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The Perfect Principal - Mary Poppins' Style

Updated on July 24, 2012

The Perfect Nanny

The teacher who feels respected and valued by her principal in the current education climate is a rare bird, and often an object of envy from teacher acquaintances at other schools who have no such luck with their fearless leaders.

I know that my #1 priority when looking for a teaching job is reasonable proximity, but quality of the principal is a close second. What is a quality principal, though? What would make my list for The Perfect Principal?

Here's a tribute to wishing for The Perfect Principal, sung (more or less) to the tune of "The Perfect Nanny" from Mary Poppins.

Actually, the qualifications for The Perfect Nanny are almost completely compatible with a Perfect Principal and a Perfect Teacher, but here's another version anyway:

The Perfect Principal

If you want this choice position
Please ignore all booty kissin’

Must be sane, sincere
No games, no fear

Avoid cliches and trendy jargon
they will cause our hearts to harden

Really like children - let it show
Don’t lie - we’ll know

Never treat us as cogs; never use us as scapegoats, or dogs

Don’t make us write a “Goals Statement”
We can’t take that much abasement

If you don’t try to intimidate us
We’ll be loyal as thralls of Bacchus

We love teaching kids, but we have our lives, too
We don’t want to live in an eternal school

Hurry Leader, come our way


Teachers of the USA

If you could craft your own Perfect Principal letter, what would be in it? I especially would like to hear from people who work for great principals - what makes them great?

I contacted the best boss I ever had, Keith Cartwright, and asked him about his boss philosophy.

I'd work for half the current teacher rate to work for this guy again.

Andy Samberg is NOT a good boss
Andy Samberg is NOT a good boss

On Being "The Boss"

My philosophy on being the boss is one that is very different from many of today's bosses, and it is a growing difference. Being the boss means I'm in charge of the mission/vision and goals of the organization I work for or own.

Many people today hear boss and think of someone in charge of people, but a boss is going to be very ineffective with people if he doesn’t have a passion or a clue about the mission of the organization. Which leads to my next point: Define the role. I lead people - I don't boss them.

If I have a clear understanding of where I want the organization to go (as defined by the organization itself, not the boss), I have to, as boss, be able to help those under me understand where they fit in that process, and help them always understand they are a critical piece of that process.

There are times people need motivation and inspiration along that trail, and there are other times they need gently pulled back on the trail because they've started to blaze one that doesn't fit the mission/vision. But they always need to hear from the boss.

What most people call a boss today, I used to call a leader. Today, though, many (if not most) bosses have no clue about leadership, which is why so many of our organizations are in trouble. The biggest challenge for all leaders is understanding that the success of the organization is based on how well "you" do, not how well "I" do.

As leaders, we tend to think we know how to do it best and can forget to sink our energies into others. We forget to solicit ideas and input from others.

The number one thing I always want people to think of me in terms of a boss is that I am more interested in their success than I am my own. If I can do that, I know I have a good organization. It's a lot like life, really.

Can you imagine if every human being today made it a goal to go out today and be more consumed with their neighbors’ success than their own? It's a pretty good model.

-Keith Cartwright


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    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      Truly appreciate the feedback, Teresa! I wish more principals cared more about school culture and less about individual power.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome thoughts about what makes a great leader in any field of work. I have worked with a number of principals in my years of teaching. I have dealt with a number on a personal level now that my kids are wading through elementary and secondary school. I have only worked with two truly inspiring principals. Both of them worked for the students, were very visible in the school community and came across as friendly but fair and enforced the rules in a fair and non-demeaning manner. It is a hard road to follow but it is possible. Unfortunately, many are attracted to the profession for the wrong reasons. I have met a few principals who would qualify as bullies themselves! Great hub Greg! Welcome to HubPages!

    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 5 years ago from Arizona

      I enjoyed your song. It's so true and accurate.

      Best wishes.

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      I appreciate the advice, phdast7. I followed you immediately after the first comment you left for me, but this last comment went above and beyond if all you wanted were one follower. Thanks for taking the time and effort to help me out!

