This year was my first as Principal. After spending several years working in curriculum and instruction, I felt as if I needed to find my place connecting and sharing with students and staff in one place on a daily basis. I was fortunate to land in a building with a phenomenal staff who were willing to go along with my ideas. I tried to be open and honest, and to build relationships from day one. I have made mistakes, as any first year principal would, but I have learned from those mistakes, and will use them to propel me into year two.
As I reflect on year one, I have learned several things:
Relationships are the most important thing. I tried every day to make sure that in my interactions, I was building relationships with everyone; students, teachers, parents, and staff members. Everyone who is a part of a school community is a part of a family. It’s important to make sure that relationships are nurtured and supported. If just one person within that community feels neglected or feels as if their needs are not being met, then the community still has a lot of work to do. The school community is only strong when it provides that every person feels like they are a respected part of the community. This all starts with building relationships. Every interaction contributes, and can help or hurt a relationship. So, make each interaction a positive one, and build a community, one person at a time.
Everyone needs to focus on culture. The most difficult thing to do in a school is to change a culture. As the leader of the building, I certainly had the opportunity to set a positive tone. I feel as if my modeling helped to influence the culture, but it is incumbent upon everyone in the building to contribute to the positive culture. When just one person reacts or responds negatively, it has ripple effects on the culture of the building. Again, each and every person can make or break the culture, from bus drivers to cafeteria aides to teachers to administrators to students to parents. Everyone must contribute. It is my role to ensure that everyone gets on this same page.
Kids need our help now more than ever. My school houses our district’s second and third grade classes, as well as preschool students. One of the biggest eye-openers for me during year one was how much help our students need. Many students, even at a young age are dealing with issues that impact their social and emotional well-being. It falls on us as educators to make sure that we are meeting the social and emotional needs of students, and to intervene when this is not happening. If a child does not feel safe and welcome at school, then they will never be able to learn or focus on academic pursuits. In year two, I hope to focus on schoolwide strategies that will help to ensure that all students are met where they are.
Some of our systems are tired. I always find it amazing when teachers are moving classrooms or leaving their classroom, and they pass on materials that date as far back as 15-20 years. One of the reasons that this happens is because our educational system on the whole does not welcome swift change. This year, I’ve noticed that many of our processes, systems, and daily routines are similar to those that I experienced when I was in school. From how we organize our schedule to how students are organized in the lunchroom, to how we report progress to parents, we have many antiquated processes. For the most part, I find that teachers are willing to change these systems when they are questioned, but many of these tired systems are never questioned. This is the way we’ve always done it. It’s time that we disrupt education as we know it.
Our students have passions and want to engage in them. During my many conversations with students this year, I found that every student was engaged when talking about their passions. Some students were really into Minecraft, and created their own videos for their Youtube Channel. Several students just this week performed a song and dance number that they had been rehearsing for much of the year. For students who are used to creating, making, performing, and engaging, it is no wonder that math worksheets don’t quite cut it. We need to empower students to share their passions not only at school, but with the world. Earlier this year, a student needed to go see the school nurse because he was bitten by a lizard on the playground. After investigating the situation, I found that dozens of students were helping to build lizard habitats on the playground out of natural materials. I was amazed at how excited students were to talk about the lizards. As educators, we need to take advantage of these moments and student passions.
Year one was a tremendous learning experience…
And a blast…
And I can’t wait for year two.