15 Ways Principals Can Improve Communication with Students

Posted on Wed, Oct 23, 2013 @ 13:10 PM

principalsLast week we shared five tips to help principals better communicate with students, parents and teachers. We’d like to continue the conversation, but focus specifically on improving communication with students. As you well know, intergenerational communication can be tricky business. Nonetheless, we believe there are simple steps principals—and any educator for that matter—can take to bridge generation gaps.

15 Ways Principals Can Improve Communication with Students

  • Be mindful when you speak and write. Words, both good and bad, have a long—sometimes indefinite—shelf life

  • Avoid using absolutes like “never” and “always.” Instead, describe what you see, hear and feel

  • Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences with students. Self-disclosure is a useful tool for opening up lines of communication

  • Never use words to belittle any child’s dreams

  • Students often lack the experience to put their problems into perspective. Help them contextualize their struggles without minimizing them

  • Keep in mind that students usually communicate better one-on-one or when they are in smaller groups

  • Use straight talk instead of jargon, shock talk or phony “studentese”

  • Our culture uses a lot of double-talk: We say one thing out of politeness (“No, let me pay for it” or “You really shouldn’t have gotten me that”) but actually mean the opposite. Younger students don’t understand these nuances. Avoid them and just say what you mean

  • Students are often unable to articulate how they feel. Help them define their feelings, if necessary

  • Eye contact, nodding your head and smiling go a long way

  • Be clear about expectations. Don’t expect students to “just get it”

  • Nothing unnerves students quite as much as superficial, authoritarian answers like “That’s just the policy.” Provide real answers to their questions

  • Make sure your mouth, eyes and body are all saying the same thing

  • Step out from behind your desk and remove physical barriers between you and the student when speaking to him or her

  • Forget about what a principal is “supposed” to look and act like. Be you.

Many of these tips have been adapted from Robert Ramsey’s book, How to Say the Right Thing Every Time: Communicating Well With Students, Staff, Parents, and the Public.


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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, career success, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, New Principals

5 Do’s & Don’ts: Creating a partnership with your new principal

Posted on Thu, Sep 05, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

new principalMost of us are resistant, or at least skeptical, of change—particularly when it directly impacts us. Whether we like it or not, new principals rarely leave things untouched. Many of us may immediately buy-in to these changes, but odds are that it’s going to take some time for him or her to win the school over. Just keep in mind that principals can be a teacher’s (and student’s) most important ally. To help you start off on the right foot, we’d like to offer 5 essential Do’s and Don’ts for creating a partnership with your new principal.

Do invite the new principal into your classroom
Your new principal may not need permission to sit in on your class, but why wait for her to ask? Be preemptive: extend an invitation on your own accord. An open invitation suggests that your classroom is a safe and open space; it also indicates that you welcome collaboration and constructive criticism, not to mention the fact that it will diffuse any potential for an adversarial relationship from the very beginning.

Don’t sweat the small stuff
You may have been tied to the tattered leather couch in the lounge and felt that resources would have been better spent on students. You may have fancied the location of the dusty trophies in the hallway. You may have been annoyed when “your” classroom was given to another teacher, but keep it all in perspective. A new principal is going to change things. React to these changes with measure, especially if you don’t know the details. What you may not know is that the new couch was donated or that the trophies are being cleaned or that “your” classroom was relocated for good reason.

And when you are confused or frustrated by new changes, set up a face-to-face meeting; don’t dash off a snarky email.

Do ask your principal if she would like to collaborate
This one goes nicely with number one. When you invite the principal into your classroom, include her in the activities—and make sure that you provide the readings/handouts you plan on using that day so that she can be an active participant.

Here’s another idea: Ask your principal to read a book or article to the class and then co-facilitate a discussion around it with her. Another idea might be to set up students in groups and have the principal help you make rounds, answer and ask Socratic questions.

Don’t wait for the principal to reach out to you
We suggested that you invite the principal to visit your classroom. In addition to this, why not set up a face-to-face meeting. Principals are under a tremendous amount of pressure—especially if they are still acclimating themselves to the school culture—so odds are that they would gladly welcome a conversation that doesn’t involve frustrations and ill will.

