Kara’s 7th recommendation is to Get Out There.
My uncle Peter Glahn has been one of my educational heroes. He has an outgoing personality that connects with students (and anyone else) almost instantly. He is someone that I wanted to emulate when I started my assistant principal role. He was awarded Assistant Principal of the Year a few years ago and I believe a large part of that was his ability to create relationships. It has always been my goal to be like him and “get out there.”
I learned something important the first few months of my position as assistant principal: be yourself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be my uncle and not to be myself. When I finally came to the realization that I was trying to be someone I wasn’t and stopped trying, I felt a weight lift. My ultimate goal was to still create the relationships and connections like my uncle, but I realized I needed to do it how it worked for me, not how my uncle did it. His example will always be a goal I’m working towards, but I will work towards it in my way.
Kara’s tip is so crucial to get out there. If we are not familiar with our students and staff, it is going to be harder to know how to best serve them. Additionally, if they don’t know who we are, it is going to be harder to serve them. I don’t think they will seek us out unless we have already built that relationship with them.
One way I have tried to build relationships with kids and “get out there” is at dances. Meaning, the old awkward assistant principal there out there on the dance floor and dance. I try to make sure the kids see me and know that I’m not afraid to bust a move (no matter how awkward or uncoordinated it is).
I do it for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t remember any of my assistant principals from high school. But I may have if they had been out on the dance floor with us. Second, when a situation arises, they know who I am, and that is the first step to building a positive relationship with them. Even if the situation is because of a negative choice on their end.
Last year I was better at getting out there and seeing teachers in their native environment. It is funny to see their reaction when I walk in because they are only used to seeing administrators when we are evaluating them. They almost always ask if I need something or someone. I’ll reply that nope I’m just there to be in their classroom. I really enjoy these observations. I don’t have to be observing preset evaluation criteria, I am simply there to be there. During these informal evaluations, I always leave a little note about something I observed that I liked. I really like looking for the positive in the teachers’ classroom. Far too often they only receive feedback about what they’re doing wrong. I want to make those positive interactions.
I was able to visit every single classroom last year, all 125 of them. This year has been much harder. I think it’s because I’m no longer the “new one”, and more staff and students are coming to me with problems and situations. While I enjoy that, it has made it harder to be out and about.
Our new principal has been a great example for me on getting out there. He has an open door policy that has a lot of faculty, staff, students, and community members passing through his office. However, he always makes an effort to get out there and be with the students and teachers. He is also a great example once he is out there. Below I’ve added a tweet I sent out in September about this exact thing.
A few ways I have tried to get out there (at least that are documented) are:
The Golden Gate Club was holding a pie throwing contest and needed “willing” contestants. I offered up my mug and ended up smelling rotten milk for days in my nostrils.
The student officers approached me and asked if I would be willing to shave my head. I told them that for the right amount I would. I should have been more specific because they raised over $140,000 and they took my hair with it.
Our incredible lunch ladies asked the administration team to do the serving for our Thanksgiving meal. It was so fun to see the surprised students and staffs faces when they came through the line and saw us with our silly hats serving the food.
Luckily we have regular lunch duty and it is a time that we are able to get out with students. We had foosball tables in our commons at the beginning of the year and I loved to challenge the kids to a game.
This involved me literally getting out. I was trying to get my 5-year-old to bed and kept hearing noises outside my house. Finally upset that my kids couldn’t sleep I stepped out to take care of the problem. Turned out to be my students outside my house! I invited them in to meet my wife and warm up. It was awesome!
Goat Yoga! During the summer the student officers and cheerleaders did a combined event and headed to Lehi to do a team-building exercise doing goat yoga. If you’ve never got out and done it, you gotta try! It’s definitely an experience.
There are days when the workload is so immense that I’m not able to step foot outside my office. Those are long days. The positive interactions outside of the office are what keep me going and recharge me. Most of the time they are small exchanges, but that’s what I need. And I hope it has a similar effect on the students. My theory on it is that with a lot of small interactions I am able to build a big bridge with the students. And when the time comes we need to have a serious conversation, I believe it’ll go better because we already have a bridge built between us.
What have you done that has been successful to create interactions with students? What works? What hasn’t worked? Let me know in the comments below.