As I make the move into my first principalship, I asked all the primary teachers and the secretary at my current school for key pieces of advice that I should keep in mind at my new job. Having never taught primary, but understanding how important these years are, I thought it would be very valuable to have one page of advice to post front and center above my desk. Then, each day, I would always have this advice in front of me. I thought it would be a good start. These 5 people represent over 100 years of teaching experience, a goldmine of ideas should one choose to listen.
After compiling these ideas, I thought it might be interesting for others to see them, and perhaps it might help you too. So, here they are, my key points to remember:
Kindergarten teacher #1
- Put in an appearance every day
- Full time TA starts here in the fall, and stays until the K teacher says it’s good.
- Set up a recycling spot for gathering useful resources the entire school could use.
- Find the $ for field trips. These really motivate primary kids
- Connect with the families through a variety of activities such as corn roasts, dances, activities, family nights.
Kindergarten teacher #2
- Use your instincts as a dad (show your empathy and compassion)
- Find a way to solve the problem (let everyone know you’ve got their back)
- Understand your teachers and treat them as they need. They aren’t all the same, don’t treat them the same. Personalize.
- Show your teachers and parents you have a balanced life too.
- Teachers’ time is precious. If they don’t need to be involved, consulted, or advised, just do it yourself and inform them of your decision .
- Make your instructions clear. Communicate.
- Have a back and forth communication file with papers to sign, letters to type, items that need to be dealt with. Do everything in the file in a timely manner.
- Budget, don’t assume
- Sort and sift the email, don’t just forward everything
- Listen to all the staff, and act in a way that shows you listened.
- Validate the kids by going on their fieldtrips, listening to them and being friendly
- Buy good pencils
- Understand you can’t fix everyone
- Recognize the time needed for primary assessments and find a way to help with this big task.
- At the start of the year, ask teachers when are the times of year they need extra help. Spell them off when they need it. Remember, it’s not in a teacher’s nature to ask.
- Listen to the teachers when they come for help, and ask how they’d like me to help them. Then do it.
- Spend time with kids every day, and get to know them
- Early intervention is key (before grade 3)
- Ask kids questions, and listen. Have their ideas show up in what you do.
- Discipline can be very effective with primary kids (has a big effect)
- Deal with discipline problems in a way the teachers are comfortable with .
- Make it clear to primary kids a trip to the office is bad