I survived my first week of school as a new assistant principal, and I’m thankful for a fresh start on Monday! Like most new jobs, this past week had its highs and lows. As assistant principal, safety and behavior are two of my chief concerns. I worked really hard before school to be proactive by leading our staff through the creation of school-wide procedures and a comprehensive behavior management plan. Already, staff members have remarked that the school seems “safer” with these new school-wide procedures. We now have common language and procedures for walking in the hallway, using the restroom, lining up in the cafeteria, and getting students’ attention. In the coming week, we will be adding procedure posters around the school that show our students demonstrating the new procedures. This will act as a visual reminder of behavior expectations in our school common areas.
Teachers also worked to create individual classroom management plans using this FREE tool. It’s not very specific, but it helps teachers build a broad framework for how they will develop their classroom cultures. For more specific questions to think about when setting up classroom procedures, your teachers and staff can download this FREE resource from Tamara Russell on Teachers Pay Teachers.
As diligent as I was in planning, there are some things that need work. Morning arrival time seems unsafe to me because students seem to be all over the school instead in a few places where they can be monitored. Part of the problem, I realize, was that I didn’t successfully communicate these new procedures to students; some of them are following old routines from last year. Over the weekend, I tweaked this plan so that students are in only two locations (gym or cafeteria) before class starts. I also developed a plan for teachers and staff to communicate these revised procedures to students.
Another issue that bothered me was the noise level at lunch. It just seemed out of control. And while we had started implementing school-wide procedures, we didn’t have students walking in perfect lines by Friday. But then I read this article by Angela Watson at the The Cornerstone for Teachers and I felt so much better. Some of my own beliefs about procedures were those that she warned against. For example, walking in a straight, quiet line is a simple task, so why do so many students struggle to comply? For the exact reason that teachers don’t comply either. When we have a chance to talk with our fellow teachers in the halls, we want to walk along side them and chat…not walk in single-file silent lines. If we, as adults, struggle to remain silent and listen attentively during a presentation, how can we expect our own students to follow these directions 100% of the time? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have rules, procedures, and high expectations, but we have to remember that these procedures are not always easy to comply with, especially for our younger audiences. And when we do respond to students who are struggling to follow our procedures, we need to do so with love, patience, and positive intent. If you have teachers that need help with this, have them check out this FREE resource from Angela Watson.
For my fellow teachers and administrators, I want to borrow some final words from a recent email from Angela Watson: “Hang in there. I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”