Most principals are bogged down from the first second they walk into the school building until it’s time to go home. Long days lead to routines that aren’t healthy for accomplishing important tasks when we stay too focused on urgent, often unimportant school related matters. If you’re managing crisis all day long, it can be tiring and it doesn’t propel your school into a position to be successful in the future. When that happens, you’re not leading, you’re managing. In fact, you’re managing in the moment, which isn’t even good management. It can happen to all of us, leaders of any organization. For many of us, 500-1500 kids are getting off of between 10 and 30 buses every day before most people are even in their offices. That means we inherently have to be alert, and it means that we have to be purposeful with getting to the right stuff. The good news is that you can alter the trajectory of your day, and even week, away from the mundane in the most important 15 minutes of your day.
If you’re a principal, the knee-jerk routine is to be at your desk in the morning, catching up on emails and reviewing your daily schedule. Some principals even think this AM office time is a good place for an open door policy to be available for teachers as they shuffle into work. If this is your routine, the best thing that can happen is that you answer a few emails and maybe solve one teacher’s problems before the school day begins. That’s not productive, and that’s best case scenario. Most of the time, you’ll just get interrupted by unimportant early morning drivel. Instead, drop off your briefcase and head out into the halls just as soon as teachers and students are pouring in. Here’s why…
When you are in the lead position, a pep in your step is contagious. No matter how large your school may be (and we both work(ed) in very large middle and high schools), try being in every hall to see every teacher, every morning. You can do it in 15 minutes right before the first bell rings to start the instructional day, and it’s a daily routine worth having. You’ll notice people in the same places, standing in the halls to greet kids and each other. You’ll notice that others will pick up the pace when they see you racing around, and you’ll be able to spread joy at the start of the day with a smile and a nod to as many teachers and students as you can. In just 15 minutes, you can set the tone. It works.
Kick it up a notch. Whitaker and Gruenert (2015) talk about rewiring culture. They explain that Mondays can be a typically “lethargic” and demotivating day in schools. Change that with your new routine using the most important 15 minutes of your day to forge your school into a pattern of a positive start, on Mondays and then every day thereafter. Every hall, every teacher, every morning. Let them see your positive smiling face with a quick stride and a hustle. Once this is a set routine, those AM office dwellers won’t even miss you being there. They’ll know where you are, and they’ll likely want to be at their post to accept your challenge for a new week, a new day, and a new culture. Let us know what you think.