First week reflections.

We’ve wrapped up our first week of school, the start of my fifth year as principal at Brecknock. As a principal, you just never really know how the year will begin.

I did know a few things before students arrived on Monday:

  • that last spring and this summer my staff spent a massive amount of time becoming familiar with our new literacy program and revised language arts and math curricula, and that this learning would continue on throughout the year and then some; and I knew this was a source of anxiety for many.
  • that our administrative team, particularly the elementary principals with the leadership of our central office staff and our elementary “data man” as he is so fondly called, collaborated on a variety of initiatives and grew more cohesive as a team.
  • that the new enrollees kept coming in… to the point where we had to add an additional section of students to one of our grades at the end of the week before school began- talk about stressful for all stakeholders involved!
  • that we took a lot of time this summer to develop communication methods such as a Google sites staff handbook and hosted various common forms and resources via Google docs to help share information and ideas quickly and efficiently.
  • that the state’s new teacher effectiveness measures are going into effect next year, and the models and protocols that will be used require intensive time and efforts from teachers and administrators alike in order to truly impact teaching and learning.
  • that we have a building renovation project beginning this spring that will last about 18 months… a huge undertaking for any organization to endure.
  • that I had a “good feeling” in my gut about this year… spending time talking to staff who stopped in this summer, seeing smiles and feeling great energy despite the numerous challenges we continue to face… I just got a really positive vibe about the year ahead.

And when the students arrived, they just reconfirmed what I also already knew: We are truly blessed to work in a school with such amazing kids. (I know, I know, every principal says that.) But really, we are lucky. The school came back to life when everyone reconvened this week. My counselor and I cautiously supervised our common spaces, cafeteria and playground and I made the rounds to classrooms often, and with every glance I noticed respectful, responsible, and safe students, working cooperatively to learn with one another and their supporting adults. And lots and lots of smiles.

Today was our opening week assembly and, since our air-conditioning is on the fritz, we planned just a short whole-school gathering in our multi-purpose room. One of my favorite things to do the first week is to play principal paparazzi and snag lots of photos to share at our assembly and with parents. Together with a short Prezi, we celebrated the start of a new year.

I don’t know what the rest of the year holds, and this year, for me, I have to be willing to relinquish control of what will transpire as the year goes on after I depart for my family leave time. A leader wants to be able to say that the team carried on in his absence… that the impact made was long-lasting after he’d gone. I know many things will change, but I also have high hopes that much will remain the same. Many of the special qualities of our school were in place long before I arrived. The power truly lies in the collective positivity and dedication of those within the organization. Making kids the priority… that’s what makes great schools great.

Wishing all of you a happy and memorable school year!


4 Replies to “First week reflections.”

  1. It was nice to read this post on the day before our students arrive. I imagine our start will be similar including both the expected and unexpected. Glad to hear you’re using Google sites for a lot of communication, I’m choosing that vehicle too. Our principal and staff in Wayland, MA just endured a lengthy building process so if you’re looking for some strategies, he may be able to help–he did an amazing job managing the process. Take care.

    1. Thanks, Maureen! I hope you had a wonderful start to the year. I may take you up on the offer to chat about the building renovation process. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Totally dug this, Pal.

    And totally wish that all principals would be as transparent and reflective as you are. These kinds of posts show the human side of leaders — and showing your humanity to parents, teachers and other community stakeholders is how you build trust and momentum in an organization.

    Thanks for modeling that — and here’s to hoping that you are healthy and happy in the next few months!

    I want to see pictures posted here within 24 hours of birth, so bring your computer to the delivery room.

    ; )

    1. Hi, Bill! Wishing you a wonderful school year. These are the posts that are easy to write…just streams of reflective thought about my days as a principal.

      P.S. I have no doubt there will be all sorts of Macbooks and iPhones and iPods and digital SLRs present when Baby Hilt arrives. Although I’ve promised my family not to live tweet his birth. 🙂 Thanks as always for your support!

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