The Perils of Being A Principal


Principals are figures clothed in authority and mystery. To children, they seem like a looming authority figure, someone to be feared and to teachers and administrators, they are the boss.

However as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

A principal may be a powerful figure but in additional to all that power, they are also responsible and accountable for the entire school!

Here are 8 reasons why being a principal is not a breeze.

Vectors (290)

The “always available” principal

1. Being a principal is a 24-hour job – While the 24-hour on call part is true of principals who live on campus along with students and faculty, most principals’ deal with issues all around the clock, be it truant children, teacher disputes, administrative issues, dealing with their superiors etc.

2. There is always something to do – Since we never see a principal at work (teachers are teaching, students are learning and parents are at home or work), we assume that a principal must simply be sitting in a cushy office and making a few phone calls here and there. However, that is not true. There are always classes to be visited, programmes to be developed, events to be overseen, issues to be fixed, problems to be noted etc. Free time is a rarity that most principals do not have.

3. Always a steady stream of parents to meet – Unknown to us, the principal meets with parents daily. Sometimes it is to meet with parents who want to discuss their child’s performance or issues and sometimes it’s because the child is not behaving well or doing poorly academic. Some parents are understanding and accepting, and some are not. Makes for a trying time doesn’t it?


Serious principal

4.  Have to make the hard decisions – Class 9B needs new desks and chairs. Class 10A needs new physics and math teachers. Only one class’s needs’ can be fulfilled because the budget cannot allow for new equipment and hiring of employees. And the principal gets to be person who decides which class’s needs are more important. And whatever choice the principal makes, either way they are seen as the bad guys.

5.  Student welfare is important but students don’t see it that way – Students may sometimes be resentful of principals because punishments or lectures for misdeeds may seem harsher than normal. But the principal has pretty much no choice when it comes to student welfare. A student is the reflection of the school they go to. And student welfare is a principal’s topmost priority. Sometimes for good results, principals need to be ‘bad’, but for students this concept is baffling and not that understandable.


Student waiting for his turn outside the principal’s cabin

6.  Have to solve disputes between everyone from parents to teachers to children – Sometimes the disputes that a principal needs to solve are as small as two children fighting over a ball on the playground and sometimes it is something serious like two teacher arguing over classroom periods or authority.

7. The school is constantly at the back of your mind – The school is always on a principal’s mind. There is actually no off-day from being a principal because on the days that are holidays, principals have other administrative work to finish. Even otherwise the school is always on a principal’s mind because a school and a principal are always so entwined with each other.


Principal at his desk

8. It’s a hard and sometimes thankless job – In order to make a school good and successful, a principal has to put in a lot or work, have people dislike them for doing their job, face a lot of brickbats and in the end receive no thanks at all. When students leave at the end of the year, they say goodbye to their teachers and friends, but hardly no student ever goes up to a principal and says, “thank you for having me and keeping me”.

All the same, principals solider on because while they are not the heroes a school wants, they are the heroes a school needs.


About Author

Padma loves to read, write and listen to music. She enjoys writing about education and talking about it too. Someday in the future, she hopes to become a novelist too.


  1. Abbas Khaleel SM on

    After long time, I saw one article which focused on the thankless job of being Principal (and) or Head of a Institution. I personally/ practically know what/how the hell it is to be 24×7 on call job. You never going to have peace of mind. Always there is some issue to solve/look after.
    I appreciate you, for writing this article.

    • I am glad you liked the article Abbas. Being the Head of an institution or alternatively the Principal of a school or a college is a full-time job and not the most pleasant one to hold.

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