By now, you have your schedules put together and are waiting for the subsequent revisions that are inevitable. Many of you are planning or have planned your professional development learning sessions and first faculty/staff meeting. Remember that Todd Whitaker reminds us to Set Expectations at the Start of the Year. He reminds us how fortunate we are to be able to start afresh each year. Start it out right and find a way to focus on building culture and relationships instead of delivering administrivia. Could you “flip the first meeting” and ensure that the sit and git stuff is shared via podcast, Google doc, or another method and focus on the important stuff of team building, sharing expectations and building school pride? Remember that we are the instructional leaders and our job is to model for our teachers outstanding and current teaching and learning methods and strategies. Here is a link to a document that outlines my expectations and assumptions for staff in a Count on Me, Count on You format that I learned from Debbie McFalone. Thanks to new principal, Ed Dickenson in Hartford who synthesized the information from an original three page document I used in the past that outlined assumptions and expectations. You are welcome to use this document as is or change it to fit your own needs, just remember in order to build relational trust, if you say you are going to do it, then you have to live it.. Count on me, I'll count on you!
The first week of school is always a celebration as we start a new year together. We know from experience that the teachers who spend the most time on outlining clear procedures, teaching, practicing and reviewing them to mastery spend more time on academic learning in a school year then behavioral responses. Harry Wong in his legendary book, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Classroom Teacher taught every educator the importance of discipline, routines, and procedures. Every teacher must have a signal to get attention, have clearly defined procedures for every event that occurs in the classroom from pencil sharpening, how to go to the bathroom, lining-up, moving from small group instruction to large group, etc. When teachers spend time focused on teaching, practicing, and reteaching procedures, well over 90% of behavioral issues are alleviated.
As a first year principal, it didn't take me long to figure out that the job of a principal is similar to a classroom teacher, you just have a much larger class and the main focus is on the adults as well as the children. By applying the same strategies I employed in the classroom I was able to create a successful school culture. When we focus on the proactive quadrants of our work, we find ourselves spending less time in the reactive mode.
- Develop school-wide procedures together as a faculty/staff
- Schedule practice for schoolwide procedure training
- Set expectations with your students during classroom visits
- Post schoolwide procedures visually
- Be extremely visible during every transition and schoolwide procedural episode
- Review, reteach and revisit schoolwide procedures often
The time we spend ensuring that schoolwide procedures are taught, practiced, and implemented well can minimize many of the trivial behavioral concerns that arise because students don't know what it looks like and sounds like to follow the expectations that we have set as a school. As the instructional leader, it is our job to model the importance of routines and procedures and create a caring, safe school culture.
Tip of the week: Use a good picture book that follows your theme and read it to your staff to jump start a staff meeting. Read the introduction from Philip Done's hilarious book 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny. Every teacher will relate. Read the chapter aloud about different types of teacher classrooms and the chapter when he gets his tie stuck in the laminating machine. You won't want to stop reading and your teachers will find out that you can make learning engaging! Have your favorite? Send me the title, include the theme and I will make a list to share with all. Until next time, happy trails to you!