Do put your requests in writing
Relaying concerns and requests as you pass the principal in the hallway is a start, but understand that, more than likely, your conversation may be one of a few dozen she is trying to remember. Always send a friendly follow-up email. And if you don’t get a response right away, wait a week. And if a week passes, simply send another email or pick up the phone. Assume that the email went to her SPAM folder or got lost in the mix rather than assuming the principal deliberately ignored or deleted your email.

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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, career success, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, New Principals

15 pieces of advice from former first-year principals

Posted on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 @ 14:08 PM

principalsMost of us who have spent time in the field of education can intuit the demands principals face, but experiencing it is something altogether different. To help you prepare for your first year as a principal, we’d like to share 15 pieces of advice from former first-year principals, all of which come from Tena Green’s book, Your First Year as Principal.  

  • Learn to differentiate between what needs to be settled right away and what requires reflection and input from others.

  • Understand that you cannot do everything by yourself. And even if you could, it would be still be difficult (if not impossible) to get buy-in from others if they did not have a voice in the decision-making process

  • Accept that you cannot be everything to everyone. Learn to differentiate between the things that require your attention and those that you can turn over to others

  • Take care of yourself physically, academically and emotionally

  • Realize that you do not have to have all the answers

  • Avoid making important decisions quickly. Our culture thrives on immediate responses and instant gratification, so you may feel the pressure to respond to important emails or make high-stakes decisions off the cuff. Resist this temptation. Resist external pressure to make rash decisions

  • Open your eyes more than your mouth

  • Never forget what it was like to be a teacher

  • Understand both the culture and the hidden culture of a school

  • Get out of the office as often as you can. Save paperwork for the end of the day when things quiet down

  • Always share the credit and celebrate victories often

  • Develop a personal mission statement. Write it down. Read it every morning. Make it happen

  • Collaborate with faculty and staff to create a unified school vision

  • Accept that you may face resentment from staff members who were contenders for your position. Sure, you may win some of them over by adding them to various teams or by acknowledging their talents—but others may never be won over through no fault of your own.

  • There is no need to trumpet your authority. Everyone already knows you are in charge


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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, career success, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, New Principals

Assessing the health of your school's culture

Posted on Fri, Aug 09, 2013 @ 14:08 PM

school cultureMost of us resist change. When it’s subtle, we may simply grumble at the lack of familiarity or the disruption of a comfortable routine. But when change is drastic, those who are directly affected may vehemently justify their routines (since this is, after all, the way things have always been done!), protest, even threaten mutiny.

This sort of response may be natural, yet it is rarely in a school’s best interest.

Before we begin making changes, however, we must resist the urge to oversimplify the health of a culture by categorizing it as “good” or “bad.” Rarely is it that simple. In their book, How to Help Your School Thrive Without Breaking the Bank, John Gabriel and Paul Farmer describe three types of culture: benign, ill, and healthy; we found this to be helpful and have described each category below.

Benign culture
This is the most common school culture. While not “detrimental,” this type of culture is, as Gabriel and Farmer suggest, “stagnant and in need of exercise.” In a benign school culture,

  • Staff members assess one another primarily according to friendliness
  • Most teachers have never observed their peers’ professional capacity
  • Most conversations lack substance and rarely relate to professional content
  • Members are content and believe that student work, teachers, and administration are all “good enough”
  • There is little to no talk about action or improvement
  • Students meet, but do not exceed, expectations
  • Meetings are polite, but rarely consist of more than determining who is teaching what and when
  • Members are left to do what they want and often shielded by pedagogical or philosophical initiatives that might disrupt their routine
  • Students may have a respectable passing rate, but there is no initiative to exceed the status quo
  • New teachers with new ideas are outnumbered; their ideas are forgotten or ignored

Ill Culture
Fewer schools find themselves on this end of the spectrum, but when they do, this is what you may find:

