by William Sterrett
The role of the principal seems to continually grow, and despite working with people all day, school leaders can feel isolated. In fact, after becoming principals, educators can stagnate if they are not seeking to lead and learn. Making time to connect with the school’s most important resource—people—is key. Here are a few examples:
1. Ride the school bus home.
One way to better understand the school community is to get out of the building! Principals can take a breather from the usual end-of-day business by boarding the bus and stepping off at each stop; interacting with students and greeting parents along the way can help foster a sense of community and is well worth the minutes.
2. Make morning announcements that matter.
Instead of a boring intercom reading, principals should encourage the school community, remind everyone of the school mission and vision, share successes, and challenge students to reach new heights. Liven this time up by singing the school song together and recognizing students of the week. Staff and students alike will tune in during this brief, but important, time.
3. Get outside your building and collaborate!
Find a principal colleague who is willing to learn, grow, and address challenges alongside you. Build in 90 minutes once a month to visit each other’s respective site (rotate hosting each month; the visitor can bring the coffee!) and discuss professional articles, conduct walkthroughs together, and consider coauthoring an article or conference presentation. See this time as an investment in your own growth as a leader.
4. Host volunteer orientation and thank you brunch.
Parents and community members are often untapped resources in a school. Create a top ten list of needs in your schools (snap a few photos and create a slideshow) and host a 45-minute orientation overviewing needs and procedures.
Hold several sessions to maximize participation. Log volunteer hours throughout the year, and at the end, host a 60-minute brunch to say “Thank you,” highlighting volunteer efforts and accomplishments, and even recognize a volunteer of the year! This celebration shows you value others’ time as well.
In this era of unknowns, principals must maximize the one dependable resource that we all have—time. In my new ASCD Arias book, Short on Time: How do I lead and learn as a principal? (2013), I share strategies and action steps such as the ones above to help busy principals make a difference in their schools today. The book is designed to read in about an hour and provide ideas and resources for quick implementation. Taking time to lead and learn will enable school leaders to see new levels of success inside—and outside—of school.
William Sterrett is an educational leadership faculty member and program coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. As principal, Sterrett received the Milken National Educator Award. He is the author of the ASCD books Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works and Short on Time: How do I lead and learn as a principal?, which are part of the new ASCD Arias series. Sterrett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @billsterrett; 4 Tips For Leading & Learning As A Busy Principal; image attribution flickr user hammersmithandfulham