An extraordinary school principal? Follow these 20 steps…


Administrative Priorities: Be Visible

If I were to list the things that make the biggest difference between an adequate administrator and an excellent one, visibility would be near the top of the list. But it must be positive and meaningful visibility. The principal or administrator that works behind a desk, hides from human contact, and runs the ship from the bridge, seldom to be seen by the sailors, is far less supported or appreciated than the captain who knows the names of the crew members and knows how hard they work… because their captain is with them.

Want to be appreciated? Then appreciate. Want people to work for you? Then work for them. When they see your car in the lot when they get to work and they see you in the halls greeting, meeting, steering, advising, and helping, you become someone to admire and appreciate. Not everyone’s job description allows them to do the things that I am suggesting but if you can relate to any of the following, then consider implementing them, if you don’t already.

1.   Speak to everyone on your staff at least three times a week—more if you can.

2.  Walk through classrooms as frequently as possible. Try for every other day. Greet and speak to staff and students but try not to be disruptive.

3.  Eat with staff members or students. If this isn’t possible, visit them during lunch for a minute or two.

4.  Keep a book with a separate page for every employee. Keep it updated with data such as family members, events in their lives, home addresses, and notes from your last visit. This keeps you up-to-the-minute with things you should remember, plus things they will appreciate.

5.  When a tragedy happens to employees (the loss of a spouse, a house fire, the death of close relative, an accident, or the like), write it in your book and put it on your calendar one year from the time it happened. Put a card on their desk before school starts on the anniversary that simply states you are thinking about them.

6.  Greet visitors personally. Ask the office to buzz you when a new parent arrives or a new citizen comes for a visit. A personal greeting means a lot. Follow it up with a thank-you note.

7.  Be at a door at special events to welcome folks, but never “post” yourself at the same door for the same length of time. Why? Because people will expect you to be there and if you aren’t they will think you are absent.

8.  Send lots of notes, emails, or texts to staff members for a job well done. An example would be to the cook for great lasagna at lunch, or to the coach after a tough loss at a well-played game with good sportsmanship, or to a teacher when you saw kids engaged and learning. Short notes, not evaluations, make a difference.

9.  If you see someone who needs correction, do it, but if it requires a discussion, make it personal and private.

10. Congratulate whomever deserves it whenever you can.

11.  Carry a digital camera in your pocket and take pictures, then share them.

12.  Smile a lot. Be positive.

13.  Discipline when needed.

14.  Carry a clipboard or something visible like a cell phone, to take notes when people ask you questions or want an answer.

15.  Follow up on questions. Provide answers ASAP. Keep a record.

16.  Go to see someone rather than sending an email, text, or message.

17.  Pick up trash, wipe off marks, be a visible owner and protector of the property.

18.  Pat kids on the back; staff too. Shake hands. Be friendly.

19.  Have fun. Be fun. Make school fun.

20.  Love your job and show everyone how much.

From The School Principal’s Workbook by Jim Burgett. See Chapter 2, “Setting Priorities.”

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