1. Lorraine Evans

    Back in the bad old days when I worked in the corporate side of education I approved research in schools. One project was supposedly doing a time and motion study of how students used school spaces- allowing the reearchers access all areas. It was actually a study of 12 random students and the number of social interactions they had during a school day. The sobering results showed that around 50% of the target students had zero interactions- zilch, nada nothing. I had never forgotten reading that finding in the final paper.

    Since being back in the real world I do the walk, I am out and about and I greet every student and team member I see. Big smile, letting them know I am glad they are here or if the clouds are overhead I stop for a chat. Even if sometimes I have a once sided conversation or fill in the blanks myself – I wait until I get a response even if it's rolled yes and a smirk.
    Mother Teresa the modern epidemic is loneliness and with a school mission that aims for connected students- how do we achieve that if we don't connect everyday?

    • Scott Shaw

      Excellent post, Geoge. Thank you for sharing! I really like the notion of being invisible to the teachers in class and yet visible to the students. I have found that whether it is asking a student to help set up the microphone or having a weekly "lunch with the principal," it ALL matters. If we make face time with kids a priority and genuinely look them in eyes, share a smile, and model kindness, not only will many respond in kind, all will feel what it is like to be a necessity. And ..isn't that what they deserve? @EMS_Principal

  2. Dan

    Great post! I have always cringed when a new family comes into the building and tells their child "You don't want to go into that office, only bad kids go in there". I make it a point to welcome students and families in the morning, making appearances in classroom. Our students earn a chance to play dodge ball with me (I never hold back), tape me to wall, I've worn a red dress for Red Ribbon Week and just have fun!! In my opinion, behavioral issues decrease and it's a great feeling walking down the hall and having kids hug me and say hello! @DKauk

  3. Reagan Weeks

    As a principal who is fretting about classroom configurations, incomplete renovations and managing the mountain of start of the year paperwork in order to be ready for Wednesday (when our students arrive), this post was the perfect reminder of why I have the best job. As alluded to in the post exactly how you carry out the 6 ways of connecting is less important than the actual connecting but I will add a few that have worked for me.
    Display and celebrate student work – I frame artwork from our students and display the pieces prominently in my office. Make the newsletter more about the important work students are doing and less about fundraising and school policy, ask students how their game, recital or meet went, invite a few students a couple of times a month to eat lunch with you, give students a prominent role in assemblies and announcements and help ensure the kindergarten students are appropriately dressed for recess by zipping up jackets for students who put their mitts on first.
    The principal engaging in the lives of students and staff is contagious.

  4. Educational Aspirations

    Thank you for the post. I especially enjoyed reading # 5 on your list. I'd like to mention that teachers also benefit from the principal visiting their classrooms. It's important for students to understand that their teacher and principal are united in communicating/reinforcing similar expectations.

  5. Hey buddy – lots of powerful stuff here. As I was rearranging my office the other day, I had a thought… I DON'T want my office designed for kids. I don't want kids "sent to my office". I want my office to be a place where I can meet with adults or get tasks done when kids are gone home. Although I don't want my office to be this place where kids never get to come (kids eat lunch in there all the time – for fun), and I don't want it to be tho scary place… I want to get OUT of my office and see kids where they are.

    Last year, I rarely had a "chat" with a child in my office. chats were had on playgrounds or on walks that we took. If things are dealt with in my office, it is often too late. If there was a dispute between some kids and I came back from a walk and there were kids there, I would just tell them I'd be right back and they could discuss what happened (or I left them with a reflective question). 5 mins later they would be all smiles and then we would go for a walk together. (I realize at elem the issues are a bit more tame).

    My point is that I want to be with kids and when I am with them… I can be a teacher/coach in the moment. Reflective discussions with students happen best in places outside my office.

  6. These are great reminders of where our focus needs to be in schools as principals. I tweeted this the other day, "Don't just have an open door policy as an admin, have a get out of your office and talk to students & teachers" policy!"

    As important as it is to be in classroom, I think it is equally important to talk to students and teachers in the common areas during their "down" time. This is when you can can engage them in conversation and really understand who they are and perhaps even how the school can serve them better.

