Welcome back to the Richer Picture blog!
From the beginning, our work is to let students show what they know and to provide the Richer Picture of what each student knows and are able to do.
We have learned much from our schools – both in terms of ideas and of implementation. In earlier blog posts, we’ve looked at the essential questions that all schools need to address to be successful.
For the new school year, we’re going to be adding new voices from educators who have made things work at their site. We’re very pleased to welcome Bill Carozza as a new regular contributor to the Richer Picture blog.
Bill has extensive experience as a school leader and a change agent. As a principal and district administrator in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, Bill has great insight into ideas that work and strategies that students and teachers truly find useful.
Bill’s first blog post appears below. Look for his regular presence on our site, and stay tuned for more about our upcoming podcast!
Influential school leaders can manage a schedule brimming with meetings, formal observations, walk-throughs, and unexpected problems that need solving. As we begin another school year, are you making time to get to know your students? The short-term benefits may pale compared to the immediate attention of an angry parent, a Superintendent on the phone, or a concerned teacher. But developing relationships with most of your students reap long-term benefits in forging a positive school culture and forming credibility with your community.
Consider coaching a team or advising a club. This is a surefire way to develop relationships similar to what teachers have in the classroom. I know a Principal of a K-8 school who was always the boys and girls middle school basketball coach. He felt the relationships he created helped develop a positive culture in his school.
Memorize student names. This may seem obvious, but if you have hundreds of students, it’s not an easy task. Yet, a great bond is created when a student knows they are important enough to you to know them by name. I remember a parent worried I knew her son’s name when they walked into the building one day. She thought he must be in trouble so much that I knew his name automatically! I reassured her that I knew him as an individual, so inherently, I would know his name.
Have regular lunches with kids. Breaking bread with students is a natural way to let their guard down, be themselves, and ask them for the “inside scoop” on how the school is doing. I would regularly have chess games with students over lunch.
Be there for the informal gatherings. Leaders should block their schedule off as much as possible to be present during lunch, recess, and breaks. As a colleague of mine says about school leaders, “visibility is credibility.” The power of presence extends to the whole school day and sometimes beyond it.
Attend a few non-school events when possible. Being able to speak with students about a sporting or academic event they participated in is a quick way to develop a strong bond when you see their performance live.
Adjust your schedule to attend student meetings. A child’s teachers are the experts, and we need to participate in the rich discussions on kids. A school leader’s support is best given when they deeply understand a child.
Be careful to concentrate on ALL children. A small percentage of students often take up most of our time because certain kids need that attention. Of course, the natural stars of the school will always have their face time. The quiet students in the middle may only get a nod in the hallway.
We spend time with our students so that our school culture becomes more vital. We can also learn from the inside how individual students, student groups, and families are managing the complex process of growing up.
I hope you’ll be encouraged to adjust your habits to include dedicated time with your students. This time will also ground the leader in what is truly important.