A Principal’s Reflections on the First Month of School
By Zach Bruner, Missouri Principal
Whenever school is about to start up again, I know that I chose the right profession because I am as excited as the students to get back into the routine. I love getting all of the students back in the building after what can be lonely summers at the school — but the real work begins once school is back in session.
I use my summer months to prepare as best as I can for the upcoming school year, but being able to react to situations as they arise is a key aspect of being an educator, and especially an administrator. Ultimately, getting the school year off to a great start is a team effort. Here, I want to reflect on some of the key tasks that help get the school year started off in the right direction.
A couple days before school begins we have an Open House at our school in the evening. It is a great way to get the students and their parent(s)/guardian(s) back into the building to meet and talk with their teachers and administration. It also allows them to familiarize themselves with our learning community. My job is to address everyone and communicate to them “need to know” information and other positive aspects about our school. I also am there to aide them in any way needed. This year, most of the time I was in meetings with parents who had last minute questions about a plethora of things. Essentially, I want everyone to leave Open House more comfortable and excited that school is about to begin.
There are so many daily routines and I will not list them all, but they are important and help the flow of the day. One that we want to go seamlessly every day is the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance (as mandated by state statute) collectively as a school. Obviously, everyone has the choice of whether to say the Pledge or not, but we have students lead it over the intercom every day. In order to make this routine an easy one, I created and shared Google Calendar with all of the teachers entitled “Pledge of Allegiance” and it has which grade will say the Pledge over the intercom each week. The teachers organize which students in their class will say it on specific days and they have them in office ready to recite it at 8:00 a.m. sharp.
Having this routine helps us get the day started off seamlessly and students know once the Pledge is over, the school day officially begins. My job was to aide in the organization and provide a tool so everyone was on the same page about when their classes said the Pledge of Allegiance. Having organized routines is helpful way to make the first month of school a successful one.
Initial Teacher Observations
Knowing the instruction going on in your building is essential, and observations are a great way to provide feedback to the teachers in the building. I do 10–20 minute drop-in evaluations of our teachers during the first month and try get into as many classrooms as possible, especially the newer teachers. They get immediate feedback from their evaluations, as well. Shortly after the first quarter ends I begin 45–60 minute formative evaluations on all full-time teachers. Finding time to do these evaluations is tough, but I recommend setting your calendar and trying to stick to it as much as you can.
I get a lot of emails and I make sure that I respond to all of them in a timely manner and communicate the best that I can with everyone involved. I want all stakeholders to be on the same page and be “in the loop” about things that involve our students and their education, so oftentimes email is the best way to communicate that. I have to carve out portions of my day to get back to emails and having email on my phone is helpful while I’m away at meetings and such, as well.
Keeping the calendar up to date is very important because you do not want to double book events so keeping it up-to-date will help everyone at the school. I have many Google Calendars that I use to keep track of subs, transportation, the computer lab, and much more. It makes life much easier to have a calendar that is always up to date.
The first month of school as a principal is extremely busy, but it is also very rewarding. I try to always continue learning best practices and work as hard as I can to get better day-by-day, so that our students and teachers have a great environment to learn and work in.
Zach Bruner is a proud husband to Skylar and father to Van. He has experience teaching social studies in both Missouri and Oregon and is currently a principal in Missouri. He is passionate about being an educator and inspiring students to learn. You can find more of his writing at Medium.com: Zach Bruner or his publication “The World We Live In”.
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.