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Principal Ideas
Attendance, Appreciation and More

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.

From Ed World's

In our county, qualified substitute teachers are scarce. It used to be that when a teacher was out and a sub was unavailable to cover the class for the day, the students in the absent teacher's classroom had to be split among the remaining classrooms in the grade level. The idea of more than 35 students in a classroom was nearly criminal, so our district took action. We developed an emergency substitute program that has reduced the number of unsupervised classrooms by nearly 80 percent. Among the remedies initiated by the county's superintendent was implementing the "School-Specific Substitute" program. Each principal selected three to five parents he or she knew well and would trust with a group of students. Those individuals were notified by the district's central office about the availability of substitute work. If the parents were interested, the district provided a 12-hour professional development training that included instruction in classroom management, lesson delivery, and other information that might help make a day in the classroom run smoothly. After that training, each of the parent subs were required to shadow a certified teacher for two full days. The program has been very beneficial to our school.
Source: Jeffrey Castle, There's No Sub for a Good Sub Plan

Pies and Water Balloons Boost Sluggish Attendance

Truancy is a problem that we battle daily in our district, and the last quarter of the school year is always the worst. This year, we started an attendance competition. Each middle and high school grade had a traveling trophy for the class with the highest attendance. The elementary grades were split so that grades K-2 competed against grades 3-6 for a better attendance rate. If the lower grades won, the assistant principal got to throw a pie into the principal's face; if the upper elementary won, the principal got to throw a pie into the assistant principal's face. The kids were hyped up about it and the attendance rate improved. Unfortunately, my side lost and I took the pie in front of the whole student body. In addition, to motivate attendance in the final months of the school year we announced that the students with perfect attendance the last quarter would be allowed to throw water balloons at the principals, teachers, and counselors who volunteered to be targets. It was a pretty effective way to raise the attendance rate during the last quarter!
Thanks to Lori Bouza, assistant principal at Wagner Community School in Wagner, South Dakota

Teacher Appreciation Year!

It is so important to show appreciation to our teachers all year long! Here at our high school, I try to plan something special at least once a month. Some of the things I did were to

  • provide lunch on 1/2 days.
  • buy dinner on report card evenings.
  • take a teachers-only field trip that included lunch.
  • give each teacher a "stress spring" in January.
  • plan a Mexican Fiesta Day with lunch, music, food, and bakery items.
  • stock the teacher's lounge with small bags of cookies, chips, and so on.
  • buy a winter holiday gift of a professional development book by Chris Tovani.
  • hold a catered BBQ during the last week of school in June.
  • have the entire staff over to my house for margaritas on the deck.

The cost of all those things -- whatever it was -- was the best money I've ever spent.
Standardized test scores went up. Teachers worked, and worked, and worked -- very happily.
Thanks to Charlemeine Zemelko, principal at Chicago International Charter School in Chicago, Illinois

Parents on Board

Our teachers call on parents whenever special help is needed. For example, a teacher might want help with activities that involve sewing colonial costumes, dissecting frogs, or making gingerbread houses. Parents can help schools acquire needed supplies, equipment, and services, such as landscaping, carpeting, painting, and more.
Source: "Principals Share Parent Involvement ideas " ( -- February 28, 2000)

Teacher TV Stars

I take advantage of local television stations that reach out into the community to offer awards such as "The Class Act Award" or the "Excellence in Teaching Award." I nominate members of the staff who go beyond the call of duty. Reporters from the television stations come to school to interview the teachers and present them with certificates. Each teacher is then recognized in a TV spot that is broadcast several times in one week.
Source: Marie Kostick, "25 Ways to Motivate Teachers" ( -- November 19, 2002)


Join the Fun -- Share an Idea!

The ideas presented in this article come from the Education World archive and from principals just like you. Since these principals have been kind enough to "show and tell" an idea, now it's your turn! Share an idea you've used to

- Celebrate Students
- Welcome Students Back to School
- Motivate Teachers
- Involve Parents
- Raise Money
- Plan a Special Event
- Make Graduation Day Special
- Liven Up Your A.M. Announcements
- Plan an Effective Staff Meeting
- Get Some Good PR for Your School

or any other topic of interest to principals.

Send your idea today to [email protected].

Be sure to include your name, your school name, and your school address because if we post your idea in Principal Ideas, we'll send you an Education World mug!

Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2006 Education World