Good Principal = Good Teacher?

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

Yesterday I had a great conversation on twitter with two amazing educators, Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher) and Jason Bednar (@J_Bednar).  The conversation started off like this:
This conversation went on for several more tweets and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ) even joined in at the end.  I just thought it was a very interesting question and I thought I'd give all of you a chance to weigh in on it.  So, do you think that in order to be a good principal, you had to first be a good classroom teacher?

I personally think that most good principals were, at one time, good classroom teachers.  However, I also think different people have different gifts and I think it is possible to be a great principal and not a good classroom teacher.

What do you think?


  1. I think that your analogy of someone can be a great coach but not a great player is maybe a touch off. The best coaches totally understand the game. They may not have had the skills or talent necessary, but their understanding of the game and ability to impart that wisdom to others is what would make them a good coach. Whether you can play or not, you must understand the game.

    Now could the same be said for a principal? Again, I believe that they must fully understand teaching although there may be some areas that they were lacking. Coaches that were bad players could clearly identify why there were not the best players; could a principal who was a struggling teacher do the same?

    With all of that being said, if a principal does not have the relationship skills that are fundamental to both being a great principal and being a great teacher, I do not think that they could be successful.

    Great questions and something that we should all think about; a principal should definitely be an instructional leader but more a learning leader.

    1. George - Thank you for you comment. I think you bring up great points and I agree that the analogy of the great coach/great player has some flaws. In my experience I have seen great assistant principals struggle as principals, people who I were shocked to see promoted do a great job in their new role, and people who I thought were excellent teachers struggle in leadership roles. I have also seen the predicable amazing teacher go on to make an amazing administrator.

      I think it comes down to a question of skill set and what leadership skills you possess. I was made for middle school. I tried to teach high school and struggled. For whatever reason, it just wasn't for me.

      I think of the roles we all hold in education as skilled positions. While there are multiple overlapping qualities that all educators must possess, like the ability to build relationships, there are also skills that are unique to the grade level, content, or administration role that we possess.

    2. Twitter: @mrlaymanss

      What a great question. I'd wager many teachers wonder this on any given day, though they don't vocalize it as often as they should.

      It bears mentioning that the basketball analogy is pretty spot-on, only with a few minor tweaks. If a head coach understands the duties of a point guard but not a center, he gets himself an assistant coach to help with the big men. Do principals always do this with AP's? I'm not so sure.

      I'll agree wholeheartedly that great teachers don't always make great admin and great admin weren't always great teachers, but most of the time it depends on who you surround yourself with to offset your deficiencies.

  2. @lilcadillac twitter

    May I ask, what was the final outcome of how to ensure admin are sound leaders?

    I've also seen great teachers put into admin roles, only to struggle and flounder. I've also seen struggling teachers put into admin roles, only to extend their inefficiency in the classroom to the whole school.

    As a middle school theatre teacher, my top priority is to ensure students are fully prepared before a performance to avoid failure and humiliation. I often wonder if we do the same for colleagues.