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Book Review: What Great Principals Do Differently 1

Book Review: What Great Principals Do Differently

Kendra Stokes

University of St. Thomas

Administrative Internship II, EDUC 6331
Virginia Leiker, Ed.D.
April 19, 2014

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In the book, What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, the author begins
the book by emphasizing the importance of understanding and studying effective principals.
Then throughout the rest of the book the author focuses on things that set effective principals
apart from all the others. This book highlights eighteen hallmarks of great principalstheir
attitudes, goals, decisions, and practices. (Whitaker, 139)
One chapter in the book entitled, Its People, Not Programs, discusses the importance of
keeping the focus on the people and not the programs that are sometimes forced on teachers. A
principals number one job is to ensure all students learn. It is expected that the teachers
differentiate their lessons so all students are able to understand. Effective principals should do
the same for their teachers. Not all great teachers do things exactly the same but are still able to
get the results that are needed. Principals that force programs on teachers that do not fit with the
teachers educational philosophy it could have a negative effect and cause the loss of a great
effective teacher. Instead the principal should focus more on individual teacher development.
Regardless of the need for and commitment to whole-school growth, these (effective) principals
did everything they could to promote the effectiveness of each individual staff member as a way
to improve the school. (Whitaker, 10)
The chapter, Dont Need to Repair-Always Do Repair emphasizes the importance of
relationships in the school. Great principals work hard to keep their relationships in good
repair-to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage. (Whitaker, 120) It is also
important as a school leader to not only practice building and sustaining strong positive
relationships but teaching the skill to the teachers. Being professional towards teachers all of the
time is a powerful defusing technique which in turn allows for a real conversation to take place
and the conflict can be resolved. This technique works well for teachers in the classroom. If
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we build the skills in each one of our teachers, they will not be part of the escalation process.
But, in the meantime, developing these repairing skills in our students can help alleviate
problems in all our classes. More importantly, we have taught them one of the skills of the most
effective people in all professions. (Whitaker, 120)
What Great Principals Do Differently, is an excellent resource for any school leader or
district that wants to develop effective principals in every school, it also plays an essential role in
aspiring leaders libraries. The resources in the book can help principals revisit and revamp the
policies and practices that are already in place. Many principals have created positive climates,
but have not taken other steps necessary to help develop the teachers that they have in the school.
Using this book, the leader of the school has a resource to help with several situations and can be
referred to at anytime. In order to effectively initiate the change that is necessary, the leader
must first understand the need for the change and how it would be implemented. The reader may
see that one of the drawbacks is the amount of time that the administrator must devote to getting
a clear understanding of what their vision and goal is for the school, so they are fully committed
to making a change. Principals have to be ready to provide support throughout the process.
What Great Principals Do Differently is not a how to book, but it does offer high-
quality advice to what to do and how to do it. When the process of creating a school culture of
learning for all begins, the focus will be on the students, but end with a culture of learning where
all will learn including the teachers.

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Whitaker, T. (2012). What Great Principals Do Differently: 18 Things That Matter Most. New York: Eye on