    Great post George!
    Jason (@jmarkeyAP)

  7. Love this! It mirrors my mental models of leadership in school. I like the conversations we have to have with parents who say "You don't want to end up in the Principal's Office." Hopefully our students would say my office is a place where they talk about learning, a place of safety, a place where a student's best interest is at the heart of the matter.

    I resonate with the humour point! I find our initial reactions to events are the ones that define you. Humour has that capacity to diffuse and bring people closer.

    Visibility is more than being seen it is about time with kids as well. The playing handball at break, talking about a book a child is reading or just asking children about their learning.

    Don't we have the best job in the world!


  8. Tom Whitford


    Thanks so much for reminding me of this. School hasn't started back up just yet, although I have been very busy prepping things for my staff and working on all of the other prep work that needs to be done before the kids walk in the door. It is easy at this time of year to get lost in the trance of getting everything ready, and forget what I truly enjoy about being the instructional leader of a school……the kids. Sure, I love connecting with my staff, introducing new learning to adults and sometimes even more importantly, learning from them. I can get engrossed for hours in deep conversations about educational strategies & philosophies, but there is nothing that brightens my day like a great conversation with a student, or hearing them laugh.

    I have had many students remark that I am "funny" or a "cool" principal (so I know they are not always the best judge of character) but it still makes my day to make a kid smile and to find a way to make them leave the building at 3pm with a smile on their face instead of a scowl. God we have a great job!!!


  9. Cathy Carlock Lorenz

    Thanks for the support! As a principal, I deliver a happy birthday pencil to each student on their special day during class time. I shake their hand and look them in the eye and tell them to have a great day.

  10. Yesterday I met our new kindergartners for the first time. When I introduced myself to them, I asked if they knew what the principal in a school does, and one little boy said, "When kids are bad, they go to you and you yell at them!" And I thought, I'm pretty sure I've never yelled at any of my students!! But it's sad that's how this role is perceived, and even by parents who expect the principal to be this hard-a#$d person who sits kids down, terrifies them, and lectures them about behaviors. That's what they experienced, so it must be so…
    I love hosting kids for lunch in my office, where until this year (I needed to move to a smaller space b/c one of our teachers needed the room!) I have a basketball court, putting green, and other fun stuff set up for kids to do there. We also celebrate birthdays and I give each child a birthday card that I write a little message in and birthday trinkets like pencils or other fun things.
    A lot of people who aren't in our role don't understand the importance of loving kids. That needs to be our first and foremost obligation. If we don't show our students that we care about them, no amount of "discipline" is going to make a difference. Why would a child strive to change behaviors for someone who he knows doesn't care about him? He won't.
    And there's nothing better than a hug from a little one when you're having one of those crazy, mindblowing administrative days!

  11. Christie Huff

    Wonderful post. My dad was an elementary principal and I heard him say countless times to students that principal ends in 'pal' because not 'ple' for a reason – he was there to support kids in every way he could. He was always in the halls, in the gym shooting basketballs, out on the playground – building relationships with students. I work with 36 community schools and I can see the difference between ones lead by a princi-pal almost as soon as I walk in the door. Bravo to you and to all the other principals who posted about the ways they connect with students. You're what great leadership is all about!

  12. Sally Nood

    Thanks for the affirmation of the importance of student relationships! Teachers are consistently reminded how relationships effect leaning. As administrators, building these connections just look different, as we work with students for different reasons. As a new assistant high school principal last school year, I did the morning greetings outside our front doors. It wasn't easy as most if the time I was ignored because the kids did not know me, similar treatment as the flagpole they passed on the way in the building. As the year progressed, I was able to call many by name.

    As your ideas resonant, relationship building habits do pay off. At the start of school this year, once again, I greet students as they arrive and leave. This year, my welcoming smile is bigger as many students now shout "Good morning, Mrs. Nold" or "See you tomorrow" before I've had a chance to greet them. My day starts with a little bit of sunshine as I hope my greeting gives them. The payoff is monumental in cultivating a positive school culture.

  13. […] a school leader is all about relationships. I recently read this blog post by George Couros on 6 Ways Principals Can Connect with Students and it brought me back to this core belief. I greatly appreciate this reminder as I head into a new […]

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