new year, Uncategorized

Administrators, Please Inspire at Back to School

The countdown has officially begun in my home.  Thea keeps asking me when I go back to school knowing that this year she will go as well. I keep looking at my to do lists wondering when I can send the welcome letter, when I can label my lockers, when I can start to really get excited.  And yet before the year really begins, we all have to get through the back to school days.  You know, those days filled with meetings, even more new initiatives, and even more changes.  Where you leave the day with your head spinning and your spirits sometimes bruised.  Where you go home and think you just need to get through all of the information so the greatness of the year can begin.  I think it’s time to reclaim those back to school days.  To make them relevant and spirit-lifting.  To make them exciting and something teachers cannot wait to come to.  To make them the best start to a very new year.  So here are some ideas, and if you already do this, thank you.  Or if you have better ideas than me, please add them.

Use email – We know you have a lot to cover, but keep it brief, send us an email if you can with all the basic stuff that we can read and refer back to when needed.  Expect people to read it and make that expectation clear.  Bullet points work great!

Show videos – funny, inspiring, and with a point, and the ones that quickly get to the point.  Often a video of an educator doing something inspiring is betetr than sharing the story.

Keep it local – Bring in our superstars of the district to share their knowledge.  Show videos created by our students.  Show videos of our teachers teaching, our supports staff helping, people learning.  Too often we go outside of districts to bring in experts and forget about the experts right at home.  Highlight the greatness that comes from your district or school.

Give us the why – often so many changes are thrust upon us at the beginning of the year and while I don’t need a lengthy explanation, i would love to know the why.  It is hard to believe in something when you don’t understand why it is being implemented.

Highlight the past – Bring up what worked last year.  What parents said, what students did, what people saw.  Build our success on the success of last year.

Foreshadow the future – If you know something incredible is going to happen in the future year, bring it up, give us something to build to ward, to look forward to.

Give us time – we know you have a lot of information to give us, so give us time to process it with our teams.  There are so many meetings determined by others, give us time to figure out who we need to meet with before school starts.

Do a mini-edcamp – why not start the year with a mini edcamp where people can choose what they need to learn about.  Contact some people beforehand and ask them to highlight and be ready to share certain things, then leave room for others to bring up discussions.  Even a few sessions of choice can do incredible things for teacher preparedness and buy-in.

Cut it short – Most people think they are great public  speakers, most people are not.  Not because their heart isn’t in it, not because they are not wonderful and knowledgable, but because they stray off the path, they add to o much information, or they ramble.  So keep it short and to the point.

Don’t kill us with the negative – I know we face a lot of challenges and I am not asking for you to shield us from them.  But one person can only take so much beating down within a few days to where they simply become deflated.  So don’t spare us, but do think of what the most important challenges are that face us and focus on them.  Frame them as a challenge not as a failure.

Inspire us – I know it is a lot to ask, but I would really like to be inspired by the start of the school year.  I would really like to have the opportunity to feel uplifted and energized, believed in and trusted.

Spread the burden – Don’t just feel that you have to do the inspiring; ask others to contribute.  We should all be a part of the back to school days, we should all contribute positive energy to start the year right.  Don’t think as an administrator that it all falls on you, because it shouldn’t.  Bring in a team of people to start the year off right.  Bring in people who others may not see as leaders or speakers.  Bring in people that have  a purpose and have an energy that can rub off.

What did I miss?  How can we make these back to school days inspiring, something to look forward to?  There has to be a way for them to lose their reputation of being a waste of time.

I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

28 thoughts on “Administrators, Please Inspire at Back to School”

  1. Pernille-

    I love all you share, but this post has been my favorite. You are so right. Inspiration is key to those first few days back at school. We have plenty of time to get to the mundane, yet important, but it doesn’t have to happen during the initial days.

    Thanks for being awesome.


  2. Thanks…I have been planning our first meeting for the entire summer and now I have to start over. Awesome.
    Kidding of course…loved the post and certainly agree. As entertaining as we may think we are everyone in the room wants to be in their own area getting ready for kids. Find a way to inspire…and then get out of the way!! We have a few edcamp style days planned…optional with choices. Really looking forward to it. Thanks again for the post…really well done.

  3. Pernille – thank you for this post. As a new Principal, I’m getting into the back-to-school mindset. I will definitely be keeping these great ideas in the forefront of my thoughts.

  4. Hello,
    Thanks for the advice and lateral suggestions. I love the notion that we undertake co-creation of meaning and understanding with others in a learning organisation; burdensome management is thereby discarded and energy/ collective wisdom prevails.

  5. These are great ideas you share here Pernille!! Thanks so much for reminding administrators to think outside the box we often get stuck in and maybe don’t even realize it. Keep your positive edge and outlook and I am sure many will follow along! 🙂

  6. I love the idea of bringing in the “local” experts. Not only does it show that you have a lot of confidence in “home-grown” expertise but you also know how to show us respect, in a sense. There are a lot of good outside experts out there; however, most of the time I’ve had to endure a PD session with one I’ve found myself both wondering how much the person is making for his/her time, and how much I could have gotten done instead of sitting in that session.

    I’d also add Be Available and Be Willing to Listen. I’ve had too many years where it was clear that the principal or administrations didn’t have much of an interest in dialogue with teachers about their concerns and were more or less invisible with the exception of staff meetings. I realize you’re busy and often have meetings and work of your own and will not be offended if we have to talk later, but don’t blow me or other teachers off because it sets a really bad tone.

  7. Thanks for your insights. I’m a new administrator working on my first meeting plan and will certainly head the advice.

  8. Pernille,
    Thank you. Good stuff especially the keep it local thing and give us time. Well done and I have to tell you. I’m a grandpa, 18 years of teaching and you brought tears to my eyes with your EdmodoCon presentation. Your passion is exceeded only by your thoughtfulness. You and Rafe inspire me anew. Again, well done and congrats on #4.

  9. Now, imagine not having those meetings at all. In Ontario, we usually only have 1 staff professional development day before the kids join us. This year, we don’t have any….going to be interesting. October 11 before we have our first one this year. Totally agree with the post, and intrigued to see how e-mail’s going to work as main means of communication in first part of year.

  10. Thank you for your post. As a first year VP I appreciated you taking the time to write and share this. I am looking forward to a great day of learning from the posts on Leadership Day on the 15th.

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