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The Best Part of My Day Is...

 

Part 2

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For many principals, the best part of their day is when they get to connect with students in the hallways, on the playground, and in classrooms.

SPENDING TIME IN CLASSROOMS


What Could Be
Better Than?

The best part of my day almost always occurs when I am out and about in the building and not in my office, said Teri Stokes, who is principal at Weatherly Heights Elementary School in Huntsville, Alabama. I get joy:
  • when I see kids who obviously enjoy school.
  • when kids are performing, by themselves or in groups, or just in the classroom.
  • when teachers are doing an awesome job in the classroom.
  • when parents have great things to say about our school.
  • when I see kids helping other kids.
  • when the lunchroom ladies bring us extra dessert.
  • when visitors come and say nice things about what they have seen.
  • when I know that I have turned everything in to Central Office on time (or close to it).
  • when the school can help families in need by getting them to the right places.
  • when we have family events and the turnout is tremendous.
  • when my assistant principal says Ill take care of that!
     

Visiting classrooms is the best part Turina Parkers day at the Southern Adirondack Education Center in Hudson Falls, New York. Visiting classrooms -- not the formal, scheduled teacher observations, but the drop-in visits -- keeps me connected to whats happening throughout my programs and allows me to maintain a pulse on the school. Through visibility and participation, I stay connected to my students and teachers, which goes a long way toward fostering a positive school environment.

Parker recently walked in on student presentations. It was a great experience for both the students and me, and it allowed the teacher to informally showcase the excellent teaching and learning that occurs.

Parker loves participating in class discussions and activities. And the students love it when I dont get the answers right, she added.

Jeffry Prickett, principal at W.J. Murphy Elementary School in Round Lake Park, Illinois, feels the same way.

All administrators do walk-throughs in one form or another, said Prickett. Some pop into classrooms occasionally. Others make a more frequent practice of it, even getting into rooms on a daily basis. While we all experience managerial roadblocks -- "administrivia" -- to being the best instructional leaders we can possibly be, I make it a point to be highly intentional about my walks. I sit in an empty desk, right there with the kids, taking in the experience from their vantage point.

Being with students is the very best part of my day, every day, hands down.

STUDENTS LIFT WORN-OUT SPIRITS

The best part of Gretchen Schlies day is when she is visiting classrooms. I usually walk through each class daily, said Schlie, principal at the International Community Schools elementary school, in Singapore. I love popping in to hear and see what the students are doing. Sometimes I join in, and sometimes I just go in and watch for a couple moments.

Whenever I have been dealing with administration issues and feel worn out, I love to go into the classroom. It is a real pick me up!

Frank Hagen, now retired from his Maryland principalship, always felt the best part of his day was when he was with teachers and students in the classroom, in the hallways, at events or, yes, even in the cafeteria!

Whenever I returned from a long meeting at the Palace, er, district office, I immediately dropped everything in my office and told the secretary that I need student/teacher time, Hagen told Education World. If students were changing classes, I went directly into the halls. If they were in class, then I went to classrooms to do a few informal walkthroughs so I could experience the synergy between the teachers and students.

Yes, even in the cafeteria I can witness the positive interactions among the students, their smiles, the laughter and, especially, Hi, Mr. Hagen, whereve you been today?

Doing that always reinforced why I left the business world to choose a career in education, added Hagen. More important, my interactions with the students and teachers reenergized me and gave me the motivation to attack the mountains of administrivia generated by the district and other paperwork, like the infinite State forms sitting in my office.

SEEING SUCCESS, FIRSTHAND

The best part of Lee Yeagers school day is when he can get into any classroom and interact with students. I ask them what they are working on and how they can use what they are learning, said Yeager, principal at S & S Middle School in Sadler, Texas. I like for students to show me their successes.

Michelle Gayle, who is principal at James S. Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Florida, agreed. "The best part of my day is when I see effective teaching and learning going on and know that it will have a lasting impact on my scholars, the school, and our community."


PP Time

Larry Davis is principal at Clay Hill Elementary, a Title I school in Jacksonville, Florida, where the best part of his day is PP time.

The best part of my day is when I set aside 1 hour a day that I call PP (Proactive Principal) time, Davis told Education World. PP is when I make a difference in a students life. Its when I go into a classroom, have students in my office, or share a story with a grade level. PP is also when I help a troubled student with a difficult family situation or a struggling student who could do better.