  • Cynicism, pessimism and distrust are rampant
  • There is a lack of cohesion and a unified set of goals
  • There is a lack of common understanding on the purposes of classes, teams, and departments
  • Teachers act alone
  • Departments may even campaign against fellow departments or department members
  • Leadership is held by a few and is not exercised prudently or justly
  • Decisions are unsupported because leadership does not communicate them to staff, seek “buy-in,” or even take ownership of them
  • Leadership uses power to drive their own agendas and punish rather than explore possibilities and build support
  • Turnover is high and veterans tend to perpetuate a poisonous culture because they outlast newcomers

Healthy Culture
In a healthy school culture,

  • People work across departments and professional roles toward common goals
  • Staff members are collaborative and reflective risk takers: They want to fix things that aren’t working and improve things that are
  • Educators engage in honest, professional dialogue on curriculum, assessment, data, interventions, and remediation
  • Members leave meetings having learned something new
  • The meeting room is a safe space where members are free and encouraged to be vulnerable, honest and reflective
  • Teachers willingly (and of their own volition) consult one another when they encounter problems or need new ideas
  • Practices are transparent and grounded in research
  • Leadership is horizontal: staff members are given the opportunity to explore and discuss decisions
  • The principal empowers the assistant principal to make decisions, lead initiatives, and speak and act on his behalf
  • An administrative leadership team meets to discuss books and articles that have been assigned to them by the principal
  • The school’s departments generally follow the administrative team’s example of sharing leadership and encouraging professional growth
  • Each departments guiding vision and mission statements were developed through honest, stimulating, and boundary-pushing dialogues

Like organisms, schools are, as Gabriel and Farmer suggests, “not unlike living, breathing organisms”: they must adapt to the environment or they will die. Change may not come easy, but it is integral to the success and health of our schools.  


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Certificate in HR Management, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, school culture

Reimagining Conflict: 3 Tips for Principals

Posted on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 @ 15:07 PM

new principalMost of us are taught to see conflict as something painful, something to be avoided. Principals, of course, do not have the luxury of hiding and waiting for conflict to go away or resolve itself. While we can’t change this simple fact, we would like to share three of Sandra Harris’s tips to help principals reimagine the way they see conflict. 

Silence is a powerful thing
In her book, Bravo Principal, Harris recounts an encounter she had with a disgruntled father whose son didn’t make the varsity basketball team. Instead of turning him away, she invited him into her office where he paced around the room and raved for 15 minutes about the incompetence of the coach and the “even greater weakness of our school in having a woman principal” that could not control the coaches.

While the man ranted, she simply sat at her desk and jotted notes on a yellow legal pad. She didn’t agree, disagree or visibly react at all. When the man exhausted himself, he sat down and said, “I guess I really lost it, didn’t I? I feel better now—and you know, my son is only a sophomore; I think being on the JV team will be a good experience for him.” Weeks later, she saw the same father at a school event. Smiling, he approached her and introduced his spouse saying, “This is one brave lady and a great principal!”

What’s the lesson? By listening, acknowledging the conflict and saying little (or sometimes nothing), we can often avoid pointless arguments—and perhaps even make new friends.

It’s easier to deal with a little smoke than it is to put out a raging inferno
Most of us view conflict as something to be feared, but Harris challenges us to view it as something positive. While that doesn’t mean that confrontations will necessarily be fun, they can be less painful if we view them as a “building and bonding” experience, especially if we address potential problems before they fully manifest.

Take advantage of informal conversations as an opportunity to root out potential conflicts. Harris gives the example of a principal who bumped into a parent at the local grocery store. When the principal asked the how things were going at school, the parent said, “Fine, I think.” Instead of accepting this answer—which belied an underlying issue—the principal asked for clarification. He learned that more than a month into the school year, the English teacher had yet to return a single paper.

The following week, the principal was able to speak to the teacher and brainstorm strategies to make it more feasible to return work in a timely fashion. Because the principal caught the issue early enough, he was able to deal with a little plume of smoke instead of a raging inferno.

