The students are home. The teachers are on vacation. The front office phones have stopped ringing off the hook. Yes, your workday as a principal may be much quieter now, so take advantage of the summertime to become more efficient, increase your skills and prepare for September with renewed enthusiasm. Here are some ideas for making this happen:
•Make staffing decisions early.
If your district allows you to have some input in this process, it’s wise to get started with the hiring of new staff as early as possible. Interviewing early will not only ensure that you find the best candidates (before other districts discover them!) but it also takes that pressure off, freeing you up for other productive tasks in July and August. Having a strong staff is one of the most important things you can do to help your building run smoothly, positively, and guarantee a solid educational experience for the students. Therefore, the sooner you can shore up your staffing needs, the better.
•Brush up on safety.
We live in an era of lockdowns and fire drills, with the intention of keeping our students and staff safe. During the school year, it’s enough of a challenge to find time to schedule in the drills – much less reflect upon those procedures.
Take time now to consider your safety routines. Of course, the police department and central administration will mandate many of the details. However, there may be other issues (rooms without locks, phones, or PA access, etc.) that are specific to your building that should be addressed. This is a perfect time to handle these concerns – giving you peace of mind that all areas of your building are safe and secure.
Use this time to hone your skills by attending professional development sessions, and share what you’ve learned with your colleagues. Get together with other principals in your area to compare notes and develop important connections that will help you generate new ideas for your building: plus, the collegial support is priceless.
It is even more important to create these connections if you’re the only administrator in your building. Being a principal can be a thankless job at times, and knowing that you have other colleagues out there who face similar challenges can help get you through those difficult days.
Are you working as efficiently as possible? Consider how you may – or may not be – using technology to your advantage. There are so many new programs, applications, etc. that can assist you with anything from surveys to attendance that it would serve you well to look into these options. Once again, there may be limits to your purchasing power, especially if you want to make an expensive technology decision, but don’t overlook the free tools that exist: check out an excerpted list from Susan Brooks-Young’s book 101 Best Websites for Principals at www.iste.org; Kern Kelley has free educator-friendly templates at https://sites.google.com/site/kernkelley/forms; and Skype is a free video-conferencing service that could be a valuable tool (see http://www.skype.com/en/ for more information).
•Hear them out.
Speaking of technology, Survey Monkey (at https://www.surveymonkey.com)is a terrific way to get feedback from your staff. Consider creating a survey that takes staff input into account. When it comes to topics for staff development and faculty meetings, nothing increases your chances for buy-in than if the future audience has some input.
Think about it: I’m sure you’ve heard the complaints from teachers that the in-service was “meaningless” or “nothing new”: but by asking for and seriously considering others’ ideas, you’ll have a much better chance of blending the district’s agenda, your personal goals, and the teachers’ needs and interests than if you try to go it alone.
Next week, we’ll look at a few more ways to leverage your time. In the meantime, let us know if you’ve discovered any ways to benefit from the quiet hours of the summertime.