I am a relational leader. I am casual to a fault. I can’t help but build connections, which leads to relationships, which leads to a MUCH BETTER LIFE FOR ME. I have the benefit of having the VERY best parents in my Whitt Wolf world. One of them Mrs. Stacie Smith is not only a parent I respect & admire, but our daughters are firstie besties as well. I decided to ask her, given that she does have 4 children, three of whom I will have had the pleasure of principaling, what she thought about the importance of relationships. In her own words, here are the 5 things she wants her children’s principal to know. After that, will follow the 5 things I want all of my parents to know. ( Yes, this goes over GC’s 200 words. Yes, it SO worth it!)
With 4 children, I have had the opportunity for that first day of school a number of times. They usually all feel pretty similar, though the hand holding has stopped with my oldest two – they would probably die of embarrassment … Some uncertainty on the child’s part … Some worry on mine … Me placing my trust in those who will teach and lead and guide. Now I won’t ever go on record as saying I liked or even listened to the Spice Girls, but in collaborating on this blog post, the Spice Girls’ song with the ever-famous line, “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…” may have come up – now was this for good blogging purposes or just for an excuse to break out into Spice Girls song? … Who really knows?
Got this song stuck in your head now? … Going to be singing it all day? … You’re so welcome!
(Amber comment: See? Don’t YOU already love her too???)
What do I really, really want in my child’s principal? I’m sure that list is a little different for each of us, but here are 5 things I’d like my children’s principals to consider:
1. I want my child’s principal to know my child.
Please know my child’s name. I realize and understand that you are charged with the care of many students, but my child will know who you are. My child will look up to you. My child will want your approval. My child will want you to be happy with him/her. If you know who my child is – if you can call him or her by name – then he/she, regardless of age, will feel loved. My child will feel a part of something. My child will feel connected to you. My child will feel important. My child will want to do better and will want to be better. Know your students. Know what they’re going through. Know what they struggle with. Know what they excel at. Create a sense of team, of family, of unity. I truly believe that when you are able to come to know a child, then – and only then – can you guide a child. I have never taught in a classroom. I have never sat at the helm of a school and been in charge of hundreds of students … but I have watched my own children with different principals, and I have seen the impact a principal that genuinely wants to know his/her students can have.
2. I want my child’s principal to keep my child safe.
My child will be in your care for 7+ hours a day. The most important thing to me is my child’s safety and that my child returns home safe and sound – physically and emotionally. Please take measures to ensure that safety and make the safety of your students a priority. Do your best to protect students from things that would not only harm them physically but that could harm their minds, their self-worth, and their innocence.
3. I want my child’s principal to love being a principal.
Be a principal because you genuinely love these kids and want to do all you can to help them achieve their potential. Your love for or your disdain for your job is contagious and can be felt, and it will set the climate at your school. Set a climate at the school that makes students and staff feel happy, safe, needed, appreciated, encouraged, and excited. Be visible. Be accessible. Be supportive. Be at events. Be outside welcoming students in the morning. Smile and laugh, encourage and love, discipline and direct.
4. I want my child’s principal to communicate.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I ask my kids what they did at school, I usually get the answer, “Good.” Wait, what?! Clearly you didn’t even hear the question, because that answer was for a completely different question! Getting information out of my child is not always successful. Communication requires both speaking and listening. Keep parents informed of what is going on at school – events, programs, testing dates, picture days, policies and procedures, etc. Parents want to know what’s going on with their children at school. Have an effective and a consistent way of communicating with parents, and communicate from many different avenues – email, voicemail, social media, flyers. Listen to your parents. Get feedback from your parents. Have a parent advisory council where you can run new ideas and programs by a variety of parents to get insight and where you can get feedback on how things are going. Let parents be a part of the team.
5. I want my child’s principal to value his/her teachers.
The teachers you hire will have the most contact with and potentially the biggest impact on my child. Hire teachers that love to teach. Value your teachers. Realize that just like your students, they all have different personalities and different strengths. Lead in a manner that pulls those personalities and strengths out of them. Let them know they are appreciated. Give them honest feedback. Help them grow when growth is needed. Inspire, encourage, and guide them. Show them you value them by listening to them.
Each September, I send you what is most important to me. I have trust and faith in you. I am here to support you. I will cheer for your accomplishments and rally for your successes. I thank you for all you do. We share in the same goal – to help these amazing kids realize their abilities and achieve their potentials.
Ya’ll. Is that not SO powerful?
Here’s mine…without a Spice Girls tie in, 🙂
1. I want my parents to know how seriously I take my position.
I don’t take myself too seriously. (Again, I am casual to a fault.) But what I do? Each and every day matters. Each interaction I have with you, or your child, is important. It could be the ONE time I speak to/with you or the 500th…it is still so important. It’s important that you know that you can come and talk to me, and that I am going to take you and your concerns very seriously. What matters to you, is important to me. I am a PROUD principal. I am HONORED to be where I am. I know some AMAZING people who would love to sit where I am blessed to sit every day, and I won’t ever take that lightly. That doesn’t mean that I won’t dress up or be silly with my Wolves, because I also take their LOVING school, very seriously.
2. I want my parents to know how much I appreciate their role in what we do.
I can’t do my job alone. More than that, I don’t want to. I am a firm believer in a collaborative style of leadership. If the smartest person in the room, is the room, then parents? I want you in my room! Who knows your child better than you do? Who is going to fight harder for your child than you will? No one. I see you up there, decorating, filing papers, having hard conversations. Mommying and daddying your hearts out. I see you. There are 667 Wolves enrolled in my care, as of today. (I know this number, each and every day. Why? Because every.single.one.matters!)
3. I want my parents to know I trust my teachers and while I will ALWAYS listen to them, I will also go to my teachers with concerns.
As a professional, I recognize there are always three sides to every story. (Four sometimes if there is a kindergartener involved!) I will 100% listen to every single concern, situation, or question you have. But I will also 99% of the time go straight to my teacher when we are finished. They are on my front lines. They know the context of the situations, they know the dynamics of their classrooms. I value what my teachers do and the power in what they do every day. I will always have their backs. That doesn’t mean I won’t do right by you, but I will also try to do my best by them.
4. I want my parents to know I am doing the very best that I can, but I know I can always do better.
There is no manual with this position. Even after having been an assistant principal for 5 years, I can say I learn something EVERY day. I would like to think I get better every day. I read books like a crazy person. I’ve chosen to surround myself with learners, some of the nation’s best principals via my learning network, and have our superintendents on speed dial. By going to conferences and speaking on leadership, I am actually growing myself, which makes me a better leader for you, our staff, and my students. I never want to be “all finished” with learning how to be the very best principal I can.
5. I want my parents to know I am a wife & mom too.
I have a teenager, my beast. I have a first grader, my TsT who keeps me on my toes. They are active girls, who deserve to have me at their events, at their celebrations, and awake in the evening. I am probably the meanest wife in the world, because by the end of the day, I have nothing left. I am asleep by 9pm. I say that it’s a good thing I’m cute & funny, because domestication tasks are NOT my gift. Although, MT would tell you I’m actually not that funny! My point is that I am like you…I have a life, responsibilities. And despite those, I am still 100% committed to being the VERY proud principal of my Wolves. Sometimes I may just need you to help me balance it all..
Which, actually, brings me to this.
And, yes, a Spice Girls song to help seal the deal.
Stacie, THANK YOU for writing this with me. I appreciate your truth, always.