Personal Development





I was in a teacher training workshop some time last year and one of my colleagues asked this question to our instructor: “What do we do if our school principal is not leading us?”

If this is the case at your school then there could be a lot of reasons that are contributing to this problem. Maybe the principal is young or maybe s/he’s new. Maybe he’s always absent or maybe he’s just a pain in the butt. You know a young principal may lack confidence but there’s a certain amount of wisdom and stability that he can learn and that only comes with experience. And again a new principal may sometimes feel unsure about how the school is currently run and how to get started with his new job.

A school principal who’s always absent, the one who constantly hides in his office or is always leaving for meetings may not be suited for this leadership position. Again a school principal who is about to retire may feel the emotions even before the official day of retirement and a pain-in-the-butt principal may think that if the teachers fear him, he will be more motivated to lead.

You know all of these situations about a school principal can make it difficult for teachers to stay motivated and focused with their learners.

So what can you do if your school principal is not being a leader that he’s supposed to be?

Well the very first question that you need to ask yourself is: are you taking care of your personal self? I mean you cannot do your job of teaching your learners effectively if you are constantly neglecting yourself.

  • How is your general physical and emotional health?
  • Are you eating and sleeping well?
  • Are you exercising regularly?



If you are not doing the above then you need to think about the changes in your personal routines that you need to make. Ask yourself: “how am I feeling emotionally?” Whether you are calm, angry or depressed, it’s very important to know exactly how you are feeling so that you can deal with it. If you’re having a difficult time to actually identify exactly how you are feeling, it may be helpful to talk to a friend about your experiences.

As a teacher you need to remember that keeping a positive attitude is king. Yes sometimes you may have your fair share of frustrations and ofcourse share them with your colleagues but your frustrations should be said in way that BUILDS instead of a way that BLAMES.

Let me give you an example, if you are under a new school principal who has not yet told you his vision for the school going forward, you may feel like saying “Haaaaa.. this principal knows nothing about his job”.

Instead of saying such you could say, “This new principal is learning. I wonder what we can do to boost his vision for our school. Maybe I should ask him if he would like some help to discuss about the vision and the mission statement.”

If you look at the above comments, one comment BLAMES and the other comment BUILDS.

When you keep a positive attitude and also using encouraging language you are actually honouring your leader. Whether you agree with his decisions or not, he is still your leader. Your job is to help your school principal fulfil his purpose. You can do this by:

  • Being there for your learners both physically and emotionally
  • Always be present at work
  • Always be on time for your classes
  • Be present with your colleagues and learners

I know this is easier said than done especially when you are dealing with a pain-in-the-butt principal but that’s why you are called a professional. You just need to do your best for the sake of the children. As our parents used to say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” A lot of South African public schools are very famous for having gossiping staff but you don’t have to participate in this.



You just need to keep quiet. It’s not your place to point out your leaders mistakes. You are there to get the job done so just do it. Your job is to teach your learners. Stay focused on them. You need to remember why you got into teaching in the first place. You wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. You can do that even if your school principal is not your ideal leader.

You need to create some opportunities that can help you to connect with your learners whether you create them through sporting events, extra mural activities or even school concerts. You can actually create strong leadership and healthy communication amongst yourself and your learners even if there are problems at the school. The challenge is not to isolate yourself and your learners.

Be friends with your colleagues. I’m talking about other teachers which you teach the same grade with and even those who teach other grades that you don’t, as well as everyone else in the institution.

You know chances are that you may not be the only one who’s experiencing what you are experiencing so you need to take some time and hear other people’s concerns. Don’t forget to listen well and set a limit because you don’t want to get caught in an hour-long negative conversation. You need to make sure that what you say to your colleagues about your leader is reframed positively that’s why it’s important that you connect with your fellow colleagues. You can achieve this by being involved in closing parties or staff outings.

When faced with a poor leadership situation, you have a choice to make.  No, you can’t single-handedly fix the situation…that burden falls to your principal. But, you can choose to do what only you can do.  You can use your professionalism and positive attitude to influence your school, your colleagues, and even the SGB to move in the right direction. Use your power for good.  Make a difference where you are by staying focused on why you do what you do…helping children grow and learn.

Now its your turn. What do you think you can do if you find yourself in a school with poor leadership from the principal? Let me know in the comments below.


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