Depending on the district, principals have a myriad of responsibilities. They balance budgets and have their hand in staffing; but also manage the upfront and human responsibilities like PR, parent complaints, teacher demands and student concerns. When your kid acts up or there is a school wide issue, your principal will communicate with you via email, phone, conference or information session. Principals troubleshoot and receive lots of feedback on how to make improvements in the school all the time. Some of the feedback is implemented easily and quickly, where other suggestions may take an entire school year to put into action.
- Get to know your principal. If they’re standing outside the school just say hi. You don’t have to be besties or introduce yourself, just be friendly. They may remember you; they may not depending on the size of the school and how much is going on. Don’t be offended if they don’t. What’s most important is that you’re a consistent, friendly face.
- Be the bearer of good news; advocacy can be positive. Do you ever mention the good that happens in your class? Don’t just bring what’s wrong to the table. Bring what’s right. If you’re a vocal and active parent, share the good. Principals and teachers want to know what is working and what is going well. The litmus can’t always be negative. Maybe the tested something new. If they hear no feedback, it may mean (to the school) that it did not work. Speak up!
- No one is a cyborg yet; respect the person. Principals and teachers are people just like you and me. Many of them have families. Don’t assume that they don’t see your perspective. Many do but for professional reasons must think of how decisions and policies affect the overall school community. Just as you might not sacrifice your rules at home for one of your children’s happiness, good principals will consider the same dilemma. The school community’s integrity and safety come first.
- Witch hunts can be fun but are never cool. We’ve all witnessed when a parent’s emotions have gotten the best of them and their after a teacher, staff or administrator like an enraged executioner on Bastille Day 1789. Yes, bad decisions are made all the time, but practical solutions are far more productive than highly volatile emotional ones. Teamwork makes the dream work and active listening is better than emotionally charged accusations.
- Don’t be a Debbie Downer. If your principal and teachers are making real efforts to make positive changes, figure out how you can support that. Don’t poison the lake on purpose; negativity is easier to spread than positivity. If your principal makes massive changes that you don’t agree with, go in and discuss with them their philosophy and vision before making an assumption. See if there is a way for parents to support the new changes. Change in not easy but sometimes its necessary.
- Put up or shut up…seriously. Being a former athlete, I never liked teammates or coaches that had lots to say but never backed it up with anything relevant. If you’re going to solicit negative advice, make sure that you’re actively involved in the PTA/PTO and you’ve volunteered in a classroom or chaperoned a field trip. Don’t bring your degrees or what you’ve read to the table as evidence that you know what you’re talking about. I also want to add that one time volunteering or multiple volunteering does not provide you an “in” to trash your school, teachers or administration. Be respectful and share your opinions when appropriate.
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