Building from the First Half of the Year: Focus on a Stronger School Team

Can you believe the first half of the school year has already passed? It’s now time to reflect and focus on the second half of the year. It’s time to examine all the feedback given by staff, families, and students, the data that has been collected, the relationships that have been built, and the progress that has been made, so we can plan celebrations, and make plans to continue teacher and student progress. The big question I’ve been asking myself that frames all this is:

How Do We Build a Stronger School Team?

Why is this my question? As I reflect on the first half of the school year and my role as the new assistant principal, I find myself thinking about relationships and collective learning. Many of the articles I’ve read say it takes a long time to build relationships, because you have to build trust. I have found that I can build solid relationships within the first few months of school by making a conscious effort to really get to know staff personally and professionally, while also allowing them to get to know me. When you are truly transparent and your personality and demeanor are consistent, relationships are easier to establish.

Defining Roles, Building Relationships

Your relationships with staff members will depend on how you define your role, and how that’s supported in your daily interactions. For example, I wanted the staff to know that I saw my primary role as providing support in the following ways:

  • Providing teacher-directed materials, resources, and professional learning for the classroom
  • Providing another set of eyes to look at student behavior and data
  • Discussing lesson design and implementation
  • Being a sounding board for discussions around learning and next steps

After stating this, I made sure my actions supported my words every day. When I visited classrooms, I left a sticky note thanking the teacher and highlighting a student behavior or learning I observed during my visit. This helped give teachers another set of eyes on student learning. I also helped teachers figure out what resources they needed to implement our literacy program successfully. I worked with my educational partners to provide resources when teachers expressed a need.

Today, I can tell you about each teacher’s family or friends, and about at least one of their interests. Talking each day with teachers and other staff and being visible and fully present helped to establish these relationships. It wasn’t easy, but I kept repeating a mantra I heard at a professional learning session: “People during the day and paper at night.” I found that this is key to developing relationships.

Trust, Passion, and Energy

I shared earlier in the blog that being consistent with your demeanor plays an important role in building trust and relationships. I have also been asked by other colleagues about my energy for the job. Every day I spend in the building, no matter what, I bring my passion and energy for educating all children. Even when there are 20 million other things going on, and some might be difficult to deal with. When you truly love what you are doing, it shows. I tell everyone every day how optimistic I am about the work we do. That we are changing lives for the better. The principal I work with said to me one day, Isn’t it amazing what we do every day? We have children from every background and with differing strengths and needs walking into our building, and we are fortunate because we get to try to meet their needs. In leadership, this type of positive lens helps combat burnout. I remind myself every morning that this job is about humanity.

a teacher teaching her class

The focus is on people, whether it be little people or big people. We can help nurture their strengths and help them in their areas of potential growth, but without effort there will be no growth. As I shared in my first blog, administration is the mirror for the culture established in the building. Eric Jensen says, When you are affirmed, challenged, and encouraged, you work harder.

Leadership can develop a culture that is optimistic and filled with energy and learning, or one of fear and helplessness. Through consistent communication and everyday behavior, trust will be established. When the staff trusts you, they feel optimistic and energized for the challenging work that takes place every day.

As I think about relationships and how they are built in a timely manner, I think of four things: visibility, consistency, trust, and passion. If you would like to learn more about building relationships and school community, I invite you to read the insightful articles I’ve linked to below. As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. How do you support the learning community in your school?

Being Visible Isn’t Enough

The Five R’s for Building Lifelong Relationships with Employees

Building Trusting Relationships for School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers