Education is a fundamental right of all children, and society’s moral obligation is to provide it. To educate a child effectively requires a tremendous amount of collaboration and effort among the child, family, school, and community. In respect to the school’s role, there are four “A’s” that comprise a student’s educational experience: academics, athletics, arts, and activities. The key to a successful educational experience is to balance the four “A’s” with the values and goals of the family and community. Together, an effective learning environment is developed to produce an educated young adult who will be a life-long learner, able to contribute positively to society.
The basis of an effective education is curricula that foster high academic achievement through rigor and relevance to the students’ lives. The daily lessons must capture the students’ imagination and interest, connect meaningfully to their lives, and help them appreciate their place in a global society. The curricula must summon the skills needed to excel in the world around them and provide the basis for understanding the diversity of interests that will be encountered throughout life. Finally, the curricula must set high standards to challenge each student to reach his or her fullest potential.
To balance a strong academic program and become a well-rounded individual, a student must seek challenges beyond the classroom. On the athletic field, on stage, or in a club, the lessons learned in these venues are equally as important to those learned in the classroom. Together, these lessons, experienced in the controlled and safe school environment, prepare a student for life’s experiences after graduation.
To bring about a meaningful classroom experience for the students, the faculty must teach themes and concepts that students can analyze, interpret, and apply to their lives. By using multiple and differentiated instructional techniques and assessments, the teacher can ensure various learning styles are addressed. The lessons should be augmented by occasional real-life experiences, which enrich the curricula, such as field trips or visits from parents and community members who have experiential knowledge. Most important, the teacher must create an atmosphere of mutual respect in which all opinions, questions, and answers are valued.
The role of a principal is to support the teachers in carrying out the school’s mission and to assist the students in having a meaningful education experience. Through observations and evaluations, a principal helps a teacher improve classroom instruction. An effective principal also provides the necessary guidance and support to help a teacher grow professionally.
An effective principal is dynamic, enthusiastic and innovative. Through strong leadership and interpersonal skills, the principal inspires his staff to establish a powerful learning environment. His primary responsibility is to bring about a congruence of all parts of a school system to drive its mission - establish the highest quality of learning. To accomplish this mission, the principal must have a strong conceptual framework of the curricula and a vision of its actualization. It is also necessary for a principal to evaluate the most current pedagogy, technology enhancements, and curricula standards and, if deemed relevant, create a plan for implementation. Finally, to ensure the mission and vision are executed well, the principal must work cooperatively with the school and community to inspire and implement a shared vision of student success.
Thomas A. Gorman, Ed.D.