Don’t mind the three-headed students in this picture. A panoramic was the only way to try and get all the students in our commons in one picture.
The first tip that @karaknollmeyer gives us is to Find Out What Your School Needs.
When imagining this as a new administrator I would think about the big picture. The macro changes that I could have upon my school. Leading out on professional development to the whole faculty. Bringing energy and passion to the job that would change the lives of the student body. I think that I knew at the time it was naive, but I also had that new hire naivety about the job and thought I could take on the world and accomplish anything.
Two years later I still try to have that energy and passion, but I realize that the BIG moments are not actually in front of the entire faculty or student body, but rather in the moments that I get to share with a teacher or student. Those are the times that make a difference for me and ultimately I believe for the school. It is really easy to get lost in a school of 3,250+ and it’s also easy for our faculty to not feel like an important part of the school when we have so many faculty members; however, I know that the small moments can have the greatest impact in school.
There is a reason that we have tissue boxes in our offices and I’ve been surprised at how often they have been used. And those tears are not always because of discipline. Some have included moments of courage that left me in awe at the strength of a high school student. Or they have been moments when an adolescent has made a rash decision and not considered the consequence. Especially with the latter, I try to make sure that the student walks away knowing that even though they have made a stupid choice, they are not stupid. They can always come back from it.
Earlier this year I had a student in my office who had made many choices in and out of school that had put him in legal trouble and at-risk of not graduating. This was a student that I had disciplined many times for his choices on campus. But here he was with his parents in my office trying to figure out what he could do in order to get on track for graduation. His mom mentioned that according to her son “Mr. Hudnall was the only one that really cared if he succeeded at Herriman High.” Initially, I was flattered by her comment, but when I really thought about it, I was saddened by it. I was saddened that in a school of 120+ teachers and staff he only saw one person as there for him. The reality is, I know that isn’t true. I have had individual conversations with staff members about this student and their desire to help him be successful. But his perception was that there was only one. I think this is where the power of the individual conversations and interactions become so important. Taking that moment in the hall or classroom to just check-in with them and see how they’re doing. Whether it be a quick chat or a little longer, just do it. How it looks is different for everyone. You need to find what works best for you and how you can be authentic with the interaction. I find that when there are so many kids in the halls between class, I can’t have those interactions. Students are just trying to traverse the halls without being trampled. Truth be told, I’m just trying to survive too. What I find works best for me is between classes or in the parking lot when there are far fewer crowds. When I can have a chat with them about what’s going on in their life.
At a recent conference, a fellow administrator in a middle school shared a great tip he uses in his school. He will talk to students at the end of the day or the week and ask them what they are going to do that night or weekend. He then makes it a point to find them the next school day and ask them how that particular thing or event went that they shared with him. What a great way to solidify that connection and relationship with them.
During the summer I saw this image on Twitter and retweeted it and combined it with one of my goals for the upcoming year. I specially said that I want to talk to 3 new students every day. Even with as many students as we have, I have not always accomplished the goal. It is easy to get sucked into the daily grind of running the school and the many fires that come up. Often it has to become a conscious effort, otherwise it doesn’t happen.
So to the 3 people reading this blog (the few, the brave, the proud), I am recommitting to my summer commitment. I will have those daily conversations with those in my building to find what my school needs. And will also remember that those needs can be met on a small scale.