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7 Stress-Fighting Tips for Principals

Posted on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 13:03 PM

principalsLeaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a principal. Sure, the stress becomes easier to manage with time and experience, but it never completely goes away, no matter how competent or passionate we are about our job.

Whether you’re a new or veteran principal, odds are that you could benefit from a few stress-fighting tips. Below, you’ll find 7 that work for us.

Play your favorite record
You may not be able to leave the office, but you can shut your door, lean back in your chair, and crank up your favorite song. Make this a meditative experience. Close your eyes, tune out everything else, and focus on the music.

Save positive notes
One of the best ways to counteract your feeling unappreciated is to look through cards, notes and emails from parents and teachers. Print your emails, save your notes and put them in a file folder. Reading through these is a great way to reaffirm that yes, there may be bad days, but you are still making a difference and reaching a lot of people.

Browse your favorite website or blog
The Internet can be an incredible time-sucker—but sometimes “wasting” time on Pinterest and eBay is the best cure for a bad day. If you feel the need to justify your web browsing, look for lesson plans, articles or YouTube videos that some of your teachers might find engaging. This will distract you, but still keep you productive.  

Eat lunch with students
When we’re stressed, often our first instinct is to shut down, close the office door and be alone. But that’s usually the last thing we need. Get out of the office, sit in on a class, join in on a recess game, or find a table and eat lunch with students. This will benefit both you and the kids.

Read and read for pleasure
When you read, you want to make it count, so you may tend to read about leadership, curriculum and scholarly articles related to education. That’s admirable and necessary—but you should also read for pleasure. Read to decompress. Read books that you can’t put down. Stephen King? Yes, please. Dean Koontz? Definitely. John Grisham? Of course you should.

Work from home
The office can be a refuge, but it can also be a source of distraction, especially when we have to catch up on major reports and other projects. Between the meetings, incessant phone calls, emails and visits from random visitors, it can be challenging to get anything done. If you can get approval from the board, we suggest taking an at-home work day once or twice a year.

Take an hour
There’s always more to do, right? There are meetings, reports, phone calls…but it can wait—all of it. Set boundaries; set aside a specific time every day to do something that nurtures you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, etc. Go home! Revere this time like you would any after-school tutoring session or faculty meeting. The world and all its reports can wait—at least for one hour. 

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, new principal, excellent leaders

3 Ways to Nurture a Positive School Culture

Posted on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 @ 14:02 PM

positive school cultureIf the job description of a principal was put into writing, it would be of War and Peace proportions. Today’s principal is pulled in hundreds of directions at a moment’s notice—so how does s/he move beyond survival mode and create a successful learning environment? This was Shelly Habegger’s guiding question when she studied principals at three high-performing schools of low socioeconomic status.

Despite the fact that these schools had fewer resources and a disproportionate number of under-qualified teachers, Habegger found that these schools continued to succeed. How and why though? Habegger attributes their success to the power of a positive school culture.  

Creating a sense of belonging for students
When Habegger asked the principals about their major goals for their schools, their answers were unanimous: to develop positive relationships, not generate high test scores.

Most of us know that relationships are important to our students’ success, yet we may have underestimated them. Research suggests that when we nurture relationships with students, we actually:  

  • Contribute to the academic achievement and motivation of our students (Elias, 1997)
  • Decrease the likelihood of a student dropping out (Thurlow, Christenson, Sinclair, Evelo, & Thornton, 1995)
  • Help prevent and reduce bullying (Olweus, 1999)
  • Help prevent substance abuse (Resnick et al., 1997), and violence (Dwyer, Osher, & Warger, 1998)

Creating a sense of belonging for teachers
In addition to creating a sense of belonging for students, these three principals also made it a priority to nurture relationships with teachers and support them professionally.

One way the principals achieved this was by facilitating a “common planning time.” Essentially, this was a weekly meeting where the principal and teachers:

  • Viewed achievement test data
  • Sought assistance for particular students
  • Discussed curriculum alignment, instructional strategies, how to enhance student achievement, and other job-embedded issues.

These meetings laid the foundation for a collaborative, professional learning community, but they also benefitted teachers in number of other ways:  

  • Teachers began to take collective responsibility for student learning
  • Increased efficacy
  • There was a noticeable reduction in teacher isolation
  • Teachers learned from one another and experienced higher morale and greater job satisfaction
  • Retention rates increased

Creating a sense of belonging for parents and community
Relationships with parents and the community were also priorities for all three of the principals Harbegger studied. Here’s what she found:

  • Each principal referred to the parent’s (and community’s) role as complementary to the school
  • Each principal strove to learn parental needs and welcomed and solicited parents’ questions and concerns
  • Informally, information was gathered through conversations principals had with parents as they dropped off and picked up their children from school and attended various school events, and in phone calls home.
  • More formally, the principals conducted a needs assessment survey of their school’s parents to keep in tune with what and how to best communicate with them concerning their children’s social and academic growth.
  • Each school displayed substantial efforts to invite, include, and demonstrate need for parents and various community members.
If you’re looking for more ways to nurture relationships and create a positive school culture, check out a few of our recent blogs: “Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture,” “5 simple ways to strengthen student engagement,” and “5 More Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom.”


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, new principal, excellent leaders, positive school culture

Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

Posted on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

positive school cultureThere’s been an awful lot of ink spilled on the benefits of building a positive school culture—and just as much on the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students. All that ink leads me to the conclusion that these things are important to educators.

But if building better relationships and creating positive schools matters to us, why aren’t more schools positive places?

According to Jon Gordon, author of The Positive School Manifesto, the answer is simple: Building a culture of care is hard work. Not only that, it requires a special breed of leadership—the kind that’s determined and passionate enough to make positivity contagious.  

Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

Positive leaders required
Positive school cultures are created by principals who make the health of their organization a priority, lead the initiative, and are engaged in the process—even when it’s a struggle. Many of us start off with good intentions, but find it difficult to remain positive in the face of resistance and skepticism. Do not tolerate negativity! Weed it out and press on.

Build a positive leadership team
While principals can certainly be the spark for creating positive energy, they’ll need teachers and staff to fan and carry the flame. Invite your leadership team on the bus by setting up a workshop where you create a vision, a road map, an action plan, and a set of initiatives to move the school in the right direction.

Develop a fleet of bus drivers
You’ll be driving the bus at first, but you’re eventually going to need a fleet of bus drivers to join you. To recruit drivers, start talking. Share the school’s vision with everyone.

Conversations should happen between principals and teachers, teachers and staff, staff and students, students and parents. Each person needs to understand the school vision and identify how their personal vision, job and effort contribute to the overarching vision.

Tend to the roots of the tree
In a world driven by test scores, budgets and short-term results, it’s easy to be distracted by outcomes rather than the process. Don’t fall into this trap. Tend to the roots of your tree and you’ll always be pleased with the fruit it supplies. If you ignore the root, eventually the tree will dry up—and so will the fruit.

Weed out negativity
To create a positive school culture, you must deal with the cost of negativity head on. Ask yourself the following questions: How are we going to deal with negativity, challenges and energy vampires?

Dwight Cooper, the CEO of a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), asked himself this question; his answer was a company policy he called The No Complaining Rule. This rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint, they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.”

Give this rule a try: it may lead to new ideas, innovation and success.  

Stay tuned for part II; we have five more tips to share with you next week!

 

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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, new principal, excellent leaders, school culture, positive school culture, school climate

5 Things that Distinguish Excellent Leaders from Leaders

Posted on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 @ 12:02 PM

excellent leadersOver the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of teachers and asked them to tell us what made their principal an excellent leader. Some described small, but meaningful gestures that made them feel appreciated. One teacher told us how her principal would leave the office an hour early on snowy days, bundle up, and head out to the staff parking lot to scrape car windows. Others described the way in which their principals provided feedback or how they would receive unexpected thank-you notes in their mailboxes.

Excellent leaders lead in a myriad of ways, but according to Neila Connons, author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students, there are a few characteristics excellent leaders share that set them apart from the rest.

According to Connons, excellent leaders have:  

The ability to care and be concerned for others
Before anyone can make a difference they must care. The best schools are based on the premise that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The leader of a school is instrumental in defining, developing, and designing a climate of care. From the moment you walk in the front door of a school, symbols of care must be prevalent throughout. It is the people, practices, positives, and performances that characterize the “caring-ness” of a school. An effective leader serves as the CARE police.

The desire to be successful
Effective leaders are persistently in search of ways to improve, grow, and strengthen. Success begets success. Consequently, in surroundings where leaders are focused on pleasant results, outcomes are frequently rewarding to everyone.

The ability to handle stress
Stress is an element of life and it depends on how one handles this stress that makes or breaks a situation. Successful leaders respond to stress rather than react to it.  

A general feeling of good health
Anyone who decides to take on a leadership position must realize the importance of good health. Our health is like sleep—we don’t miss it until we are deprived of it. Valuable leaders recognize the importance of cherishing the mind, body, and spirit.

The ability to think logically
The best leaders take the time to look at every decision with care, commitment, and connections. They take time to reflect and always ask themselves, “How will this affect others?”

The ability to have fun
Anyone who embarks upon a mission of leadership in education today must be able to have fun. Education is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. Therefore, the best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing.

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, new principal, excellent leaders

5 Things that Distinguish Excellent Leaders from Leaders

Posted on Tue, Feb 04, 2014 @ 14:02 PM

excellent leadersOver the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of teachers and asked them to tell us what made their principal an excellent leader. Some described small, but meaningful gestures that made them feel appreciated. One teacher told us how her principal would leave the office an hour early on snowy days, bundle up, and head out to the staff parking lot to scrape car windows. Others described the way in which their principals provided feedback or how they would receive unexpected thank-you notes in their mailboxes.

Excellent leaders lead in a myriad of ways, but according to Neila Connons, author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students, there are a few characteristics excellent leaders share that set them apart from the rest.

According to Connons, excellent leaders have:  

The ability to care and be concerned for others
Before anyone can make a difference they must care. The best schools are based on the premise that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The leader of a school is instrumental in defining, developing, and designing a climate of care. From the moment you walk in the front door of a school, symbols of care must be prevalent throughout. It is the people, practices, positives, and performances that characterize the “caring-ness” of a school. An effective leader serves as the CARE police.

The desire to be successful
Effective leaders are persistently in search of ways to improve, grow, and strengthen. Success begets success. Consequently, in surroundings where leaders are focused on pleasant results, outcomes are frequently rewarding to everyone.

The ability to handle stress
Stress is an element of life and it depends on how one handles this stress that makes or breaks a situation. Successful leaders respond to stress rather than react to it.  

A general feeling of good health
Anyone who decides to take on a leadership position must realize the importance of good health. Our health is like sleep—we don’t miss it until we are deprived of it. Valuable leaders recognize the importance of cherishing the mind, body, and spirit.

The ability to think logically
The best leaders take the time to look at every decision with care, commitment, and connections. They take time to reflect and always ask themselves, “How will this affect others?”

The ability to have fun
Anyone who embarks upon a mission of leadership in education today must be able to have fun. Education is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. Therefore, the best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing.

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, new principal, excellent leaders

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