Response Essay, 3 pages (600 words)

Sociology of education response

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Why is the role of the principal a balancing act? Describe two challenges Lortie found in his study of principals. The role of the principal is a balancing act because the principal fills a variety of roles, rather than what is normally perceived as one overarching role. The principal, as head of the educational organization that is the school, mediates between the school staff and everyone outside the school. He talks to teachers, janitors, coaches, and other staff, as well as to the school board, government officials, parents, and anyone else who has any business with or questions about the school itself. Overall, the principal has to keep a balance between the internal and external functions of the school, and apply himself to both sides of the job equally and effectively.
In having such a multitude of responsibilities, the principal also has a balancing act type of role because he must spread his attention between so many different types of tasks—these range from office work to evaluations to discipline to parent conferences. The principal holds responsibility over every staff member in every area, and also has his own list of tasks to take care of, in addition to tasks from the government or the school board that he must complete. His time is a precious resource, and he must use it wisely—in a grand act of balance.
One of the challenges that principals face is their lack of knowledge about a variety of things in their day to day job. These include knowledge of time allotted, of expertise in specific areas such as physical education or other focuses, and knowledge of the way they are expected to judge teachers in evaluations and meet the government standards in a variety of tasks. Principals often find that overall, it is not clear how they are truly expected to do their job, yet it is also difficult for them to decide how to do so wholly on their own. The chaos of multitasking along with the rigid schedule of the school year basically results in the principal having to do his best to meet all standards and deadlines without failing to notice any errors despite the hurried pace of work. A common complaint from principles is that they do not have enough time to do everything that is required, and in addition they do not know exactly how they are expected to do these things in order to comply with standards.
Aside from the problem of uncertainty, another problem that many principals face is in managing a large network of relationships. This network includes fellow staff members and teachers, students, parents, and the school board. Principals try to maintain good relationships with all these people, but often find it is quite difficult to do. Teachers and students need motivation, and principals are responsible for this more than anyone—they have to motivate others even when they feel disdain for their own job. They must maintain good relationships with their teachers while also evaluating them, and suggesting that they make changes or improvements, which sometimes can have an adverse effect. They also must try to be a positive influence on students, despite having to reprimand them at times. Finally, they must maintain an open door policy with parents, and cannot dismiss them even if they unintentionally try to interfere with the principal’s work.
Overall, the principal plays a crucial but complex role in the school system. He is the fulcrum between school and government, as well as school and family. He has to run his own office, supervise others, and be a good representative of the school to those on the outside. Because of this, his role is a great balancing act and many complexities exist within that act.

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