Today’s school leaders, especially in Catholic schools, wear innumerable hats — curriculum specialist, instructional coach, advancement director, public relations officer, human resources expert, and assessment specialist, just to name a few. Central to all of this is also the crucial role of the principal as spiritual leader of their school — directing the Catholic culture and spiritual growth of the faculty and students, while still fulfilling all of their other duties.
These tasks might seem overwhelming, and prioritizing can be a real challenge. Here are a few tips that can lend clarity to the often-muddled set of tasks for which school leaders are responsible:
1. The Classroom Comes First—The most important way a school leader can spend their time is in the classroom observing teachers and having conversations with them about student learning. If principals are honest with themselves, most will admit they spend less than one hour per week on this; if you spend 15 percent of your time doing it, you’ll revolutionize learning.
2. Plan Out Your Time—Create a planning/calendaring system that organizes your time and priorities by day, week, month, and year. Instructional leadership practices that impact teaching and learning need to be a priority in this system; block time each day to spend time in classrooms (see number 1), and schedule follow-ups with teachers.
3. Find Some Help (and Build Capacity in Your Team)—Leadership works best when it is distributed and shared throughout the school community. You can form a bench of future leaders to serve Catholic schools by delegating more. This frees up time to focus on strategic priorities and also provides necessary “at-bats” to strengthen your school’s leadership pipeline. Do you know what teachers in your school are looking to take on leadership roles? This might be a great opportunity to find out.
4. People Come First—As a school leader, you’ll have many emails to answer, calls to make, agendas to draft, and reports to write. All of this work is secondary to the concerned parent, the teacher who struggles with a given class, or the student with a disciplinary problem. The stronger your relationships with teachers, parents, and students, the stronger and more joyful your school will be.
These are just a few ways to begin thinking about prioritizing your days, weeks, months, and year as a school leader in a Catholic school. With so many varied responsibilities, spending time prioritizing can be crucial to making time for each one.