3 Ways to Maximize the Assistant Principal Role

This Leading Lessons guide gives you strategies to work with APs to make the most of their role.

This Leading Lessons guide gives you strategies to work with APs to make the most of their role.
March 2019, Volume 42, Issue 7

School leaders need to leverage the assistant principal (AP) role and leadership teams to help impact academic and social-emotional learning. The Leading Lessons: Collaborate to Align Learning guide looks at three key strategies—removing barriers to success, collaborating with your AP, and practicing collaborative leadership—to maximize the role of the assistant principal.

Remove Barriers to Success

Despite wanting to improve their instructional leadership practices, many APs report that they have a difficult time because they are busy with managerial tasks. The result is problematic—even after many years in the role, APs often transition to the principalship without a complete understanding of research and practice regarding instructional leadership.

Here are three strategies to work through the challenges of becoming instructional leaders.

  • Advocacy. Many APs don’t feel comfortable sharing their feelings with their principals, so they need talking points to use to get across their desire to focus on instructional leadership.
  • Reflection. To fully understand how much time APs spend in classrooms, in their offices, and focusing on student discipline, have them journal for a week. It gives them a starting point to improve moving forward.
  • Goal-setting. Have APs sit down with teachers to find out what instructional goals are important to him or her. Then empower the APs to find resources to help these teachers meet their goals.

Collaborate With Your AP

Collaborative leadership can help combat high turnover rates and mid-year placements. APs—who are most frequently assigned to discipline and scheduling duties—need time to visit classrooms. These methods can help create collective efficacy among the team.

  • Build a guiding team. Every school has a guiding team that consists of the principal, AP, and lead teachers. Make sure members understand why they’ve been chosen. Define expectations. Construct a goal together around an initiative. Assign duties for each member. And promote and support discourse among the team.
  • Assess processes and develop goals. Instead of focusing on discipline, help APs increase their roles as instructional leaders. Conduct instructional rounds together. Create a sacred meeting time. Determine and define goals. And collect evidence to understand the impact.

Practice Collaborative Leadership

Principals should follow through on what they say and, if the group takes a different direction, avoid trying to change it just to flex their leadership muscles. This is called leadership responsiveness, and it allows principals to:

  • Establish trust;
  • Challenge thinking;
  • Focus on learning;
  • Prioritize conversations on adult issues;
  • Create a school climate that is inclusive of all students;
  • Understand how self-efficacy affects teachers, leaders, and students;
  • Collect evidence to understand impact; and
  • Have a common language/understanding.

This is just a sampling of what you’ll find in this issue of our Leading Lessons guide. Looking for more ways to make the most of the AP role in your school? Download the entire guide, complete with a resource section, key considerations, and reflections to use with your staff.

Copyright © 2019. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.