Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Year I Decided To Principal Like A PIRATE

If you are familiar with Dave Burgess' book Teach Like a PIRATE, this post will make sense to you.  If you are not familiar with the book, buy it now, download it on your Kindle App, it is worth every penny.

I taught high school business and social studies for 12 years.  As a teacher I tried to do many of the things that Dave talks about in his book.  I remember establishing a rapport with my students and trying to create experiences and activities that would make learning fun.  I never bought into the philosophy of "Don't smile until Christmas Break."

I jumped right from the classroom to the position of principal three years ago.  I skipped that whole assistant principal thing.  The ironic thing about my first two years as a principal is that I did not emphasize building relationships and creating a fun atmosphere right away.  I did this with my staff, but not my students.  I focused on discipline and making sure things were running smoothly.  I led in a way that was pretty much the complete opposite style that I used as a teacher.  We had a great deal of success as a school academically, and did many fun things, but looking back I feel like I did things backwards.

I started a new job in a new district this school year.  As I began my third year as a building principal, I made a decision to try a new way of "principaling" this year.  I was going to build relationships with the kids first.  I was going to put an emphasis on fun from day one.  Sure there would be times when I would have to work with a student's discipline situation, but I was not going to put on the image of the "strict guy" right off the bat.

I have to tell you, I have no regrets about this decision.  Did we have discipline situations this year?  Yes we did.  However the number of repeat offenders were very few.  There were many instances in which I could rely on that relationship I had worked to establish in August and September to help the student learn from a poor decision in March.  Kids are kids, and they are going to make mistakes, and it is part of my job to work with these kids to help them make better decisions in the future.  To be honest, many of my colleagues would laugh at the "big" discipline situations I have dealt with this year.

We decided on a new way to communicate with our parents and the community.  Rather than send home paper newsletter, or send them via e-mail, we began producing a 2-3 minute weekly Video Newsletter.  Our 31st episode is set to be released today.  Students were excited to be a part of it and parents told me they definitely preferred watching a 3 minute video than to read one of my newsletters, no offense.  None taken.  I have people in the community come up to me all the time to tell me they love seeing what is going on in our school.  I have been stopped in elementary schools, at the grocery store, and just last week on the town square.  They look forward to it being release on Youtube every Friday.  I can honestly say, I have never had a parent tell me that about one of my paper newsletters.

I took many of the things Dave Burgess talked about in his book, which were many of the same things I did as a teacher, and implemented them in how I worked as a principal.  As I reflect on this school year, I cannot say I have any regrets.

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