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Building Positive School Culture: 20 Ideas From Principals | William D. Parker

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Fun Activities for Principals to Begin a Staff Meeting for Elementary Teachers . Their Principal to Know Educational Leadership, Educational Planning, New. The first step is to meet your entire staff as a group and tell them a bit about yourself as a From the perspective of a school staff, the first exposure to a new principal is a .. When taking over a new school, it's a great idea to tell parents that you As the staff members enter, you greet each person at the door with a smile. As a principal new to a school, there will be many demands on your time during schedule time to meet with the custodial staff and take a tour of the building.

If your office has a table where you and the staff member can sit across from one another, use that; if not, meet in a conference room or in a lounge area.

I find it is best to avoid sitting at my desk with a staff member across from me; the desk serves as a formidable barrier between me and the teacher and can make the teacher feel he or she is "in trouble.

Show as much flexibility as possible—without overscheduling yourself. E-mail the staff and offer them several choices for a time to meet with you.

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Ask them to get back to you—or, in the case of a large staff, get back to your secretary—with a time slot that would work for them. Depending on the size of your staff, you may need to block out several days for these meetings. I find that a to minute meeting is usually sufficient.

Remember, though, that after a while, these individual meetings will begin to run together and feel more like a nagging chore than a genuine, authentic, and personal way to connect with your staff.

I find that any more than five or six in a day will turn an exciting opportunity into an arduous task. Focus on getting to know one another. After I welcome a staff member with a handshake and a smile, I like to sit down together and begin with a statement of appreciation, such as, "Thank you so much for taking the time to come in today. I have been looking forward to talking with you! The following questions may serve as a guide.

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Tell me about your role here at the school. Walk me through a typical day in your shoes. What other roles have you held before—at this school or in previous schools? What other jobs have you held outside of education? What brought you to education?

Tell me about your family, friends, pets—whoever supports you in your life. What do you like about this job? What do you dislike?

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What do you think is your biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis? Tell me about this school. What are your favorite parts? What do you wish would go away? Did you feel good about previous building leadership?

Why or why not? What do you hope to get out of me as a leader?

First-Year Hurdles

What do you hope I can bring to our school? Is there anything else you'd like me to think about as I approach my first year?

I have found that as I work through these questions, the conversation naturally gives me opportunities to talk about myself as well—as a leader, yes, but also as a person with other interests and experiences. Find opportunities to share your values.

When talking with teachers, you will find natural places to insert your opinion on instruction and student growth. This is a great way for teachers to get to know what you will value as a leader. Remember, the main goal of these individual meetings is connection. You'll want to look for commonalities and take advantage of any chance to bond with each staff member on a personal level. As you settle into your new role, you can use these connections to build your relationship with each staff member.

Strategies and Solutions for Meeting Your School Community Meeting the students who attend your new school and their parents is a very different process from meeting your staff. Fortunately, it is more spread out over time, and it happens naturally, depending on when and where you first interact with students and their families.

Meeting the Students Student interactions are the easy ones. Every day, you have the chance to get to know students. You will speak to them as they come into the building, as you visit classrooms, during lunch or unstructured time, at after-school events, and at extracurricular activities.

You will also get to know them because of celebrations of success, as well as disciplinary or social issues that require your intervention. Getting to know them well takes time over the course of many different interactions.

There are several ways to facilitate meaningful connections with students in your school. You don't need to know every student's name and personal story right away.

Quite honestly, it takes a lot of time—and, depending on the size of your school, it is entirely feasible that you will never actually know every child well. Give yourself a break on this one. Recognize that it may take several years before you feel like you truly know all your students.

Set a goal of "Every student, every day. As principal, it is my priority that each student sees me every day. I think it clarifies that I'm the principal, and that I am committed to being part of each child's world. If I attend bus duty or walk through the lunchroom each day, students see me. I use the time to talk to as many of them as possible in a casual and natural manner, learning their names and a few important things about each one as I go. A great way to get to know students is to ask them a lot of questions.

Students love to talk about themselves, and when they are asked a lot of questions, they share information that makes them memorable. Ask about their families, their interests, and their background.

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I like to develop nicknames or inside jokes with students—it helps them feel they've made a genuine and specific connection with me. I learn a great deal about this from my husband, who is an athletic director and football coach. He is masterful at connecting with students on a personal level.

Many parents presume that our primary responsibility is discipline, and they may not understand that a 21st century principal's primary responsibility is instructional leadership.

Principals are also responsible for setting a school vision, planning instruction, managing the building, human resources, and evaluating and developing teachers' skills.

