restore it?

Classroom – how am I modeling faith and how do my pedagogical practices encourage faith in students?

Community – is my classroom modeling Christ’s law of loving God and loving neighbors? How am I contributing to the professional community in my school? How is our school impacting our community?

The job of the principal is to be the chief carrier of the mission and vision of the school, and if he/she focuses on the three areas listed above they will be on the path to greater distinctiveness in meeting the mission and vision of their Christian school.

Now to unpack the first part of that statement “encouraging the encouragers.” The primary task of the principal is to encourage the teachers who are encouraging the students in faith encouraging learning.  Teaching is a complex endeavor, one that leads to much second-guessing on the part of conscientious and sensitive teachers – likely those on your staff who are doing the best jobs already with kids. The more complex the work, the more room there is for discouragement by the teacher and the more need there is for encouragement by the principal. The effects of encouragement have been well documented in business literature by authors such as DePree and Welch. Goleman in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, reminds us through his citation of multiple studies that the leaders who are most effective are those who are warm, encouraging, and genuinely care for their followers.  Management consultant Kevin Cashman suggests a ratio of 5 “praises” to 1 “criticism ” in our interactions with those we supervise. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, his words of grace allowed others to be liberated to try again and created the ultimate environments of grace in which people could flourish. It is the Christian school principal’s special joy to be an agent of encouragement to those who encourage and nurture faith in students.


Filed under classroom, community, curriculum, encouraging the heart, leadership, mission development, staff development

21 responses to “A principal’s joy

  1. Pete Post

    I had just completed putting together a reflection assignment for my Trinity education students when I chanced to read this article. I can’t help but feel God has given me a little “nudge” or “wink”. The assignment that I will offer to my students in an assessment class is: “In your row discuss what you think would be significant expectations that principals should have for their teachers.” It will be interesting to see what they come up with to share and perhaps using this article from a principal will also help.
    Meanwhile I will assign my students in “Introduction to Special Education” to share some of their reflections on the topic here. Thank you for such a wonderful stimulus.

  2. Krystal Ryskamp

    This specific statement really caught my attention and it is one that people should pay more attention to. “In a Christian school it is all about nurturing faith – it is why a Christian school exists. If the education delivered in a Christian school is not challenging students to see God in all things then it may as well close its doors and give up on its mission.” I absolutely agree with this quote and I cannot express how truly important being challenged in your faith truly is. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it was not for my Christian school that coached me, guided me, encouraged me, and pointed me in the right direction when it came to defending my faith and knowing what I believe and why. So many “Christian” schools should be ashamed to call themselves “Christians” due to the many bad examples that these specific schools have exemplified. The doors should be shut in most of these schools because Christ’s name is not being lifted up or Christian living is not the focus. It’s sad to say that some public schools have better reputations than the “Christian” ones and this is definitely an area that needs lots of prayer and repair.

  3. Jessica Duff

    This principal has a big heart filled with great advice, ideas, and goals for not only the school, but for the community. The principal understands that within a school, there is a chain that travels throughout the school enviroment. Although the school staff acts as a team, it has to start with someone. I believe that the principal is the start of the chain. He/she provides encouragment and motivation for the teachers in which the teachers can relay those attributes upon their students. It is essential that this principal suggests that the teachers ask themselves questions to make sure that with everything they say and do, to make sure it convey’s the message of the Christian faith. This sounds like a wonderful and life changing principal that anyone would enjoly having on their team.

  4. Anna Marquez

    I think that the idea that this principal has in store for his school is excellent. I think that his motto of encouraging the encouragers to nurture faith in students. I think that nurturing student’s faith is extremely important and vital in a Christian school. Although this is a great plan in order to make better the overall school, it is important to keep in mind the small things that will help it grow into a stronger Christian school. Each classroom must adopt the new attitude for the school and bring a strong Christian aspect into every area of the classroom. The three things that this principal stated Curriculum, Classroom, and Community are three key things that will benefit the school. The strongest way that these three words can impact and change an entire school is through the faculty. The faculty must take in this new attitude and push strong for it through their individual classrooms with each of their students. I think that the plan that this principal has introduced will have a huge impact on his school and that he will most definitely see God working through his faculty and him if he can keep his eyes on nurturing faith.

