31 Teachers Share What Separates Good Principals From Great Ones

The little things add up to a strong school culture.

Two photos of how principals show appreciation—via advocacy and time

This year has shown us that we need real systemic change in support of teachers and education. Better salaries, more mental health support, and more compassion for the hard work that we do every day. But the little things matter too. Below, teachers from our We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook share the things their principals do for them that really make an impact.

They treat us like professionals.

“Our principal has my back. He takes the brunt of parent and student complaints and issues and has a default mode to trust the teacher. He does his job, acts like a professional, and treats me like a professional. He allows me to vent without fear of retribution.” —Kamra B.

“My principal does what he can to protect us from initiatives that are not helpful for our students or school.” —Lynn O.

“When a parent complains, she comes and observes my class, tells me positive things she sees, gives me an opportunity to explain why I have my class set up the way it is, and then gives constructive feedback.” —Heather S.

They see us and recognize our individual gifts.

“Our principal highlights a teacher of the week on the announcements. She shares details about us and plays our ‘walk-up song.'” —Kamra B.


“Every staff meeting, they share specific examples of stuff they have seen teachers do that they love and think could help others. It’s been nice to see everyone get recognized for their strengths.” —Melana K.

“Our principal leaves random dry-erase marker notes on our doors and handwritten notes in our boxes.” —Adrian B.

“I had a principal who seemed like he wasn’t paying attention but then would say things that showed he really knew us. He valued our hard work and had our backs and supported us.” —Lynn O.

“We do High Five Friday! These hands are always in the mailbox room and teachers write thank-you notes on them. Our principal or AP reads the names out every Friday morning and then the teachers/staff place them around our doors to display them once received.” —Lisa M.

They surprise us!

“Our principal comes around occasionally with a treat cart stocked with coffee/water/tea and snacks!” —Christy W.

“He brings us donuts on the last workday of the month.” —Kris N.

“We get ‘room service’ from time to time. Our principal puts a hotel door hanger on our doorknob. It has drink and snack choices for us to choose from and a preferred delivery time. The next day we get our room service order.” —Karla B.

“They organized a couple of food trucks to come to the school for lunch during an in-service day.” —Bethany U.

“Our principal grills hot dogs for Weenie Wednesday.” —Gabrielle C.

They maintain open communication.

“He calls up randomly to ask if we’d like him to take over for a few minutes so we can have a break. He’s really good at taking the pulse of the staff and seems to know where and when he’s needed and welcome.” —Lori D.

“My principal doesn’t do blindsides. If I’m called to her office, she tells me why I’m being called so I know I’m not in trouble.” —Amy J.

“Our principals are so welcoming and inviting. When our students came back after quarantine, they made the rounds to every room to welcome them back and introduce themselves. That alone goes a long way!” —Jessica S.

“My principal is kind and says hello, asks how we are, asks our opinion, and listens.” —Lynn B.

“I have appreciated handwritten notes of appreciation and feedback on things I did well during an observation.” —Kristen G.

“My principal notices who is working, and working hard, and acknowledges them. A ‘thank you’ or ‘I appreciate your hard work’ goes a long way.” —Jennifer R.

“Our principal listens! He trusts us to do what is right, even if it may be different than what our district wants. Also, he respects teachers and doesn’t have meetings to just have meetings.” —Erin M.

“He makes us laugh; does NOT micromanage; is a very easy-going, sincere, kind person. He actually listens to what we have to say.” —Cathy M.

They give the gift of time.

“Our AP offered to teach a class period of our choosing for us. It was so awesome! He asked what they were studying and planned his own lesson and everything.” —Patty H.

“We get ‘late coupons’ (allowing us to come in at 8:00 instead of 7:30) and/or ‘leave early coupons’ (allowing us to leave at 2:45 instead of 3:15).” —Laurie G.

“Our principal lets us leave as soon as buses pull out on Friday and gives us extra lunchtime on SIP day.” —Christy W.

“I appreciate the flex time our principal gives us. If we stay late for meetings, we can leave early the same amount of time, as long as it doesn’t require a sub. And we get to leave early on a Friday after an evening event during the week.” —Joanna G.

They let us have fun together.

“We just had March Madness, and it was so much fun. We have Wednesday challenges (something easy), and if you participate, you get to wear jeans and win cool prizes.” —Sue H.

“Our principal organized a game of Marshmallow Mafia. It was totally hilarious! Check it out. ” —Laura C.

“We have had a chili cook-off and a cake contest.” —Bonnie K.

“Our principal sponsors monthly pot lucks.” —Angela F.

“We have wellness days Wednesdays during our lunch hour. We have participated in kickball, teacher trivia, meal trucks, and spa day. In addition, throughout the week, we have an ongoing bingo game with prizes of $10 gift cards to local businesses. These small, hour-long activities have boosted our morale and team spirit so much! It is really worth it.” —Nancy S.

“My principal also organized a wellness PD day! We had the option to rotate through stations—free massage, a session with a life coach, a mile-long walk through the school (created by our librarian), reading and music in the listening center, stretching sessions, and meditation.” —Olivia B.

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