I’m excited to take part in this year’s digital School Admin Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP) and am hooked up with two mentees, Jennifer Kloczko and Brandon Pafk. Despite me being considered the “mentor” I am enjoying connecting with these two folks who already have administrative experience and have so much to offer me as well as we reflect together on posed monthly topics that are pertinent to school leadership.
Although October was busy month for me and I never made the time to write my blog post on the topic, I did connect with them through Voxer, discussing the topic for October.
Image from SchoolandTrust.org
October’s discussion topic is “How do you connect with your school community?”
I believe the first and foremost responsibility for a school leader is to know every student in your building. I don’t know every detail about every student, and I will occasionally mix up names, but I feel it’s important to know every student’s name in my building. I do this by reading to classrooms in the first week of the year as my first opportunity to practice their names, and then continue to mentally practice names when I observe in classrooms. I connect with students on before/after school parking lot duty, recess duty and lunch duty, choosing to make these duties great opportunities to connect with and get to better know my students. I attend as many IEP meetings and Student Intervention Team meetings as I can, which is also helpful to get to know students’ needs and connect with their families. In addition, I try to attend as many extra-curricular activities as I can to connect with and support our students outside of school. I am fortunate to live in our school’s community (and love having my children attend the same school each day), so many of the events I attend are a part of our family’s routine.
As a parent, I always want to know details about each of my sons’ day, yet I’m often answered with “nothing” as their response when I ask what they did at school. Knowing that this is a common response for all children, I find it important to “create a window into our school” to keep parents engaged and informed of the great things happening in our building. I do this by maintaining a school Facebook page that is also embedded on our school website so that even the parents that aren’t on Facebook can see the posts on our website. I use the page to post reminders for upcoming events and share pictures from my classroom visits. I have found this presence on Facebook to be a helpful tool for parents as it is much easier for them to send me a direct message with a question on Facebook than it is via email.
Finally, it’s important to connected with the staff in your building as a school leader. I have to admit that this is not a natural strength of mine. When I’m at work, I’m very focused and intentional and can easily find myself getting into a zone, forgetting to connect with the adults that make a difference in our students’ lives. Just as a teacher must connect personally with their students, I believe a school leader must do the same. I try to make a point to get to know individual staff members; ask how their weekend was, follow-up on a planned camping trip or ask about the book their reading. I have found it helpful to be connected with staff on social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads to help with this.
I’d love to hear other ways that school leaders connect with their communities.