Setting Up Your School Year: Good, Better or Best?

New school year, new beginnings.  For principals, that means rolling up your sleeves and getting started on all the necessary tasks that will set you and your staff up for a successful school year. Determining the right approach to support staff in setting up your school year can make or break a principal’s leadership effectiveness throughout the school year.         

There are three different approaches principals can take when engaging their staff at the start of a new school year: good, better, best.

The Good Approach – The “good” approach is exactly what it sounds like but rarely reaches its full potential because it lacks clarity from the principal.  A principal might say, “We have a lot of work do,” or “Let’s get organized,” but then immediately following up with “Someone else can take care of that.”  This approach leaves staff confused and overwhelmed and puts the principal in a reactive leadership role.

The Better Approach – The second option is to take a better approach. A principal implements practices such as department meetings, grade-level meetings, gathering feedback from staff regarding common needs during the summer break, and engaging teachers in preparing for the start of the new academic year.  These types of activities help build an inclusive school culture and set out the school’s vision for the year in a clear manner.  While this method improves upon not having any structure or action plan at all, its greatest strength — communicating expectations — also becomes its weakness when comes to equipping staff to increase teacher capacity.  Without involving teachers in determining desired outcomes, the principal’s vision lacks full buy-in and commitment by staff to improve teacher practice.

The Best Approach – The best approach is to engage staff in a deliberate way that sets them up for success while moving toward the school’s overall goal of increasing student achievement. A school leader can do this by following through on developing common visions for all students and providing opportunities for teachers to participate in various kinds of professional learning throughout an academic year, which will result in improved student achievement. This not only allows teachers the necessary time to learn new skills but also gives principals time to reflect on their role as instructional leaders.

In Summary

New school year, new beginnings.  For principals, that means rolling up your sleeves and getting started on all the necessary tasks that will set you and your staff up for a successful school year. Determining the right approach to support staff in making this transition can make or break a principal’s leadership effectiveness throughout the school year. There are three different approaches principals can take when engaging their staff at the start of a new school year: good, better, best. What approach are you using?

Author: Dr Jake Madden

Jake Madden (Dip Teach; B.Ed; Grad Dip: Leadership; M. Ed: Leadership; EdD; FACEL; MACE) Dr. Jake Madden is currently the Principal, St Edward’s Primary School, Tamworth. He has enjoyed a successful teaching and principal leadership career over the last thirty years building teacher capacity through the development of learning in the contemporary world, the promotion of flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and curriculum for global mindedness. Jake is a leader in the notion of teacher-as-researcher and is widely published in this area, authoring and co-authoring books and a number of journal articles showcasing his experiences and research into leading educational change.

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