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      I appreciate the advice, phdast7. I followed you immediately after the first comment you left for me, but this last comment went above and beyond if all you wanted were one follower. Thanks for taking the time and effort to help me out!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Greg - Excellent hub that elicited some very good comments. I like that you included the "Boss Statement" from Keith Cartwright. He would be a great supervisor to work for, or rather with. :)

      Helpful Suggestion or Irritating decide. :) I have been on HP for ten months and I don't earn nay money. I don't try too, because I would have to write for the market instead of for myself and my friends. My impression is that you are here to write for yourself and be helpful, not make money.

      If you are like me, you want to write and post, but you also want good dialogue, meaningful conversations. It takes time to build a group of friends (HP calls them followers - ick!). Some people will follow you just to get you to follow back, they don't read your stuff and have nothing in common with you - do not feel pressured to follow them back.

      Ways that I found successful in finding the right people to connect with. (1) Obviously you can do a "topical" or "subject search, find a hub you like and leave a thoughtful comment. (2) When you read someone else's hub, lets say you pick one at random by clicking on "HubPages" at the top left of the page. Pay attention to the comments, you may find people you want to check out and follow.

      Most of the people I follow are people whose profile page and hubs I checked out because of a really detailed or interesting comment they made. (3) If I were you, I would follow people whose work you like who have between 50 and 400 followers. More followers than that and they will not have time to read your stuff and respond.

      I hope this makes sense and I am not being too "bossy." :) I want you to be successful and find your niche or place at HP and it takes time to learn the ropes. You are welcome to check out my profile page - I have some hubs on aspects of teaching, but don't feel like I am trying to trick you into following me. I have more to read as it is than I can handle, but I like your stuff...and people helped me in the beginning.

      OK, I think I am done. After you read this if you would rather it not appear under this Hub, you can certainly delete it and it will not hurt my feelings. All the best. :)

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      You're absolutely right, Keith. I met a guy here who is so good with kids and people in general, that I couldn't believe he wasn't a principal. So I asked him why he wasn't. He told me that he used to be, but that he was fired because his school didn't have high enough test scores. He told me that he has since declined all school principal job offers because he knows that failure based on the current criteria is inevitable. He basically told me that he's going to wait until the NCLB/Race to the Top climate changes before he ever thinks of being a principal again.

    • profile image

      keithcartwright 5 years ago

      Where I do feel for principals and give them a pass, to a degree, is that creativity and individualism have become so irrelevant to the public education system, and in most cases not at the calling of the principals themselves, but rather a federal system bent on finding a common way to measure all students the same, that I imagine inspiration and leadership are hard for many of these folks to come up with. I believe many of them probably are working under missions and visions they don't believe in, or realize the missions and visions they have aren't steeped in reality. Just my two pennies. Well written by the way Mr. Horlacher!

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      I don't disagree, but I also think that principals have too much garbage tossed into their job descriptions.

      I think of principals now in the same way I think of the US President - only an incredibly ambitious person would want such a tough job, but the incredibly ambitious are often minimally talented and completely obtuse.

      I know that if I were a principal, I would want a co-principal to handle the myriad mysterious "administrative duties."

    • profile image

      Marteena 5 years ago

      I have an OK principal. I love to hate him because he baby talks to Middle Schoolers, doesn't enforce school-wide rule with consitency, and SOMETIMES DOESN'T AGREE WITH ME! He is always awesome in the classroom, though, can really teach and always has good feedback for me either during evaluation time or after a random drop in.

      I think a lot about the structure of our organization. I hate the idea of a non-educator in a leadership role at a school, yet I understand that leading a classroom and leading a school require dramatically different skills. You might disagree with that, though.

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      Thanks, kate12402! Truly appreciate the feedback! Wish I had your luck.

    • kate12402 profile image

      kate12402 5 years ago from Storrs, CT

      Really well written. And I completely agree about the definition of boss. My boss is amazing, he's a leader and a peer not an overlord. I'm lucky, but only because he defines leadership the way you do. Thanks for sharing!