In addition to the managerial tasks, the school principal must get to know students and share the concerns of the teachers.
Manage overworked teachers, operate within tight budgets, develop strategies to prevent school dropouts, and deal with violence and drugs in schools, are all a part of the daily workload of principals in Quebec elementary and secondary schools.
“School boards are having more and more difficulty recruiting people willing to be school principal,” explains Roseline Garon. “It’s a very demanding job which requires a specific skill set.”
Mrs. Garon is a Professor in the Département d’administration de l’éducation et de fondements de l’éducation. She believes that school principals should be appointed based on their “resilience”. A term borrowed from physics by ethologist Boris Cyrulnik to describe the ability of an individual to not only overcome adversity but to gain strength from adversity.
Mrs. Garon published a study in 2006 in Psychologie du travail et des organizations, in which she interviewed school principals described as “resilient” in order to compare them to others described as “vulnerable”. “Resilient principals are realistic yet have an optimistic disposition. They feel competent and self-confidant,” she explains.
Currently, there are 3000 school principals at the elementary and secondary levels in Quebec, and just as many vice-principals. For the most part, they are teachers promoted to the position. As of May 2001, new principals are required to take a specialized graduate level course, but most principals do not have that training.
According to Mrs. Garon, “resilient” candidates should be given priority in the hiring process. “Principals are recruited as of their fifth year of teaching, and sometimes before. They should know what they are getting into.”