The school principal administers a dynamic organization consisting of teachers, students and staff. It is his/her responsibility to provide a safe and enabling environment that is conducive to the growth and learning of the students. In that role the principal is a manager, leader, catalyst, disciplinarian, and learner combined. It’s an awesome responsibility, for in a job well done involving the entire school, students will be prepared to function constructively in tomorrow’s terrifically complex world.
The effective principal continues to learn and expand his/her understanding and skills and to address challenges in innovative ways. This entails staying connected to professional groups and organizations and to be exposed to current research, new ideas, successful practices, helpful tools and other resources that can be pulled into ongoing efforts at the school. Of all the responsibilities faced daily by the principal, that of effective leadership is uppermost in activating the entire school toward raising the achievement and spirit of students.
Here are five professional organizations that will provide school principals with knowledge about different aspects of school administration and together, will give balanced support for school improvement and change.
1. National Education Association
As an education professional, the principal would want to be a member of the NEA to stay in touch with the pulse of education nationally, to learn of new developments and to support advocacy for public education. NEA has a membership of three million, and administrators number 16,000. Resources available to principals are Advice from School Leaders, Leadership Resources and Principal’s Toolbox. Their Education World “Principal Files” contain articles and ideas submitted by principals around the world about practical elements of school administration.
2. National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), or National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
NAESP is the professional organization that serves elementary and middle school principals. This organization supports school improvement efforts in various ways. It conducts an Annual Conference & Expo, runs a national mentor training and certification program, offers webinars and online learning programs, and publishes Principal, a bimonthly publication to keep elementary and middle school principals informed.
NASSP represents middle level and high school principals nationally and internationally. It supports research and provides professional learning experiences to strengthen school leadership practices. Among the many resources they offer is the magazine, Principal Leadership, which offers cutting edge ideas for improving schools. Another resource, School Leader’s Review is a podcast series where principals discuss important issues in school leadership. NASSP also administers the National Honor Society to recognize outstanding high school students. Parallel programs are the National Junior Honor Society and the National Elementary Honor Society.
3. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
ASCD is a world leader in developing and providing innovative resources to support the school community and classroom. They advocate a whole child approach to get away from the previous narrowly defined academic achievement and instead to focus on the full personal, social, health as well as the academic development of each child. They also provide resources for the learning and growth of educators. ASCD is active in recruiting and training advocates to have a voice in policy decisions at the state and national levels.
4. International Society for Technology in Education
ISTE was started by a small group of educators who wanted to empower students by giving them powerful tools for learning. A principal who is open to learning about this new opportunity in education can gain new insights from joining ISTE. This includes how technology can be integrated into subject areas and the curriculum as well as in the whole functioning of the school. ISTE’s approach is reflected in their belief that “ultimately, it’s not about the technology at all. It’s about changing the way learning and teaching takes place to make it more meaningful and impactful for educators and learners around the globe.”
Learning Forward is an organization that provides training and resources for leaders engaged in the professional development of educators. Their quarterly publication called Tools for Learning presents resources for school improvement topics. They issue weekly e-news briefs and offer webinars, online classes and videos to keep members abreast on latest trends and knowledge. They bring the ideas of leading thinkers in the field to support the efforts of change agents in the field of education.
Although not a formal professional organization, a resource worth noting for principals who want the stimulation of interacting with innovative thinkers from diverse backgrounds around the world is the Ted-Ed Innovative Educator program. This is part of TED’s education initiative.
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School principals face unprecedented challenges in this fast-paced twenty-first century. They have to find ways that schools can reach and support the healthy growth and learning of students who come from complexly diverse orientations. Joining upbeat organizations and communicating with others will assist principals to find novel solutions for the challenges they face.