  5. Tasha Roark

    As I was reading this, the thing that really stuck out to me was the thought that teachers are “encouragers.” I believe that this concept is something that we, as teachers and prospective teachers, need to understand and apply to our teaching methods. Even though I plan to teach in a public school upon graduating and will not be able to express blatantly my Christian beliefs, I can apply this to my life and to the way that I teach. I will need to be encouragement to students who are struggling in different subject areas, students who are not engaged in what we will be learning or discovering, and students who need encouragement to do their best in general. A verse that I am so often reminded of when I am encouraging others to do their best, or when I need encouragement myself, is Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” As a public school teacher, I know I won’t be able to quote Bible verses to encourage my students, but I can use the concepts that I know and believe in to encourage them in more general terms. We as Christians should be able to show our light in dark places, even if we have to go about doing it in a different way.

  6. Dana Losacco

    I really enjoyed reading this blog on what a principal’s job is. I agree with the idea that principals should “encourage the encouragers”. I feel like principals set the tone in the school, and by encouraging those who should be encouraging is a good way to do so. I feel that it is extremely important for a principal to back up the main idea of the school. This principal was being a leading example by acting how they wanted their teachers to act. I like the idea of nurturing faith in a Christian School. Although I am planning to teach in a public school, and will not actually talk about God to my students, I feel that I can show my values to my students in other ways to have my Christian faith show in my classroom. For example, my classroom rules will be based on Christian values, like not lying and being nice to your neighbor. I will do little things like this to show the Christian faith and spread this idea to my students just not in a direct way. Also, I will encourage my students to always do their best and help them when they are going through the rough times. Just because I would not be allowed to talk of God, does not mean that values I’ve learned through being a Christian won’t be there. I feel like if you are in a Christian school, nurturing faith is essential in the classroom; however, I feel that if you are a Christian teaching in a public school, you should use your values to encourage your students and teach them these values in an indirect way.

  7. Christine Pappas

    Being a principal is a very challenging job to do. He/She is the leader of the school and to keep the school in a working, and orderly way. The best use of the principals time is to keep up the morale of the teachers and the students. To praise the teachers when they do a good job, tell the students that their doing good work, being postive is always contagious. Postitive thinking will always result in postive results. The principal’s main focus is to make the school into a postive, learning environment, where the students can grow into the image that God wants them to be. For the teacher’s to include curriculm that will intergrate God’s never-ending love and patience for each of his believers. Being a Christian principal is to be an encourager to the students, and the teachers. Everyone needs encouragement every once in awhile, it makes them feel good, that their making a difference, everyone wants to feel that they are wanted. For me becoming a teacher is all about giving encouragement to my students, and that if they work hard enough that all their dreams and goals can come true. Becoming a teacher, I will always be patient and understanding to my students. That the joy I get seeing my students succeed, the principal will also be joyful that the students enjoy coming to school, and that they are successful in their academics.

  8. Michael Parton

    I can see from reading the article that this principal indeed had the priorities of the educatioin system in mind. He saw that it takes more than just encouragement on the students to make a good school function. How the students do is a reflection on how well the teacher is performing. If the teacher is not encouraged, then it will negatively reflect upon the students’ performances. The community is also a major role in the context of a school. With good community support, a school will function much better. It is obvious that this principal knew what aspects of an education to pay attention to. Those of us who are becoming teachers learn throughout our own education how to better serve our students. It is well shown in this article that the principal also saw how to better serve his teachers and community.

