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4 Minute Read
May 9, 2024

The Day-to-Day of a Principal Role

What does a typical day for a principal look like? Here’s a snapshot of the role.

“You can’t do this on your own,” explains New Leaders alum and middle school principal Felipe Jackson. “If you don’t have a team, develop one.” This is critical to remember, especially as you consider moving into school leadership. You are not alone in the work. 

At New Leaders, we’re committed to undoing the myth that educational leadership necessitates that school principals be superheroes, that they can leap over buildings in a single bound. Nothing can be further from the truth. The role of a principal is multifaceted, and filled with passion, hard work, and yes, even joy. Let’s see what a typical day might look like for a highly effective principal—and why school leadership matters. 

A day in the life of a school principal 

You arrive before the students and enjoy the quiet of the building. This is your time to get centered. After checking your schedule and responding to a few emails, you gather with your staff or your instructional leadership team to address key issues and celebrate wins. This may include, for example, discussing key data points as your team monitors school improvement plans or the implementation of new instructional strategies in classrooms. 

Following this meeting, you head outside to greet families and welcome each student by name. This kind of personal touch adds to the learning environment you are creating where everyone feels seen and valued. You take time to check in on a few classrooms, building relationships with teachers and making connections to what students are learning. 

Next, after checking in with your office team, you block your schedule for the next two hours and prioritize being in classrooms as an instructional leader. You follow your weekly coaching routine and visit multiple classrooms, taking notes on the learning tasks, student engagement, and teacher practice. Later, you’ll use these observations to guide your coaching conversations with each teacher, zeroing in on best practices that drive student learning. 

Before you head to lunch, you huddle with your assistant principal, school social worker, and other key school-based leaders to align on priorities for the week, help solve any immediate concerns, and offer support. You grab your lunch and enjoy spending time talking with students. 

After lunch, you host a series of meetings. First is a grade-level meeting where teachers are reviewing assessment data and identifying how they need to pivot their instruction. Next is a series of 20-minute coaching conversations with the teachers you observed in the morning. You enjoy this time as it offers space for teachers to self-reflect and problem solve how best to move forward. Your last meetings are with students and families who need additional support, be it academic or behavioral. Partnering with families is central to your school vision. 

Before the school day wraps up, you take time to sit down at your desk and power through a few administrative tasks, including writing your weekly newsletter and reviewing the data for an upcoming district meeting. Once that last bell rings, you are back out front of the school, engaging with students and overseeing dismissal. 

You come back into the building, re-energized, and connect with teachers who ask, “Do you have a minute?” After those individual check-ins, you walk down the hallway to pop into two different subcommittee meetings, one that is planning the end-of-year festivities and the other that is outlining next year’s professional development focus to accelerate student achievement. You listen and offer guidance, as needed, but you are happy to see teachers leading and working together. 

Then you head back to your office and join your principal network virtual gathering. You relish this hour every month to share openly with other principals and learn from them too. You close your work day with a few more emails and phone calls. Then you head home, reflecting on the day and identifying your priorities for the next one. 

Stay focused on what matters most: students 

The role of a school principal is busy and full. Most school principals describe their work as rewarding as it is unpredictable. Above all, as New Leaders alum and principal Jessica Graham advises: “Love what you do. The job is hard. The number one priority is to our kids. And if you don’t love what you do, it shows.” 

As a fellow, you will join our network of more than 8,000 exceptional K-12 education leaders. You will never be alone on your leadership journey. This is your time. Get started today.

Fellow, Michelle Means, cut out in orange square frame | Fellowship Images
Michelle Means
Fellowship Alum, '23
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