For most principals, there are roughly two months before the new academic year begins. We know you have a lot of ground to cover, so we’re helping you get started early with five simple steps you can take to shake up the new academic year.
Work closely with “peripheral” staff
We know that communication with our colleagues is essential to the general health and success of our schools, so we work hard to nurture relationships with our teachers, assistant principals, custodians, secretaries, students and on the list goes. But what about the employees who appear to be somewhere off in the periphery but are in fact big contributors to our schools’ success?
Take bus drivers for example: They are the first point of contact students have with the school every day. A bus driver who feels appreciated by leadership is far more likely to interact with students and also relay important information about safety and student behavior. Another thing to consider is that bus drivers spend much of their day out in the community (at diners and coffee shops) due to their unusual schedules. What they say and how they interact when they are out in the community reflects back on the school.
Learn by wandering around
It’s important to keep our fingers on the pulse of the school. Since this is rather difficult to do from the office, we’ve resorted to creating a “purposeful wandering” schedule. Whenever we have some free time, we pull out our schedule to see what parts of the school we haven’t visited yet that month.
When we wander, we also make it a point to visit empty classrooms and browse the artwork and bulletin boards that illuminate our teachers’ walls. We often like to write our teachers a brief note and leave it on their desk or slip it in their mailbox. The message is always short, but encouraging: “I noticed the art display right outside your classroom. What a great assignment! I can see that this was one that your students really enjoyed. Keep up the good work.”
Prepare a master list
This is one we borrowed from Dr. Richard Curwin. Divide your master list into four categories:
A. Major things you will definitely do this year
B. Minor changes you will make this year
C. Major things you will never do this year
D. Minor things you will never do this year
As you build your lists, add as many items in each category as come up. You can prioritize and cull the list at the end of the process.
Strengthen your relationship with the community
Creating a steady flow of communication between the school and community has several benefits: First, it can influence the way the community views the school; second, it can lead to funding and support for school activities.
In Pam Robbins’s and Harvey B. Alvy’s book, The Principal’s Companion: Strategies for Making the Job Easier, we learn about a principal who regularly conducts a “Neighborhood Walk and Watch.” The purpose of this is to take the principal out into the community to talk with community members, advertise some of the school’s activities and projects and create good will. If the community knows what you are doing and what your needs are, the more likely they’ll be to chip in and help.
Geek up your faculty meetings
Most of our students are equally, probably even more, tech-savvy than we are and have great ideas about how this technology could be incorporated into the classroom. As an alternative to the run-of-the-mill faculty meetings, try running a “speed-geeking” session. Essentially, “speed geeking” is a professional-development strategy that loosely mimics speed dating, but replaces the dating part with student-led technology sessions. To read more about “speed geeking,” click here.
Photo credit: Fort Meade