The Principalship as “Good Work”

by Rick Rogers, Executive Director, MESPA

reflectionSummer is a time of reflection and renewal for educators. This summer has been a particularly reflective time for me as I move into a new role after working as a principal in both suburban and urban Massachusetts schools for the past 27 years.  I have been thinking about what I have loved, what I have found challenging, and what I have needed in order to feel nourished and stay fresh.

My thinking brought me back to a piece by Daniel Goleman (of “Emotional Intelligence” fame) in which he describes work by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner to identify what constitutes “good work” (“It May Be a Good Job, but Is It ‘Good Work’?” New York Times 11/26/2008). 

Goleman and Gardner suggest there are three questions we can ask about our jobs to evaluate their “good-work” level:

  • Does the work fit your values?
  • Does the work evoke excellence; are you highly competent and effective at what you do?
  • Does the work bring you that subjective barometer of engagement, joy?

This last question about engagement and joy is the one that resonated with me.  What makes us feel engaged in our work?  How do we find joy?  For me, I have found engagement in the intellectual stimulation and reflection that comes from professional learning – work that cuts across grade levels and curricular areas.   And I have found joy in the relationships built over time with children, their families and faculty.

As you reflect on your work this summer, I encourage you to think about these questions for yourself.

  • What aspects of your work do you care most about?  What best fits your values?
  • In what areas of your work do you feel a sense of competence?  What are areas you would like support in developing?  And how can MESPA support you in doing so?
  • And, most important, where do YOU find engagement and joy?  And how can you spend more time on what brings you joy?

May your summer include your preferred mix of relaxation, adventure and reflection.  May you find engagement and joy in the year ahead.

RickRogersRick Rogers is the current Executive Director of MESPA. He was a Principal for the past 27 years in both urban and suburban schools in the Commonwealth. He most recently worked as the Principal of the Lawrence School in Brookline. Rick can be reached via email at, via Twitter @MESPA1 or via Voxer @RickRogers409.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

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