Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beginning the School Year - Part 1

The start of every school year is filled with the promise of a new beginning and more than a little nervous anticipation. Every year, whether a teacher or a principal, I had a restless night just before the year began. A principal's job is two-fold. You must help everyone feel safe and secure as they anticipate and begin the year and you set a tone that reflects your vision for your school. It's sort of Leadership 101---what the principal does and pays attention to becomes important.

The tone of beginning activities and the signals they send about the tenor and tone of your school are important signals about what you value. One Michigan high school welcomes new ninth-graders by lining the hallways with teachers, staff and tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders. Everyone applauds as the new students arrive. Another school takes photos of new students during registration and then posts the photos along with a little biographical information in the main entrance to the school.

Of course, don't forget to plan opening day activities to support both parents and students. Have lots of helpful adults available to assist students and their families locate classrooms, lockers and other facilities. Have plenty of directional signs, clearly posted in the languages of your student population. And have every student assigned to a classroom and a teacher. One of a parents worst nightmares is to site in the office on the first day of school feeling like they don't really belong. Finally, encourage everyone to smile. For anyone walking in the door it sends a powerful, welcoming signal.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you begin the school year so that students and families feel welcomed.

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