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Always Strive to Be a Better You

Making It Fun Again

Today it hit you: You're the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at your school, and as much as you love your job, you're beginning to feel a bit down. So far down, in fact, that you seem to be looking up at the Mohorovicic discontinuity.

But why is that? What's the deal?


The following list of symptoms might help you determine if you're in need of a HULA (Hopeful Unwavering Lighthearted Approach):

  • Exhausted at your list of responsibilities as principal?
  • Frustrated at the lack of funding support for your school?
  • Baffled by the children's zany behaviors and work ethic?
  • Irritated by the barrage of overbearing parents at your door?
  • Appalled by the negative press in the papers?
  • Handcuffed by the teacher unions' influence?
  • Saddened by the dearth of professionalism around you?
  • Pummeled by the list of demands from central office?
  • Confused by college football's BCS rankings?
  • Forgotten what your spouse and kids look like?

    If any of the above symptoms match what you jot in your diary every night (after checking 34 new e-mails, completing a report, making two parent phone calls, and trying to make sense of your day), you're not alone.

    Chances are, if you're feeling exhausted/frustrated/baffled (ad infinitum), the folks surrounding you are, too. The teachers are grumpy. The parents are snorty. The support staff are cranky. The children are unwieldy.

    Remember: The principal sets the mood. If you're cantankerous and grouchy, it's contagious.


    We're working in schools, for heavens sake. We're working with children. We're working with people who have sworn their lives to work with children. We're working with people who have dedicated themselves to helping children learn and grow. What's not fun about children? Just watch them for a little while. It doesn't matter if the children are six, sixteen, or sixty-seven; the mission is the same. And we should be having fun achieving it.

    As we embrace the HULA concept, our gait transforms from trudging down the driveway in the morning to skipping through the hallways. We separate our eyebrows again. Sullen waves turn to cheerful high-fives. Exasperation morphs into exhilaration.

    But how does that happen? What do we do?


    Do you have a sense of humor? Sometimes, a good remedy for our malaise is some good old-fashioned, light-hearted fun. If you have a good sense of humor, quit stifling it. Tell some jokes. If you're a bit more stodgy, ask a colleague to share some jokes. Put them in the school newsletter. Tell them over the P.A. system. (Write them on a graffiti board in the staff lavatory if they're not child-friendly.) Laughter is the best medicine, after all.

    Create some fun, special days at the school. Children (and adults) love dress-up days. Encourage school, team, or community spirit by scheduling Funny Hat Day, Wrong Shoe Day, or Wacky Navel Ring Day. You'll be amazed at the results, especially if there's some sort of contest attached to it.

    Celebrate positive accomplishments. Start each staff meeting (or any other get-together) with good news. Clap. Recognize all the good things that are happening out there. Toot some horns, for crying out loud. Acknowledge the students and their feats publicly, privately, in assemblies, or in phone calls to parents. Let's start sharing the good stuff.

    Plan some giveaways. Recruit local merchants and businesses to partner in goodie-giveaways. Even if it's small -- like a free coffee, a replica rodeo belt buckle, or a Volkswagen -- a little treat handed out to an unsuspecting individual can make the recipient's week. The businesses will appreciate being included, too, so it's a win-win.

    Practice random acts of zany behavior. Go on the playground and play with the children. Wear something unorthodox. Dance. Lead an assembly from the school rooftop or atop a fire engine. Borrow a wig. Or better yet, borrow a handful of different wigs -- and change them throughout the day.

    Make a list of what you love about your work. Recalibrate your mission. Ask your staff to do the same. When we isolate what we enjoy, and when we focus on the good parts, we're more likely to continue to enjoy them. Love and happiness beget more love and happiness. It's a wonderful cycle.

    Take care of yourself. Eat broccoli. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Take your vitamins. Pet your dog. Drink enough water. Practice yoga. Spend time with friends. Take up a non-principalship-related hobby. Do the things that you enjoy -- you'll find yourself having a lot more fun with them and with everything else.



    There are 500 students in my school. We have roughly 70 staff members. Counting the lost-incisors and scrutinizing the maxillas and mandibles of all those folks, we're looking at roughly, well, a lot of teeth. Why aren't they all smiling? Remember: The faces of the people under your charge act as a giant, circus-house-like mirror.

    Yes, there's plenty of work to do. Yes, the checklist at the beginning of this column is common for principals. Yes, you'll still encounter crabby colleagues, parents, students, lawyers, teachers, and deli-counter workers. But when you're prepared with a steady diet of fun-loving strategies, you can turn those frowns upside-down. You, too, can act as a HULA-inducing agent for those around you.

    Always strive to be a better you,

    Article by Pete Hall
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World