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Dear Principal

Dear Principal entering the 2021-2022 school year,

Wow, it’s that time again! Except, it’s different this year. As it was last year, and the year before, and no one knows how this year will play out in terms of masks and restrictions and vaccinations for both teachers and students.

Your staff will be excited, but they might also be anxious at the same time (those two feelings are not mutually exclusive). Students will be happy and sad, also at the same time. Everyone needs to have the potential to be more unique than usual, and then, all of the usual needs and difficulties that come with a new school year will still be present.

Here are a few words of advice which are meant to be helpful and encouraging from September to June:

Ask for support

Your Board of Education is elected to help you (as well as students, teachers, et al.). Even while its members are not visible in the school building for day-to-day activities, it is still okay to ask them for support. That is quite literally their job. Build a rapport with the BOE -- pick one member to be your go-to person once you’ve built that rapport. As such, you will feel more confident that you have an ally on the board and your requests for help will not be moved to the bottom of the metaphorical pile.

Reward teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty

Testing certainly is the order of the day in today’s educational world. However, testing is not at the heart of how students learn day in and day out -- your staff of teachers is. When teachers spend extra time with students, when they conceptualize new learning methods, when they produce more than test scores, reward them and recognize them publicly. Those teachers deserve the recognition and, to quote a relatively well-known saying, a person who is appreciated will always do more than expected.

Form solid relationships with teachers and students

While there is a bit of grey area in terms of how far is “too far” to go in terms of meaningful relationships with both students and teachers, that is not to say that relationships cannot be formed -- in fact, they should be! Use your instincts to feel out what is appropriate. The hard line of leaving all personal life conversations outside the door of the school is not necessary. When something feels like crossing the line of appropriateness, chances are, you’ll know. Ensuring fairness does not equate to prohibiting emotion and heart. Ask students about their home lives. Ask teachers about their milestone life events. If someone needs help, it’s okay to step up. While there is no guarantee students and teachers alike won’t take advantage of your kindness, appreciation is a more likely outcome.

Take this school year to the “next level.” Dig deep to do your best for students and staff. After all of the trauma of the pandemic, everyone deserves it -- including you.

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As a speaker and author, my focus is to train emerging and seasoned leaders to align strategy with equity, change and communication.

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