A Principal's Tale

A Self Determined Leader

Non-Fiction - Education
250 Pages
Reviewed on 02/15/2021
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Author Biography

My inspiration to write A Principal's Tale: A Self-Determined Leader is to vividly portray the picture of what it is like to be an urban school principal and to provide real life experiences that will inspire current administrators, aspiring principals, teachers, and parents. The Self-Determination Theory is interwoven into realities and resolutions.

Leadership and Literacy:
Doctorate's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction
Professional Experiences: Teacher, National Youth Director, Professor of Urban Education, Elementary School Principal, Instructional Coach, Direct Instruction Trainer.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Randy B. Lichtman for Readers' Favorite

A Principal’s Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley Mackintosh, Ed.D. is an excellent book for educators at all levels, whether administrators or teachers, as it shares tools with examples of how to provide a well-rounded and caring education for students. Dr. Shelley Mackintosh begins the book with the premise that students are best served using the model of Self-Determination Theory (SDT), highlighting three important areas for growth: the needs for autonomy (independence), connection to others (relatedness), and competence (success and mastering their environment).

It is especially interesting to see things from the point of view of a principal who was given a performing arts school in the East Side of Detroit “in a changing and transient predominantly African American Population.” She sets the scenes of a very economically challenged city of Detroit as the background for her noble efforts to provide a supportive and growth-oriented education for her students. Each “Reality” (also considered a chapter), focuses on a challenge or supporting activity based on reality. These include bullying, behavior problems during lunches, lack of understanding of the principal’s role by teachers and students, student’s lack of familiarity with the administrative team, curtailing excessive early pickup of students, and many others. Each Reality is explained, followed by a practical Resolution on how that reality is dealt with effectively, a Reflection Statement summarizing how the Reality and Resolution, and finally a Reflection Question for the reader to consider in his or her own lives and school settings. The Self-Determination Theory is well interwoven while also challenging the reader to consider his or her own values and behavior in education.

Even for non-educators, A Principal’s Tale by Shelley Mackintosh, Ed.D is an excellent book to consider leadership in any industry, especially in orienting and managing employees, serving the customer (the students and their parents), and the importance of quality and maintaining a strong moral compass while dealing with all levels of administration. I highly recommend it for educators to consider how to implement principles in their own schools. The reflection questions can be very good discussion tools. I would also suggest it as a supplementary book for an education methods course in a college or university course. Excellent book!

Mamta Madhavan

A Principal's Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley McIntosh, Ed.D. is an engaging book that will help readers comprehend urban school administration and self-determination theory of urban school principals. The author speaks of being a highly motivated principal mainly for the difference she could make in the lives of children. A nurturing environment is necessary to enhance psychological growth, competence, autonomy, and relatedness that will lead to well-being, satisfaction, happiness, and mental and emotional growth. The author weaves the self-determination theory into her experiences and true events and shows how it provides the basis for urban school principals to ask a critical question. There are five Observations viewed through the Self-Determination theory lens which is a good tool for urban school principals to be analytical, critical, and self-reflective. It is important for urban school principals to identify what nurtures and oppresses competence, autonomy, and relatedness in all these five Observations.

Shelley McIntosh looks at the role of urban school principals in a technical and rational manner and reflects on the need for a supportive social environment. A Principal's Tale is informative and educational and will help future and current urban school principals and administrators, and also those who are keen to learn how principals do their job. It gives glimpses into the author's mode of operation, organization, and commitment when it comes to educating children. The author shares actual events, asks reflection questions, and offers twenty-six Realities and Resolutions that give meaning to school experiences and the motivation factor.

Tammy Ruggles

A Principal's Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley McIntosh is an inspirational, informative leadership guide for those seeking to make a difference as a principal. Whether you're a future principal, one in need of advice and encouragement, or one looking to try something different, this impactful book could change the way you think about students, the education system, and serving through leadership. The beginning alone will catch and hold your attention, as the author informs the reader in just a few beautiful but powerful words where she came from, what shaped her, and why she chose education as her path. Some of the subjects she covers include autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which are components of the Self-Determination Theory and three human needs, the main theory that the author sets forth. The author weaves this theory into urban school administration and the practice of principals.

There are a lot of things to like about this book. McIntosh offers real-life examples, backs up the Self-Determination Theory with solid information, and brings a compassionate approach to education and students. I admire the way that she builds her ideas from the ground up, and still shows respect for the education system, which has a broken reputation in some areas. More than that, she shows respect for students, parents, teachers, and the school experience. I like her psychological approach to things, which addresses basic needs and desires. I like her ideas of school pride, fostering self-esteem, and getting to know the principal, and interacting often with students and parents. Her theories actually uncomplicate things and make it easier for those in education to understand and implement. Her experiences in the school system are interesting, and she brings in other factors like economics, race, money, government, family structure, culture, social factors, bullying, etc. I appreciate that she has a clear overview of the issues and knows how to approach them as a whole, but on an individual level as well. A Principal's Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley McIntosh is a must-read book that should be in the hands of anyone interested in the betterment of schools and students.

Sefina Hawke

A Principal's Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley McIntosh is a non-fiction education book that would appeal most to a diverse audience of aspiring principals, future administrators, those considering a career as an educational leader, and current educational leadership. This book is designed to help prepare a person for what it means to be a principal, what a person needs to know to succeed at the job, and what goes into the career. From a knowledge standpoint, the book focuses on the application of psychological theories like self-determination theory and other theories, which affect psychological needs. The author includes anecdotes that range from serious and informative to humorous that offer a bit of levity. Are you ready to learn about what it truly means to be a principal in today’s world?

A Principal's Tale: A Self Determined Leader by Shelley McIntosh is a well-written and well-organized book with a cover image that hints at the intricacies involved in being a principal. I really liked the way the author shares her own stories and experiences while also tying those stories into self-determination theory. As a psychology graduate student, I found this book to be interesting from a psychological perspective in that I have previously studied self-determination theory, but I had never given much thought to its application in the educational field. Overall, I found this book to be a very informative read that any person considering a career as a principal should read as it provides needed insight into the position.