Empower teachers by creating a unified school vision
As Harris suggests, scholarship has long emphasized the “importance of empowering teachers by giving them opportunities to make decisions that facilitate a positive school climate.” Harris’s study of 123 teachers drives home the point: In her research she found that all 123 teachers stressed the importance of being empowered; one out of four teachers said “the single most important act their principal did was to empower them to share in identifying and clarifying the school vision.”  

Conflicts are minimized when all of us—administrators and teachers—are working in step towards a common goal. Collaborate with teachers and put that common goal into writing; make it a living document, one that everyone in the school helped create.

If you’re interested in collaborating with teachers to create a unified school vision, we walk readers through the process in one of our recent blogs, 5 steps to creating a unified school vision statement.

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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, Role of Principal in School, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator

10 tips for facilitating discussions with grieving students

Posted on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 @ 14:07 PM

grieving studentsIt’s an unfortunate truth, but many principals will be faced with the death of a student, teacher or staff member during their tenure. In many cases, the death is unforeseen—and rarely is there the “luxury” of having a weekend to sort out our thoughts and measure our response before delivering the message to staff and students. While we will not be discussing the entire process of designing an effective response plan (Scott and Donna Poland do a fine job of that here), we do want to talk about how principals can prepare and support their teachers and staff.

One of the most important things a principal can do is provide appropriate details and guidelines on how to conduct classroom discussions. Teachers and staff should receive a script that contains information not only about the deceased, but also strategies for conducting in-class discussions.  

10 tips for facilitating discussions with grieving students

In their book, Death in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Assisting Grieving Students, Kathleen Cassini and Jacqueline Rogers advise principals to communicate the following with their teachers:

  1. Although it may seem that you are unqualified to comfort your students, you are one of the best people for the job. Students know you; they have developed a relationship with you and may resent the “intrusion” of an outside professional who is meeting them at one of their most vulnerable moments. Because you are a part of the school community, students will see you as someone who realizes what they are experiencing.

  2. Be prepared to acknowledge that the death has occurred and use class time to discuss if needed. It would be a mistake to ignore the death and move directly into a lesson or a test. Each teacher must decide the amount of time needed to field questions and listen. Only after these needs have been met should class work resume.

  3. You should not feel it necessary to hide your emotions. If you are sad, tell your students. Don’t be afraid of your tears or theirs.

  4. Many of your students will display anger and confusion at the incident. Help the students explore creative and constructive ways to vent that anger. Students may benefit from making sympathy cards, sharing memories, listening to music, or simply writing in their journals.

  5. Avoid saying things like, “I once lost a friend; I know what you are going through,” or, “At least s/he had a happy life and now s/he is in a better place.” Statements like this are not only cliché, but may feel patronizing to students.

  6. Do not lecture, make judgments, or place blame on parents, students or the school.

  7. Medical questions are best answered by medical professionals. It’s okay to admit if you do not know the answer to a question.

  8. You may hear questions like, “Why did it happen?”, and the statement, “It isn’t fair.” Your students will appreciate honest answers like, “I don’t know why it happened” and, “You’re right, it isn’t fair.”

  9. Relate only the known facts. Do not draw your own conclusions or make judgment calls. If you are unsure how to respond to a question, don’t guess. If appropriate, tell them you will find out for them or refer them to the crisis intervention team.

  10. Your students may be frustrated by the fact that other students are laughing, talking loudly in the hallways or going about their day as though it were any other. Should this be the case, explain that perhaps these students did not know the deceased student, or maybe they are remembering good times they had with him, or maybe they are not comfortable showing their grief in public.

As we said above, the most important thing principals can do is develop an effective response to a death before it happens. To learn more about developing an effective response plan, check out Scott and Donna Polland’s article, “Dealing With Death at School.”


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, Developing Teachers, grieving students

Hiring Teachers: 20 essential interview questions for principals

Posted on Fri, Jul 19, 2013 @ 09:07 AM

hiring teachersHiring teachers is tricky business. More specifically, though, hiring is a solitary business. We may include the staff, the PTA or the board in the selection process, but whether they are included or not, the administrator will stand alone if that new hire doesn’t work out.

