This post is a collaboration between myself and Kas Nelson who is an amazing Principal in Oklahoma! Kas and I were talking on Voxer about Back to School and what it's like in our schools when we're ramping up for each year. Here's our Top 10 To-Do list each year, enjoy!
First day of school, this is how we feel!
* Communicate with Teachers early and often. My teachers are "my people". I want them to know they are invaluable to me. My communication may take different forms from texting and tweeting from conferences to using communication apps to sending a personal note through good ol' snail mail. Since listening to Peter DeWitt at #NAESP15 and reading his book "Flipping Leadership Doesn't Mean Reinventing the Wheel" this summer, I am beginning to study flipped leadership, so a portion of my communication to parents contained 3 "tasks" to either think about or complete in preparation for our first meetings in August.
* Choose a theme. We’ve never had a theme at my school before, but I have always wanted to try it. This is the year to try something new, right? We are going with Dare2Be. I plan to use the theme as weekly motivation for students and teachers. For example: The 1st week or 2 of school, we may use Dare2Be YOU! And highlight students’ differences, backgrounds, activities, character traits, and physical traits. I can also tag any social media posts with #dare2Be
* Meet with each teacher individually. Why? Again, goes back to relationship building and communication. I want teachers and myself to be on the same page. I want them to know I am here to support them and their learning at all times. I meet them in their room, where they are comfortable. I like to discuss their goals for the year, in terms of what professional development they wish to seek, areas they feel strong or weak in, etc.
* Start the Tweeting now! We’re a huge fan of summer Tweeting/Instagram to share with the community everything that’s happening before kids arrive. Any construction projects going on, whenever teachers stop by the office I love taking selfies to share, new furniture arriving is always fun, big shout outs to your custodial crew and the work they’ve done all summer is a must. My all-time favorite summer Tweeting is all the books I’ve purchased and am going to read with kids, get them excited to read now!
* Check in with the neighbors! I’m a firm believer in being a great neighbor and fostering a positive relationship with the people who live in super close proximity to your school. I always give my mobile number out and tell them to call me directly if anything comes up. Someone blocked your driveway during the school day, call me! Delivery truck of school supplies is idling in front of your house, call me! This builds confidence and a great relationships, and they’ll look out for you and the school because they know you care!
* Taking my office staff to lunch is always on my list! Connecting, chatting, catching-up and just hanging out somewhere outside of the office is so important. All Principals know how hectic it can get at school, having strong relationships with your front office staff is paramount! Knowing you can count on them, they can count on you and you’re all their for the kids is what makes your school. Build those relationships from day one and always continue to work on them!
* Plan and Host a fun Back-to-School event! What causes the most anxiety for students and parents at the beginning the year? Anxiety feeds on fear of the unknown, so let's take away as many unknowns as possible! Why not invite families to visit the school BEFORE the first day of classes? Students can tour the school, experience his or her classroom for the first time and, of course, meet his or her teacher! Make the event conducive to conversation (and appealing to the stomach) by including an outdoor hot-dog or watermelon feed, serve cookies and lemonade, pizza or homemade ice cream!
* Start the first day, and every day, greeting students and parents at the front doors! I want school to be a fun place. A place where learning occurs daily, but students don't even realize they're learning because they are having so much fun. I want parents to feel invited, valued, and welcome ALWAYS at school. When I greet students and parents at the door, I hope my excitement about each new day sparks an excitement within each one of them. With a smile and a high-five, I want them to know that great things are happening within these doors, and I'm so honored to share our school with them!
* It’s never too early to start making positive phone calls home. You see something awesome that first week, call parents. Child is working hard, engaged and smiling, call parents. My favorite thing to do is be in a class, see something totally awesome happen with a child. Grab them and bring them to my office, have them call their parents on speakerphone and start telling them what was going on in class. I jump in and tell the parent how totally proud we are of them and had to call home right away to report the news. Parents. Love. It. - So. Do. The. Kids.
* Those first few weeks of school Principals need to have serious ninja status. Being in every classroom, every day, for the first 100 days of each school year is paramount. Be everywhere! See everything! Build relationships! Ride the school bus! Walk down the street into neighborhoods! Meet with your parent community on a continual basis. Visibility is number one and so many other attributes build from there!
What are your top to-do’s as Principal with school starting again?
Hanging out with Kas this summer at NAESP in Long Beach!