When I arrive to the school that is new to me, I will have a steep learning curve, as Lower School Principal. First and foremost, I am excited to meet the students, teachers and parents. With humility, curiosity, and a positive outlook, I have been getting some ideas together for the first interactions with all three groups. It seems that everyone wants to know who the new principal is so having a plan to meet the community is important. My overall goal is to have a positive school culture to benefit the students and I believe the principal has a major influence in creating the culture. The bulk of this blog post is focused on my rough draft plans for in-service week with teachers setting a positive vibe with the staff will impact students’ learning. Happy teachers = happy students = happy parents= positive school culture!
This is the “why” we do what we do...the students! What are they excited about? Why do they love their school? I need to find out the school’s traditions (if any) for the first day of school. See my blog post Kicking the Year Off Right (link here). I want to ensure the first day of school is fun! I hope to have an assembly to introduce all the staff in a fun and silly way. As the school year continues, I will be at the front to meet and greet the students daily and start to learn their names. I also plan to read a book to each classroom within the first month of the school year. This will be very fun for me, as I love reading books with kids, and make myself an approachable friendly face!
When thinking about the parents, I need to gain their trust and introduce myself. After all, they are entrusting the school and I with what they cherish the most, their children! I plan to host a parent coffee with three parts. First, I will formally introduce myself. Second, ask the parents what they would fight to keep about the school and what they would like to change or improve. I will ask the parents to record their thoughts on flip chart paper. Third, I will also plan time for questions they have of me. The questions will provide a platform for me to get to know what is on their mind. I am sure I won’t be able to answer all of them so I will take note and get back to them with an email or phone call. I can then design my work based on the feedback I collect. I will close by thanking them for their feedback and letting the parents know my methods and expectations for communication.
When planning to introduce myself to the teachers, I am searching for the right balance of leading and learning. I want to express respect for the work they have done in the past years and find out what they wish to continue to develop while setting a positive tone for the school year focused on learning together. To plan in-service, with the “new to me school” staff, is a challenge. Also, some teachers will be new to the school and some will be returning. It always seems all the teachers want to know about the principal and how she/he will work. The first few meetings will make a lasting impression. My goals in the first week will be to support the learning community, build teams and have open communication. I want to make sure the teacher talk more than I do! I also want to model the use of protocols and building community, as they might in their classrooms. I have drafted out a few ideas to get started. Once I arrive and work with the school’s director, Upper School principal and Lower School vice principal, we will refine the plan collaboratively.
Here is a list of initial ideas:
Respecting teacher’s time in the first week of in-service is important too...we know they all want in their classrooms to set up and work with their teams to plan for students. Hopefully these plans will meet the goals of supporting the learning communities and open communication. If you have any feedback or would like to share your thoughts, please comment below.
Coyle, D. (2018). The culture code: The secrets of highly successful groups. New York: Bantam Books.
Fay, J. (2011). Creating a love and logic school culture. Golden, CO: Love and Logic Institute.
Boudett, K., & Lockwood, M. (2019). Power of Creating Norms. Educational Leadership, 76(9), 12-17.
*Credit for this idea goes to Homa Sabet Tavanger at AASSA 2019 Conference. You can learn more about her on Twitter @growingupglobal.
By Justine Wilson, ES Principal, and Mariana Dantas, ES School Counselor
*Merriam-Webster defines resilience as "the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
There is so much that parents don’t know...what was eaten for lunch, who played with who, what book was read, what happened in math class, etc….This can cause some parents to be uncomfortable as their child grows up. As children grow to become autonomous people, the more children need to learn how to depend on themselves. The school is here to support them. Maureen Healy wrote in Psychology Today, “The process of childhood includes making mistakes. However, the resilient child has somehow learned to pick him or herself up and keep going.” Yes, students make mistakes and have problems at school. There are not more problems amongst our students then at any another school in Brazil, the United States or any other place where children interact. Honestly, I am glad there are problems because problems are learning opportunities depending on how we, the adults, act! Catharine Newman wrote in Parents Magazine that we must teach realist assessment of situations. Most problems are not mountains acting as barriers, but rather that “most problems are clumps of dirt in the road”.
We all have choices when children bring problems to us, the adults:
1. As adults, we can get upset and rush in to save the children and “take care of it” for them.
2. As adults, we can listen, provide ideas, coach the child in coming to a solution and celebrate together.
Each of the above choices has consequences. If we choose number 1 and get upset investing a lot of energy into the problem, the children see that the adult took the problem and made it disappear. Children then become reliant, using the adult as a crutch, and will repeat this behavior because they haven’t learned what to do for themselves.
If we choose number 2 and see the learning opportunity for the child, even if their feelings were hurt, the child becomes resilient building self confidence. We can ask what the child did to solve the problem, say “Wow, that was smart” or ask “Did that work? If not, what can you do differently next time you have a problem?” This empowers children to own their problems, even if something happened to them that was not fair. According to Newman, optimism is also an important factor in building resilience. Recognize the problem and share how others have overcome similar problems. They learn to have a voice, that their voice matter, and that the adults are optimistic that they can solve the problem.
Schools are full of caring, diligent, knowledgeable professionals who want the best for all children. That’s why we all work in education! All the teaching staff help children to solve problems daily. Trust the professionals to notify parents when needed. 1,000s of children have come through our doors...
Teachers teach values which our community has all agreed to. We teach them directly and indirectly. We have recently added the Learner Profile, thanks to the adoption of the PYP, which also gives us a common language. We want children to learn right from wrong, to act with the values and when they don’t to reflect and learn. We work on this daily in every interaction we observe with students. There are many “right” ways to do this as long as the children are owning their problem and learning. Children are learning about respectful caring behavior, different perspectives, being a communicator and reflecting.
Next time your child brings a complaint or concern home, choose one of the following questions:
“What did you do about it?”
“Who did you talk to?”
“How did you express yourself?”
*magic happens here* Then congratulate them for their effort and move on to another subject to talk about. This builds autonomy, resilience and problem solving skills leading children to have a healthy outlook for life with less stress and anxiety.
Maureen Healy. (2014) The Resilient Child. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2QXmMrX
Newman, Catherine. (2018) 7 Ways to Raise a Resilient Child. Parents Magazine. Retrieved from internet 26/9/2018. https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/ways-to-raise-a-resilient-child/
*A Parent’s Resource Guide to Social Emotional Learning. Explore a curated list of blogs, articles, and videos for parents about fostering skills like kindness, empathy, gratitude, resilience, perseverance, and focus in children. You can find it here at the link: https://www.edutopia.org/SEL-parents-resources.