But making the right hiring decision has implications that transcend an administrator’s reputation and legacy. John Black and Fenwick English are right to suggest that “people are ultimately institutions. Institutions are no better than their collective brains, energy, and humanity guided by a mission.” If we are to reform our schools, close racial gaps, increase academic performance and build effective curriculum, we must hire the right “brains, energy, and humanity” to help us do it.

While we recognize that hiring teachers is a long and complicated process that requires more than asking “the right” set of interview questions, we’d like to share 20 useful interview questions from Kenneth Peterson’s book, Effective Teacher Hiring: A guide to Getting the Best.

Hiring Teachers: 20 essential interview questions for principals

  • Why did you become a teacher?
  • How did your education prepare you to become a teacher?
  • What part of teaching appeals to you most/least?
  • What is your philosophy of teaching?
  • What do you believe is the most important part of teaching?
  • How will you reach students with special needs?
  • How will you create a positive environment in your classroom?
  • How will you use technology in the classroom?
  • What attracted you to this school district?
  • What curriculum areas are your strongest?
  • How will you involve parents in the classroom?
  • How will you create relationships with parents and students?
  • What do you think will provide you the greatest pleasure in teaching?
  • In what way will you nurture creativity in the classroom?
  • Can you describe a successful lesson?
  • What do you look for in a principal?
  • How would you communicate with administrators?
  • Describe a time you had to handle a student who was disrupting your class.
  • Describe a team project you’ve work on.
  • Tell me about a difficult situation you were in
    • How did you handle it?
    • What was the outcome?
    • What did you learn from it?
    • What might you do differently if it happened again?

If you’re looking for more tips to help you navigate the hiring process, we recommend checking out not only Kenneth Peterson’s book, Effective Teacher Hiring: A guide to Getting the Best, but also John Black’s and Fenwick English’s book, What They Don’t Tell You in Schools of Education about School Administration.

Photo credit: Groundswell


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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, Role of Principal in School, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, hiring teachers

5 steps to creating a unified school vision statement

Posted on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

vision statementImagine randomly selecting teachers and asking them, “What is our school’s vision?” How many different answers would you receive? Sure, they’d share commonalities, but would they be grounded in a collective philosophy? Would they align with a specific plan of action? Or would they be hazy generalities that mention “student success,” “academic rigor” and “excellence?”  

Schools succeed when all of us—administrators and teachers—are working in step towards a common goal. One of the best ways to make this happen is by creating (and putting in writing) a vision statement. Most institutions (churches, corporations, clubs, small businesses) have one and while you can certainly use these to get you started, we wanted to share a collaborative activity to help you develop your own. This idea comes courtesy of Pam Robbins’s and Harvey Alvy’s book, The New Principal’s Fieldbook.

5 steps to creating a unified school vision statement

As you and your faculty consider your vision statement, reflect on the following questions:

  • Who are we serving?
  • What are the characteristics of our students and their families?
  • What changes have we made in the past and what changes are we planning for the future?
  • What expectations do we have for our students? Each other?
  • What are our dreams and aspirations for our students?
  • What are our aspirations for the school?
  • What kind of school do we want for our children?
  • What will our students learn and how will they learn it?
  • What distinguishes us from other schools?
  • How will we measure or demonstrate these distinctions?
  • If parents have a choice as to where they will send their child, why would they choose our school?

After an informal discussion about the above questions, pass out Post-it pads and one notecard for each staff member and work through numbers 1-5 below.

1. Ask your staff to reflect on the place s/he envisions his/her child going to school. What would it look like? How would the child be treated? What would his/her experiences be like? Now have your faculty write their reflections on a Post-it note.

2. Now ask the staff to think about a work environment they would like to go to every day. What would it look like? What would their experiences be like? Now have your staff write their answers on another Post-it note.
3. Now ask your staff to look over the two Post-it notes and do their best to consolidate them into one. When they are ready, have them write their thoughts on an index card.