  9. Deonna Randle-El

    A principal has the power to influence the faculty in any direction that they so desire. But the fact that this principal has made it a priority of theirs to encourage the faculty and staff to nurture the students’ faith lets me know that they are set more so on the mission that God has called them to do as Christians. They are saying “Yes education is important, but so is faith,” which means a lot in this day and age. In public schools it would be kind of hard to have this same motto, but I do believe that it is important for a principal to encourage the faculty to encourage the students in a positive way. As a Christian teacher who will probably teach in a public school, it is up to me to find other ways to nurture my students without boldly bringing in religion. Through my actions I am hoping that the love of Christ will shine through me in the classroom, even though I won’t be able to exactly declare it. I think that it is very important for teachers to see the power that they possess, and it is up to us to use that power to encourage our students in a positive ways.

  10. Chrisitne Pappas

    A principal’s job is challenging but it also is very rewarding. The principal should use his/her time to boost the spirits of the teacher’s and the student’s. To give praise when the teacher’s did a good job, to let the student’s know that their doing a good job. Having a postive attitude will have a trinkle down effect. If the principal is being postitve toward the teacher’s then the teacher’s will will give off the postive energy to their student’s. Also, everyone loves encouragement, and to be acknolwedged that they are doing a good job. The principal of a school should give the “encourager” and because school should be a place where their is encouragement and acknowledgement for good actions and behaviors. The greatest joy for a principal is to see student’s that come to school with a good outlook and eagnerness to learn. For me, becoming a teacher my best joy is that the student’s understand that education is a gift. It’s up to each individual student to open that gift and to use it. For each teacher to use curriculm that intergrates the Christain faith, and gives glory to God. For the principal and the teacher’s the biggest joy is to see each student go out into the world, and whatever their vocation may be, let each student work to glorify out Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  11. Amber Slenk

    This article is wonderful to read as we begin and continue our journey to become teachers. We have learned from the beginning that there are many different aspects of teaching and also many things to incorporate into lesson plans and into the classroom activities. The writer reminds me of the utmost importance of “warmth, encouragement and care”. He goes on to say that “one certainly could argue that the answer might be dealing with students, keeping parents or boards happy, raising money, or doing teacher observations.” However, his experience tells him that although these parts need to be done, a principal ultimately needs to be a special leader. Not only does this apply to principals, but it also applies incredibly well to teachers. It’s easy to get caught up in the current hype of standardized test scores and how quickly (or slowly) a certain class is understanding the material. Being a Christian school teacher should be much more than just labeling kids as a score. It is truly about being Christ to the students and with God’s help, to “nurture their faith”.

  12. Mike Jones

    The principal in this article delivers the main point that nurturing faith in students, in all aspects of the school setting, is what truly is the purpose of a Christian school. Maybe the most important point that the principal made was that “challenging students to see God in all things” was the most important function of a Christian school. Curriculum and tests are important in a school setting, but maybe the most important thing one can get out of an education is how to live a better life, become a better person, and to build a closer relationship with God that allows you to serve others. The mission of a teacher, and future teacher like myself, should not just be to teach curriculum, but to inspire. Although as a public school teacher I would not be able to speak freely about religion and God, this article reminds me that my goal should be to inspire kids; inspire them to be better students, better leaders, and most importantly, better people who work and serve with faith and passion in whatever they do.

  13. Lisa Mock

    I think that the principal is doing a wonderful job in this school. he is not only trying to involve the students, but also the whole community. He is also showing the students that you need to follow god where ever you are and not just in the classroom, but also out in the community and he is trying to do this.

  14. Jori Dotson

    I really like that this principal centered everything around nuturing faith in the students. The principal made it his main goal to make sure that the teachers were including the christian faith in every subject. It is important that the christian faith is emphasized in the curriculum, classroom, and the community. A teacher includes the christian faith in the curriculum by making sure that the students see God’s hand in every subject. The christian faith can be seen in the classroom if the teacher is a model of the christian faith. If the teacher is a good model of the christian faith to the students than the students will be able to go out into the community and show the christian faith through showing love to their neighbors. As a future teacher, the christian faith is very important to me. The christian faith should be the christian teachers first concern in the classroom.

