As part of the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP) I will have blog posts dedicated to the questions/topics posed. I always enjoy the networking connections I make each year through SAVMP, along with the reflective opportunities to blog (because I haven’t blogged in quite a while!)
Know All of Your Students
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 (especially siblings!), 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.
One of the great benefits of being a principal is that I don’t have to say goodbye to students at the end of the school year…I get to see them grow into each new grade level. Even better, we are in a K-12 building so I still get to see our students grow into middle and high school and continue to be connected to our families.
Build Relationships Outside of School
I enjoy getting to work with students outside of the school day in different ways: coaching baseball, taking students Christmas caroling at a nursing home and leading our robotics team. I have found each of these to be great ways to get to know students even better and learn about strengths and interests they have that aren’t always visible during their regular school day.
This year I am also working on sending positive postcards home to recognize students for their hard work. I am keep track in a spreadsheet with the goal of sending these out for at least 200 students.
Welcome New Families
In addition, I also send out a personal letter to new families after they have been in our school for a few weeks. (Shout out to Jay Posick for sharing this awesome idea!) This letter shares personal information about myself and then asks questions to help find out how their child is transitioning to our school and if there is anything that I can do to help. I have found this to be a great way to open communication lines with new families.
Use Social Media to Share with Families/Community:
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.
Connect with Staff
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.