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Principal Ideas: Success and Inspiration

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.

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
- Plan a Special Event
- Welcome Students Back to School
- Make Graduation Day Special
- Liven Up Your A.M. Announcements
- Motivate Teachers
- Involve Parents
- Raise Money
- 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 principalideas@
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!

Helping Your Parents Assure Student Success

Our school newsletter, Elementary Express, goes home each Friday. In it I feature special happenings such as field trips, assemblies, and family nights, as well as everyday learning. Those newsy tidbits are supplemented with tips and articles aimed at helping parents support their children's education. Last year, I wrote "The ABC's of Success," which each week featured a different component of student success: A is for attendance, B is for bedtime, and so on. I wrote each alphabetical essay ahead of time, so I had a collection that just had to be cut and pasted into the space in my newsletter template. I have received a lot of positive comments about the newsletter from parents. [Note: Addie Gaines has made those 26 cut-and-paste essays available to Education World readers. Now you can use them in your parent newsletter. See the entire series: ABCs of Student Success]
Source: Addie Gaines, PR Ideas for Principals ( - May 11, 2004)

In-House Training Via Email


This year, staff members are reading Alan November's book, Empowering Students with Technology. Originally, we planned to scheduled regular meetings throughout the year so we could discuss the book and its possible applications at our school. As it has turned out, time to meet is limited, so we are setting up a discussion group online. Yahoo! Groups provides a free service for online groups that makes doing that very easy. This way, the discussion of November's book continues outside the handful of book-discussion meetings that could be arranged.
Source: Professional Development Via E-Mail: All You Need is a Keyboard

Snow Business and Re-Tirement

If it starts snowing a couple hours before school lets out, I go outside and scrape or brush off teachers' cars so they can get on the road soon after the bell rings. (If you do not live in an area where it snows, perhaps you could bring in a local company to rotate teachers' tires twice a year. For the publicity, good will, and potential business, the company might do this without charging a cent!)
Source: "Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week -- and All Year Long" ( -- April 22, 2003)

Ice Cream Social -- A Cool Way to Kick Off the School Year

The back-to-school letter is a staple of many teachers and school principals. My back-to-school letter gets mailed home in early August. That letter always includes the name of the child's new teacher and invites parents to write a letter to the teacher. That gives parents an opportunity to tell the teacher everything he or she might want or need to know about the child on the first day of school. The letter also invites students and their parents to drop in for a "Meet Your Teacher" event late in the afternoon two days before school starts. That event, which lasts an hour, gives students a chance to go to their classrooms and find their desks, cubbies, or backpack hooks, and to meet some of the other kids who will be in the class. It gives parents a chance to put a face to the teacher's name and to chat informally. While this is going on, the school PTO holds an ice cream social on the front lawn. That way, parents drop in on the classroom and then move right back out. Traffic does not get bogged down in the classrooms.
Source: Lolli Haws, Great Starts: Veteran Principals Offer Opening Day Tips

Post a Note of Inspiration

I keep a note pad with me at all times. When I see something inspirational in a classroom, I write a note of praise for the teacher while I am in the room and place it on the teacher's desk as I leave or put it in his or her mailbox when I return to the office. I know of other principals who jot notes of praise on post-it notes and place them on the teacher's desk or plan book before they exit the classroom. In the quiet hours before the school's open house, another principal I know visited every classroom, leaving a short post-it note of thanks and inspiration on each teacher's desk. The note greeted each teacher that evening and provided motivation to "shine" for the night's events. Many teachers keep the notes of encouragement forever and read them periodically for a spirit boost. Most important, writing notes of inspiration is a way to acknowledge what the teachers do well; this inspires them to continue their quest for effective teaching strategies.
Source: Todd Whitaker, Motivating Teachers: A Wire Side Chat with Todd Whitaker

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