Some of the PP moments involve conversations -- a moment spent listening to students talk about situations in their lives or sharing a story from my own life that is meant to help. Others involve teaching moments -- helping a student as he reads his current writing assignment or teaching a student about the importance of the main idea in a story while making a connection between the passage and her current life situation.

When I go to bed at night, I spend a few moments reflecting on the day and whether I made a difference.
 

Classroom observations comprise a huge part of Principal La'Keldra's Pride's day at Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis, Mississippi. "The best part of my day comes during observations when I see students actively and eagerly engaged in learning," she said. "I thoroughly enjoy seeing students ask questions and participate in class. It shows me that they are willing to take an active role in their learning and not just sit by and passively rely on the teacher for everything."

I love to see the progress that each child is making in many different areas, added Jill Massa, who is principal at Warden (Washington) Elementary School. Seeing her students succeed is the best part of her day.

We celebrate every bit of growth, no matter how small, added Massa. When a student who has behavior issues goes through a day or a week with no referrals or plays well with others on the playground or just opens a door for someone, that is a celebration. When a struggling reader improves their fluency by ten words per minute in one month, that is a celebration. When a student who is learning their multiplication facts learns all of their fives, that is a celebration.

Seeing those types of things happen in my school is the best part of my day as a principal. And it helps me remember why I am here.

ITS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

The best part of my day, reflects Principal Kim Cavanaugh, is anytime I am not doing discipline.

Actually, Cavanaugh adds, I enjoy all parts of the day. It's hard to decide whether it is the time before school when I am out front greeting all the students and parents as they arrive so I can start their day with a positive comment and get them thinking about making it a great day... or the time spent at recess with the students running up to me to offer hugs and tell me about what is new with them. All of those times are important because they help me get to know more about my students rather than just their test scores.

Perhaps it's the time I spend in classrooms. As I walk into the classes, students wave with their pinky fingers [a sign she taught them so they dont distract the class by calling out her name or jumping out of their seats]. I get to hear the pride they have in what they are doing, and I can see whether or not they are learning the concepts.

Or it could be the time after school when staff members come into my office just to wind down and debrief after the day's happenings. That often includes lots of laughing or just good conversation.

The best time of my day is when I get an opportunity to interact with the people here at my school -- students, staff, and families. They make my day better, and hopefully I do the same for them.

If I was to sum it all up, the best parts of my day as a principal all come down to the relationships that are formed in this job.


Principal Contributors to This Article

The following members of Education Worlds Principal Files team shared the best parts of their day in this article.
  • Kim Cavanagh, principal, Mentone (California) Elementary School
  • Monica H. Coates, principal, Caldwell Pre-Kindergarten Center, Columbia, Louisiana
  • Larry Davis, principal, Clay Hill Elementary School, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Dr, Michelle Gayle, principal, James S. Rickards High School, Tallahassee, Florida
  • Frank J. Hagen, principal (retired), Saint Michaels (Maryland) Middle/High School
  • Carol Ann Hawkins, principal, Forsyth (Missouri) Elementary School
  • Dr. Keith Ingram, principal, Hickory Flat Elementary School, Canton, Georgia
  • LaToy Kennedy, principal, Calvin Wiley Elementary School, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Jill Renee Massa, principal, Warden Elementary School, Warden, Washington (PreK-5)
  • Marguerite McNeely, principal, Slocum Learning Center, Pineville, Louisiana
  • Karen Mink, principal, Jefferson Elementary School, DeKalb, Illinois
  • Turina Parker, principal for special and alternative programs, Southern Adirondack Education Center, Hudson Falls, New York
  • James Pastore, Jr., headmaster, Island Academy International School, Antigua, West Indies
  • Joan Pinkerton, principal, Kent Primary School, Carmel, New York
  • Jeffry Prickett, principal, W.J. Murphy Elementary School, Round Lake Park, Illinois
  • La'Keldra N. Pride, principal, Green Hill Elementary School, Sardis, Mississippi
  • Gretchen Schlie, principal, International Community School (Elementary), Singapore
  • Teri Stokes, principal, Weatherly Heights Elementary, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Marcia Wright, principal, Clinton (Michigan) Elementary School
  • Dr. Lee Yeager, principal, S & S Middle School, Sadler, Texas To explore other practical articles from the Principal Files series, go to our Principal Files Archive.
    Click here to learn how you might contribute to a future "Principal Files" article.

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