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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The Principalship Needs a Makeover

By Adam Welcome — October 07, 2015 3 min read
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Today’s Guest Blog is written by Adam Welcome. Adam is the Principal of Montair Elementary School in Danville, California.

The typical image of a school Principal seems to be everywhere, and it needs to change.

When you think of a principal, what comes to your mind?

Sitting in their office, waiting for naughty kids to arrive, meetings all day, no smiling, giving kids that ‘accused’ look, pushing paper around their desk and managing the school rather than leading.

It’s even in books that our children read. Just the other day I was reading Berenstain Bears Go To School with my own two children. There’s a picture of the school hallway and the ‘Office’ with a grumpy looking Principal. Arms crossed, behind his window, scowling, suit and tie. Everyone else on the page is smiling, excited to be at school and engaged with the kids—except the Principal. This image distortion needs to change, and Principals need to be the change!

As the principal of a school, ALL eyes are on us. It’s not about us, but it’s really about us. What’s the principal going to do? What are they going say? How will they react? Are they visible? Do they engage with kids and parents? Are they smiling and laughing?

Then, something happens.

The Principal goes down the slide at recess. They ride a tricycle in the kindergarten yard. They hang out on the carpet with kids during workshop time. They sit at lunch tables to chat with kids. They do the Whip/Nae Nae at PE or as a flash mob with the entire school.

WOW! That’s powerful and can change the culture of a school. If what we as leaders do and share on social media inspires other school leaders to get out of their office and in the action, that’s a win for kids! That’s a win for schools. That’s a win for everyone and we need more of this to spread.

Are you having fun?

Are kids at your school having fun? Are you doing what you want to do?

You should be!

We. Must. Have. Fun.

There is a group of principals from around the country using the hashtag #principalinaction. We’re challenging ALL Principals to get in the game and be a #principalinaction.

A Principal friend of mine left me a Voxer message saying that she got NOTHING done all day. She had talked with another mutual Principal friend of ours telling her about something that I do called No Office Day. She had spent all day in classrooms and was talking about how totally awesome the day was. Half the classrooms yesterday and she’s visiting the other half today.

I replied to her Voxer message saying, “You did everything today, you’re doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing—interacting with kids, building relationships, connecting classrooms, running your school from your smartphone and staying connected, having fun! If today was so awesome, make everyday a No Office Day!

Principals must have fun. We must be connected. We must be engaged. We must build relationships and foster the learning.

  • Ride the slide with kids.
  • Start a high-five Friday and give them out at morning drop-off, kids and adults love it.
  • Sit on the carpet with kids. They may look at you funny initially, but they will come to expect you at their level.
  • Write code with kids and build awesome programs. Fly a drone. Drive a Sphero.
  • Call parents when you see their child be amazing or simply make some progress. Do this on a weekly basis, positive calls home are life changing for kids and parents!
  • Chill in the sandbox. Plant in the garden. Get your hands dirty, don’t be afraid to get dirty!
  • Get on the swings, kids love seeing the Principal on the swings.
  • Read with kids. Read to classes. Record yourself reading and post on YouTube. Talk about books with kids, parents and teachers!

Don’t spend so much time in your office. There is nothing in your office that you need, there is nothing happening in your office (unless you have meetings). Do your ‘paperwork’ before or after school....or from your iPhone during the day. Make your office boring so you don’t want to spend time there!

Be a Principal In Action. Connect with your community!

Have fun. Be awesome. Get in the game!

Connect with Adam on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.