  15. Nick Gierman

    I believe this principal has a great vision for his school and community. I am a product of Lutheran elementary, Catholic middle/junior high and public high schools. After thinking about my years in the private school sector, I can’t really recall this approach being taken. Faith and God were limited to the religion portion of each day and really weren’t mentioned much in any of the other subjects, which really surprises me now. It would have been great to have a principal that desires to nurture the faith of the teachers as well as the students, upon all of his other daily tasks. I agree with Mike that it is a teachers job to inspire students to learn. It is my hope that I can and will inspire my students to want to learn the subject matter that I will present.

  16. Kourtney DeVries

    When looking at schools, the principal is often the first place that parents look, and also where future teachers look. How a school is run and how the principal oversees all that goes on in his or her school says a lot about the community that that school is. How a principal treats his or her teachers, how they carry out day to day activities, how involved they are in the success of their students speaks to parents about how their child will be treated in the school. It speaks to potential teachers about how they will be valued in the school community and how they will be upheld and supported. It is therefore the job of the principal to make sure that he or she is creating the best possible environment for this. When a principal takes a direction such as nurturing faith throughout all that is done – in the classroom, with the teachers, in the community then they are setting an example for their students. To value faith in all settings and to become involved in its instruction on the most basic of levels is the true mark of an educator and an invested principal.

  17. Tania Anzaldi

    “If the education delivered in a Christian school is not challenging students to see God in all things then it may as well close its doors and give up on its mission.” I believe that this principal is 100% correct. Their have been plenty of studies done to prove that encouragement helps peoples work ethic, attitude, and confidence. Without encouragement where would we be. If we are not edifying and challenging people to grow what is our purpose? Another important thing for a principal to do is to develop a good relationship with the teachers and continue to be a part of their job. With a bad relationship it would be hard to encourage and challenge the teacher. When humans experience a feeling that people care they naturally want to do better. When the teacher is encouraged by the principal it helps empower the teacher to motivate theirs students and get excited about learning.

  18. Christina Atton

    I believe that it is the responsibility of all staff to nurture the faith in students as well as each other. A Christian school needs to act as a community in service to God. Good communication between staff, students, and parents can help build a strong community within the school. The article asks,” How is our school impacting our community?” I believe if Christian schools demonstrate strong communities that the students will take their faith outside of the classroom. This would have a extraordinary affect on the surrounding community. I liked how the principle made it his personal goal to see that each teacher is concentrated on inspiring students through the Christian faith. Although I plan on teaching in a public school, I hope to bring the same passion for inspiring my students as the principle in this article.

  19. Laura Bohannan

    To be honest, I have always wondered what are the responsibilities of a principal. I thought that they deal juvenile delinquents and was in charge of human resources. After reading this article, I gained more understanding if their core roles, more specifically in promoting Christianity. I can’t believe that I have overlooked their importance, or even consider them as an “agent of encouragement”. I used to think that the teachers are the most influential people in a child development. I didn’t realize that principals role is just as important, they are just not recognized or notice easily since they work “behind the scenes”. I realize now that they play a vital role to educational institutions.

  20. Don Malic

    Reading this article helped me understand what the roles of a principal really are. The principal is doing an excellent job for the school and the community. The principal wants the students and the community to realize that God should be a part of their everyday life. Also, it’s great that the principal respects both the teachers and students faith.

  21. I used to think that the principal really just sat in his office and went to meetings most of the day. You know the typical one who comes out to greet the children occassionaly but it definitely all about their work. With this article, Ive found a kind of new perspective on what being a principal really is and what they do. They are the basic foundation of the school and they have to keep everyone on one accord with them. They have the job of looking after the teachers, the faculty and the students to kepp them uplifted and happy about their job/mission. I like the phrase they use saying that the “job of the principal is to be the carrier of the mission and the vision”. This phrase sums up their duties very well. It was very informative article and I now have a greater insight on principals.

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