Beginning of the school year

The school year has begun, and that first meeting for and with parents – maybe Back to School Night, maybe some other evening event during the first week – always tells me so much about a school, the school’s leader, and the culture of that building. For example, who does most of the talking at that gathering – and about what?

I was at a school meeting once during which the principal said a few words of introduction – pabulum – and then turned it over to the office secretary, who went on for a long time about forms that families need to fill out and the schedule for the rest of the month. It was enormously deflating: First, the school leader said nothing important – no brief comment about philosophy of schooling and learning, no brief insight into the greatness that this principal expected for the coming year, no big picture idea that I think school leaders need to share with their constituents, right from the start. Then, the parents were pummeled into “filling-out-the-right-form” submission, as if that school is not about teaching and learning but really about innumerable forms. It was depressing and told me a lot about that school and what was in store for those parents and kids.

So, make sure that your hand goes up at that meeting and that you ask the principal, if he or she needs to be asked, Can you say a few words about what you hold most important in school – and how that gets communicated to your staff and is reflected day-to-day? Or maybe, Due dates and forms are important, yes, but give us some sense of this school’s forest, before we concentrate on its trees?

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