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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 / Foter.com / 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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