4. Divide your staff into groups of four or five and assign one member as the group secretary. Each member should share their statements with the group. Once each member has shared their statement, the group must collaborate to create a unified statement. The group secretary is responsible for writing this down. Once each group is satisfied with its vision statement, they will write it on the board at the front of the classroom.

5. Now that all of your groups have written their vision statements on the board, it’s time to come back together as one group and repeat the process.


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, faculty meetings, vision statement

5 Ways Principals Can Shake Up the New Academic Year

Posted on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 @ 15:06 PM

principalFor 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

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, first day of school

10 Ways New Principals Can Prepare for Opening Day

Posted on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 @ 11:06 AM

new principalsSay “summer vacation” to a veteran principal and don’t be surprised when s/he responds with, “Never heard of it.” Sure, the academic year technically ends somewhere in the middle of June, but the job of a principal is ongoing and often just as busy during the summer. If you’re a new principal, you have even more ground to cover. To ensure that you don’t forget anything, we’ve put together a checklist of 10 things new principals can do this summer to prepare for opening day. Many of these come courtesy of Evan Robb’s book, The Principal's Leadership Sourcebook: Practices, Tools, and Strategies for Building a Thriving School Community.

10 Ways New Principals Can Prepare for Opening Day

1: Work closely with your predecessor
If you can make it happen, collaborate with the previous principal on a transitional plan. If school is still in session, see if you can schedule some time to visit classrooms or simply eat lunch with students and teachers.

2: Meet with your secretary right off the bat

There are dozens of perfunctory tasks you’ll need to take care of on the day you turn that door handle and enter your new office. The boxes and clutter can wait. One of the most important things you can do is meet with your secretary and get your hands on a copy of last year’s year book.

3: Start learning the names of faculty and staff members
Take the year book home with you and study it. Once you learn the names of your team, you’re ready to start meeting them.

4: Write welcome letters/emails to parents
It’s no secret that parental involvement is crucial to our students’ success. Start off on the right foot by sending out letters/emails to the parents. Invite them to drop by and spend time with you this summer. This will send the message that you are available and looking forward to meeting and working with them.

5: Repeat number four; this time address letters/emails to teachers and staff

6: Organize "Meet the Principal" sessions
Mid-July is a good time to start meeting the parents and getting to know those you have met better. Try organizing several "Meet the Principal" sessions. These should be informal gatherings where parents get to ask you questions and you get to do the same.

7: Manage your school budget.
Getting a handle on your school budget can be complex. Here are a few common finance pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t think you can meet all requests. There is a limit to how much money is available.
  • Clear procedures are essential in order for the principal to review all purchase requests so that all the needs of your school are met.
  • Allow teams or departments to decide what they need.
  • Be careful about spending. The amount of money in a school's operational budget is set for the year. Effectively managing this money is critical.

8: Prepare for School-Fee Week and Back to School Night in August
Many schools cover the costs of consumable items (workbooks, art and science supplies, for example) through registration fees that are taken care of during “Fee Week.” Use this week as an opportunity to continue meeting parents—and  be sure to remind them about Back to School Night or encourage them to join a parent advisory committee or volunteer at the school.

9: Meet every student in your school
Give yourself until mid-September to reach this goal, but make it a priority. There are innumerable ways to interact with students: try greeting students in the mornings as they step off the bus; attend sporting events and sit with a different group of students each time; visit classrooms; sit in on a ceramics class and spin some clay…whatever it takes to interact with students.

10: Prepare to be a public figure
Many new principals are surprised by how the job seems to follow them wherever they go. You may intend to interact with students during a football game; you may intend to be anonymous when you go to the grocery store or get dinner with your family, but you won’t always be successful. No matter where you are—in your office, in the bathroom, vacationing in Fiji—parents and students (both past and present) are going to spot you. Prepare yourself for this kind of visibility.  

Photo credit: Daniel*1977 / / CC BY-NC-SA


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, New Principals, first day of school

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