Presenters Challenge Principals to Build Strong Relationships

By Kimberlyn Pratesi

As I attended Thursday’s conference sessions, a general theme resonated: relationships, relationships, relationships.

School leaders face a host of rapid changes these days, such as implementation of new curricula and teacher evaluation systems. In their sessions, each conference presenter offered practical strategies and structures to face some of these challenges. Without strong relationships, they stressed, results will fall short.

So, what does it mean to build relationships? From my perspective, it encompasses getting to know students, staff, and parents through intentional outreach. It means demonstrating care and compassion for others. It’s about broadening perspective through active listening. It means modeling commitment to people so that actions match words.

As we left sessions, presenters challenged us to select one or two things that we would do differently in building relationships. Here are some practical highlights that I heard in attendees’ reflections:

  • Make positive phone calls home to share praises for students.
  • Be accessible to the community by offering flexible times to meet with parents who work or have childcare needs.
  • Write a handwritten note of appreciation to every staff member (including custodians, cafeteria workers, and paraprofessionals) for a job well done.
  • Celebrate risk-taking even if results are not successful
  • Be mindful of language and how it demonstrates what you value (i.e., referring to children as “at promise” rather than “at risk;” referencing “our” school rather than “my” school; and taking pride in being “data-informed” rather than “data-driven”).

Although these ideas may seem simple, I found them powerful. This list serves as a helpful reminder that although we face many demands with expectations and timelines, it’s the little things that we do for others that will make the greatest difference for our students.

Maryland principal Kimberlyn Pratesi, a longtime member of NAESP and Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, is blogging from the NAESP Annual Conference in Baltimore. See more conference updates at Conference News Online

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