Just think of Principal Ideas as a virtual show-and-tell for principals. Each week in the coming school year we'll present five new principal-tested ideas. Send in your idea today! See the sidebar to learn how to be part of Principal Ideas.
The Little Things Count
I learned a valuable lesson from my assistant principal. When we were brainstorming ideas for ways to improve discipline, I had some ideas. I figured if we focused on eliminating fighting and achieving some semblance of order, we would be on the road to success. My assistant principal agreed that the emphasis should be on discipline, but he had an almost opposite idea. He suggested that we work on every little thing. All the little rules that were loosely enforced -- for example, rules that called for shirts being tucked in and belts worn or walking quietly in line in the halls -- would be strictly enforced, no matter how insignificant they seemed. Amazingly, when the teachers helped us address the "smaller" rules, the fighting and constant disruptions declined. Drastically! Coupled with that idea, we vowed to shower the students with positive comments. If we had to correct a student, we tried to add a comment that instilled pride in the student and the school. We would say, "Please tuck in your shirt, you're a Southdown [our school name] man!" I learned that sometimes big problems can be solved by tackling small problems. Try it for yourself, it works!
Source: Betty Peltier, Principals Share Lessons Learned: Dealing With Student Discipline, Parent Involvement
Easing the Transition
Helping students transition is at the core of middle school life. Staff members spend part of the first year helping students acclimate to sixth grade. Then, in many schools, they have a year off before they start prepping the eighth graders to enter high school. Students and their families are experiencing major changes in two out of the three years in middle school. As part of our transition program, parents of incoming students meet with a panel of current middle school students who talk about how they adjusted to middle school. The parents seem to relax when they see happy, healthy kids from their "old school."
Source: Chris Toy, A Smooth Transition Can Mean a Smooth Year
Doughnuts for Dad
On Doughnuts for Dad Day, fathers and significant men in children's lives attend a coffee and doughnut breakfast in the school cafeteria. Then the "dads" stay and visit the classrooms of their children. This is a very popular event that has included 500 or more fathers and significant others. Photographs are taken of each father and his child. The teaching staff structures activities that include the fathers. Writing exercises, science experiments, hands-on math, and technology lessons were among those activities. This is one of many activities that promote a strong community and school-parent bond. Others events include Mom's Muffin Morning, Grandparents Day, and a Power Lunch.
Source: Bill Vogel, Fathers in Schools: How Dads Make a Difference
The "Real Work"
Show your appreciation by reminding teachers -- in your newsletter, a staff meeting, or a personal note -- that you know where the real work in the school goes on, and that it is not in the office!
Source: "Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week -- and All Year Long" (EducationWorld.com -- April 22, 2003)
On the first day of school, students and parents mingle on the playgrounds. Friends gather and parents run around with cameras snapping pictures. Student council members carry around big signs; each sign has a teacher's name and grade printed on it. We end up having quite a parade around the neighborhood. We gather the lines and proceed to our multi-purpose room for a short welcoming assembly. When students head off to their classes, parents are invited to join in a coffee hour in the library. While the coffee hour is going on, I wander through the classrooms of the youngest students. That way, I can accurately report to parents that all is well and no one is crying. That really seems to help reduce stress levels. On the first day, teachers send home a welcome-back gift from the PTA. The gift -- a magnet with the school calendar on it, a school keychain, or something similar -- is included in a packet that has the school handbook, emergency forms, and lots of other information.
Source: Martha Wingate, "Schools Find Many Ways to Say 'Welcome Back'" (EducationWorld.com -- August 19, 2003)
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