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New principals can strengthen their working relationships with stakeholders and show stakeholders how they lead through proactive efforts and distributed leadership. Be sure to include instructional information in your parent newsletters and casual conversations at school. Also, if you empower more parents to get involved in activities like school improvement teams, parents will see you in action as an integral part of those activities.

Deliberately helping others understand what you do is the only way to reshape skewed perceptions. Jessica Bohn, principal of Gibsonville Elementary School, facilitates a discussion with teachers. Photo courtesy of Jessica Bohn 2. You will be able to avoid comparisons to previous leaders. Knowing how to respond when not if you're compared to previous principals is important. In the first year, every decision the captain makes will be compared to how the last captain ran things.

We should expect these comparisons. Just as students learn by connecting new material with old experiences, so do adults. Be open to discourse that compares the way things used to be with what you hope to do, trusting that productive conversation will follow. The tendency of teachers to compare previous and new administration isn't usually a bad thing. If you hear teachers say things like, "Mrs.

X never thought this was a problem," a gut reaction might be to think and speak defensively. But engaging in such discussions can provide clarity about your expectations, your vision, and your leadership style. Positive direction can emerge from unexpected opportunities, including conversations about differences between new and previous administrations. It feels great to be in power! Often people who don't have the authority to make final decisions assume that principals relish the power of their role.

  • Building Positive School Culture: 20 Ideas From Principals
  • Chapter 1. Meeting Your Staff, Students, and Parents
  • ask principal of the thing

However, being a good leader isn't about having power over others, but about instilling power in others. To lead in this way, a principal needs supportive people to turn to and discuss dilemmas with. Such support is often in scarce supply for principals, however, unless they make it happen.

Even in the best districts like mine that provide executive coaches, professional development, and district-level support, one of the toughest parts of being a new principal is the absence of a colleague on your level and in the same building to bounce ideas off.

Seek out fellow principals as "think partners. However, first-year principals might dismiss the need to get another perspective as a sign of weakness; don't fall for this misconception. Find ways to talk with helpful fellow leaders, by e-mail, phone, or professional message boards. Collaborating with same-level colleagues daily provides support that can't be attained in a workshop.

I recall a time when I needed another perspective on a situation in which a parent's viewpoint conflicted with my district's ideologies. Talking through it with another principal in my district—who was a neutral party and who understood both viewpoints and the principal's role—helped me come to a decision everyone could live with.

One program can solve any problem. It's a misconception that there is a single-program solution for every problem. Most actions that successfully address a complex problem will synergize the combined efforts of multiple people, programs, and activities.

When you seek to solve a complex problem in your first year, use a comprehensive, layered strategy backed by a strong vision. Such an approach helped us reduce discipline infractions by 32 percent in one year, including tackling tough problems with bus behavior.

We built on the hallmarks of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which our school uses, and the basic tenets of the Whole Child Initiative to engage stakeholders. In the process, we developed a police mentoring program that provided support to our students. I held parent meetings, student meetings, and teacher meetings centered on both positive behavior and the consequences of poor decisions.

We developed individualized folders containing information on each student's bus behavior and handed them out at parent meetings. Some students were assigned a teacher buddy to help them make good decisions. This comprehensive strategy encompassed several programs, personalized to meet our students' needs. Jessica Bohn works with a child in the classroom. Four challenges that defined my first year stand out as likely to make the difference between surviving and thriving.

More negative than positive input lands in your office. A principal's daily decisions often center on resolving problems or conflicts—among students, parents, teachers, or any combination of these. Although principals do receive positive feedback, there's an imbalance between the incoming negative and positive input, skewed toward the negative.

Especially if you're the sole administrator, this imbalance can be difficult to adjust to at first. New principals are eager to make everyone happy and make a good impression.

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Adjusting to the need to frequently respond to frustrated parents or teachers takes a mental toll. It is a way for everyone to showcase great things happening at your school. Provide a free service like a masseuse for your teachers. Encourage teachers to be in the halls between every class greeting students. This simple step increases a positive environment for the whole school. Each Friday, teachers are encouraged to wear something that is related to their previous college experience to encourage students; teachers decorate doors with alma-mater paraphernalia.

Provide off-campus lunch rewards. Each week the office awards off-campus lunch passes for students who are passing all classes, have no discipline referrals, and have perfect attendance. Use teacher leaders to present building priorities at meetings and in teams. Grow leaders from among your own teachers. Teachers love to learn from one another. Share a good book. Entertaining an Elephant by William McBride inspired a discouraged veteran teacher to recommit to a positive attitude about students and teaching.