Back to “Home”

trouble

This month our elementary school welcomed a new principal. As with the changing of any leader (be it in business, sports or school), there is always that level of uncertainty. Some questions I heard during this time…will they change everything? Will they see our school for what it really is…beyond the test scores? Will they welcome families and the community in the same way? Or, as my children put it…will they be nice?

Starting over with a new principal feels much like when my game piece, that was over half way around the board, is sent back home while playing the game Trouble with my youngest this week. You are back to first working to get that 6, and then turn by turn, making your way back around the board to not only get to where you were before you were sent home…but beyond that and to the finish line (although in the school relationship, there is no finish line…it’s ongoing).

So, with a new face, comes our group’s responsibility to go back to square one (or “home”) to build that relationship and trust. Much like we do when welcoming new families, through a warm welcome; the sharing of important/key information; and the getting to know what skills and/or assets they bring to our school (everyone has something), we must do with our new principal. The trust piece simply will be earned over time and through various ways including respect, each of us following through on the promises we make, and always doing what’s best for the school and kids and not for one’s self.

If we are truly to work together as a team, before too much time passed, it was important to discuss expectations and communication. These are not givens. Without having this conversation, there is no way one can accurately assume what the other expects and how they best communicate. (I gave our new principal a week I think before requesting that we sit down and go over these). As much as I would have loved to let him get settled a bit more, we have a busy Jan coming up.

So what were some key pieces we talked about?

  • Expectations:
    • What we as the parent group and as parents need from him as the principal
      • I have created a Google doc to list these things…not because the needs are endless…but because sometimes it is those little things that you don’t give much thought to…until they aren’t done or are missing.
    • What does he, the principal expect of us
      • Not only does he not know us, but he may have a different idea of how things should be implemented; asking his preference is the only way to know. In our case, it is different from what/how we did things before. Neither way is good or bad, right or wrong…just different.
      • Not a conversation I have had yet given the newness to the position – but once he gets settled, I will ask him the same question I asked our middle school principal when I first met with him…what role does he see parents and the parent group playing in the school?
        • This is one that I feel isn’t set in stone. The answer doesn’t define how parents are involved…but it does tell you where your starting point is. From there you can push the thinking if needed.
  • Communication:
    • Frequency: On a schedule or as needed (at our elementary school, I find it is needed almost weekly…middle school is far less)
    • Method: not only how they prefer to communicate (email, collaborative Google doc, face-to-face meetings), but what works best (are they always in their office, at a computer, or constantly on the go with or without access to technology?)
      • With our last elementary principal, we played with a variety when we found that emails were NOT the most effective. They got lost in other emails (going unanswered) and at busier times of the year, filling an inbox with dozens of emails each week.
    • Finding the balance of what works for all
      • Without reliable means to effectively communicate – even the greatest of plans will have its limits of success
      • It is also ever-changing. What works in week 1 may not be what works in 6 months. It needs to be evaluated regularly.
  • Successes and Shortcomings:
    • In this conversation we touched on what our school is doing well and how those pieces have made our school community what it is (or isn’t).
      • I say touch because I (as much as I try), as one person, from one lens, cannot accurately sum up all of our strengths and weaknesses. I think for him to get an accurate picture, it will take getting feedback from say our ESL families, our families with children in learning support or the gifted program, families from various economic circles, AND our teachers.
    • We do many great things, and want to preserve what we do well and what makes our school so special – but it is equally important to be candid about our shortcomings and maintain an open mind to new ideas so that we can continue to become a better place by the day for our children.

Our principal is still very new…and I know that although it is smooth going to start, as we dig deeper into tackling tasks, we will have our differences, and pieces may end up back at the start. But, with patience, an open mind, respect for one another and continuing to remember our kids are the why; I can go on believing that we will soon reach that second half of the game board again.

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About Gwen Pescatore

Mom of 3 ~ #PTchat co-moderator ~ @Edutopia community facilitator ~ @MomCorps Marketing Mgr ~ #ParentCamp ~ Co-host of ParentED at http://goo.gl/lS1xDu View all posts by Gwen Pescatore

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