The “back-to-school” buzz is unlike any other time of year. Teachers are excited to get their new class, students are excited to meet their new teachers, and administrators are excited to watch it all unfold! While excitement fills the air the first day back, it can sometimes be hard to keep that energy up past the first week or so. After the initial “honeymoon” stage, reality can begin to set in. We both know this all too well because we live it each year!
As brothers, a unique aspect to our relationship currently is that we can offer one another differing viewpoints. As we discussed the back-to-school season, we realized we each had things of value to share from our different proverbial “seats on the bus.” What unfolded was a few items, from teacher to administrator and administrator to teacher, to remember during these hectic and exciting back-to-school days.
3 Things I Wish My Administrators Knew….
1. Starting the year is not just an adjustment for me, but for my whole family.
While custodians and administrators have been working full time all summer, I (like most of my colleagues) have not been. While I have been in school over the summer preparing for the coming year, attending meetings, teaching summer school, and maybe even working another job, it has been in no way, shape, or form as busy as the new school year. This adjustment doesn't just affect me, but it affects my family. I promise that when I am here, I am here...but please don't expect me to put in a ton of extra time right off the bat. I need to ease my own kids into the transition and that is no easy task! You hired me because you thought I was the best candidate for the job and I promise I won't let you down! Please help me make this transition easier for my family, because someone who feels appreciated will always do more than what's expected!
2. Is what is new this year really going to stick?
We begin a new year with a new theme, new buzzwords, new strategies and new just about everything. What's really going to stick? I can think of school-wide themes that link to current hot video games or TV shows and by October, they have fizzled out and been forgotten. The new model of evaluation this year is totally different than last year; it requires more work on my end. Will it still be here next year? I think the most important thing an administrator can do is communicate and collaborate with their staff on these aspects. Sometimes state mandates require certain changes but often times administrators change things up because they think it's what's best. If decisions on themes, strategies, interventions, and so much more are made in a collaborative process with teacher and staff input, the buy in will be better! Collaborate with the staff and involve us in the process not only at the beginning of the year, but throughout the year as well!
3. Show me you truly care.
I know you are busy. I am in charge of 25 kids - you are in charge of 500 kids,100 staff members, and every parent of the school! I get that you can’t avoid phone calls, meetings, disciplinary action, and so much more...but please make time for me! I pour my heart into what I do, so come by and see the magic that happens behind closed doors. You don't even have to come for long, just a couple a minutes and see what's going on in my room. Maybe leave a little post it note, or a short email, to show me you value what I do! The more I see you, the more comfortable I am going to be to take instructional risks because I know that you truly know what I am capable of. But can I challenge you? You challenge us to make positive phone calls or send positive emails home each day. I challenge you to commit to visiting classrooms, even for just 2-3 minutes, each and day. I welcome you into my room to be a guest reader or even to co-teach a lesson. Let's collaborate together and make it happen. If your staff sees you in action and sees that you truly care about what they do behind those classroom doors, the climate of your school will soar!
3 Things I Wish My Teachers Knew….
1. We have worked hard to prepare for your return.
No one deserves a summer break more than you, classroom teachers! I also realize that summers “off” are often filled with your own professional development, classroom and curriculum preparation, and even a second-job to help make ends meet. Hopefully, you are refreshed as you jump back into a new school year; but please remember to show some grace to those of us who have remained here working at the school all summer. Maintenance crews have hustled around the clock to have your classrooms cleaned and ready. Please be patient if a work order may not have been completed or you need a few more desks and chairs. The office staff and I have been scrambling to get class lists finalized, rosters loaded, supplies ordered, and textbooks distributed. Please be patient in knowing that your needs are our first priority, but we are also balancing those needs of all the teachers in our school. It’s harder than it looks!
2. Back-to-school makes me miss the classroom.
Most days, I find it hard to imagine a job that is more fulfilling than being a building principal. Seriously - I love my job and cannot imagine doing anything else during this season of my life! But, there is something uniquely special about having a classroom of “your kids.” I know it may seem monotonous and exhausting to you, but all of that laminating, cutting, and labeling of things with the names of your new students...I MISS IT! The smell of new crayons and the perfectly firm, brand new permanent marker tips...I MISS IT! Please treasure this time of year and know that you are preparing to have an impact on a special group of students and that is truly a gift!
3. You are appreciated more than you know!
No matter what, please, please know that the energy and effort you put forth does not go unnoticed. Please believe me when I say, “On those first days back, I WANT to give you as much free time as possible to work in your classrooms!” I promise. But also know that I must balance the requirements expected of me, and that developing a common unity and sense of purpose for our year as a staff community is invaluable, too. So, all of the extra hours you then spend sorting and organizing classroom libraries, hanging fresh bulletin boards, rearranging desks, setting up learning centers, cleaning math manipulatives, planning icebreakers and activities, preparing classroom forms and newsletters...I see it all and I wish there was more that I could do to show you how appreciated you are. I shudder to think of what your pay would be, if divided out hourly, and wish I had the power to change that. I know a thank you note and a piece of chocolate on your desk seems insignificant for all you do - but I hope you know the sincerity that comes with it. I appreciate you and I believe in you!
So, whether you are a teacher or an administrator, we hope that you will enter this new school year with a deep appreciation for one another. Have a great back-to-school season!