Before becoming an administrator, I admittedly used to wonder what work principals really had to do all summer. I quickly learned that there is still much to accomplish and still never enough hours in a day. Summer is also a time when I am able to reflect, recharge, and regain the energy and enthusiasm I need for the school year. However, the biggest challenge I face in the summer is the emptiness of the building! I love my job because of the people I get to work with everyday, and particularly the kids. They are truly my “why!”
Each summer, I try to be intentional in finding ways to stay connected to kids, even in the months when the classrooms are dark and the hallways are quiet. Here are three easy ways I have found to be successful and honestly, fun!
Seek Their Input
I strive to be a collaborative leader and seek input from all stakeholders when making plans and decisions. This is an added challenge during the summer when so few people are around. Last summer I started mailing a letter home to all of our rising 5th graders with a link to an online survey I created for them. I told them that as the leaders of our elementary school, I needed their input to make it the best year ever. I asked general questions about what they loved about our school, what they would change, and what their dreams were for the new year. Their responses were amazing and helped get me fired up for the new year! This summer, I am planning to follow up from the survey by mailing a handwritten postcard to each student who completes the survey. It is important to me that they know they were heard and that their voices matter!
This past year, on an extended winter break due to a blizzard, I utilized our school’s Facebook Live and did a read-aloud story. I also encouraged families to share photographs of their kids reading at home. It was a huge hit with our families and I loved seeing all the pictures that were posted. On the last day of school in June, a 3rd grader came to my office and said, “Dr. Lamkin, remember the snow day story you did online? Can you do another one of those this summer?” I love it when kids have brilliant ideas that I don’t think of!
So, earlier this week I went “Live!” on Facebook again and read the story Firenze’s Light. This time, after reading a story, I offered a different challenge. I encouraged kids, parents, and staff members to use Flipgrid (an amazing, free, and easy to use app) to send me a 30-second “Book Hook” video where they shared about a book they’ve read this summer and a short “hook” to try and get others interested in reading it. I’m excited to see their videos coming in!
Invite Them to School
Finally - just because it is summertime doesn’t mean that school has to be off-limits for kids! Each year, in mid-August, we host a “Popsicles and Play” event. It is as simple as it sounds; kids from different grade-levels are invited to the school playground at different times to play, and we provide popsicles. It’s that simple! Many times, the amazing teachers at my school will show up also. It is a great way to build connections and relationships and, especially for students who will be new to our school in the coming year, can begin to alleviate some of the nerves they might feel. I have seen other principals online who host a “Popsicles with the Principal” event and read stories, or even a mid-summer BBQ. No matter what the event looks like, the purpose of keeping connected to kids is at the core!
I hope these ideas encourage you, regardless of your role in education, to find ways to stay connected to kids, even in the summer. After all, they truly are what it’s all about!