A Strong Start to 2018

December 2017, Volume 41, Issue 4

Even though the calendar year is coming to a close in December, for principals the school year isn’t even half-way finished. There’s a whole host of work on the horizon, whether it be testing season or refining approaches to school improvement plans. So we decided to ask principals: How do you prepare for a strong start to the second half of the school year after returning from winter break? Here’s what some of them had to say:

Word of the Year
“The Holiday break brings a great opportunity to refocus and reflect on the first half of the year. Something that I personally do is select a word that will guide my year. I use this word in everything I do. It keeps me focused and reenergized. I also take a look at student data and discuss with the staff strategies that can helps us remain aligned, making sure students continue to grow. As the leader of the school, I make it a priority to make sure I keep the staff engaged and excited about the final round; making every minute count.”

—Lynmara Colon, Mary Williams Elementary, Dumfries, Virginia

Start With the Staff
“One tip for starting the new year is to make sure that as school leaders we’re thinking about starting strong with adults as well as kids. This year, we have a staff meeting the morning of our first day back from break. As a school that has adopted Responsive Classroom, we’ll use time in this meeting to have a staff morning meeting as well as revisit our ‘Hopes and Dreams’ that we wrote in August before the school year started. Jumping into the first day back in this way provides a model for teachers of how they can start their first day back with kids, and builds in time for staff collaboration and community building before the kids walk in the door.”

Jen Thomas, Hearst Elementary, Washington, D.C.


Focus on Why
“I think the best thing you can do as a school administrator is bring the spotlight and the focus back to why it is we do what we do. We show up every day to not only give kids the best education possible, but to love them, support them, be present for them, and provide them with a space where they can grow, be challenged, and know that we will always have their back. Our kids deserve nothing less and we have to remember that.”

—Todd Nesloney, John C. Webb Elementary, Navasota, Texas

Dive Into Data
The start of a new calendar year can provide an opportunity to reboot the school year as well. We come back into the new year reviewing our PBIS expectations in each school environment as a way to remember how we can learn in all areas of our school. January is also a great time to review academic growth of students by looking at common formative assessments, benchmarking data and celebrating milestones and look forward to goals for the end of the year.

—Jessica Cabeen, Woodson Kingergarten Center, Austin, Minnesota

Reflect, Relax, & Recharge
“Tis the season for reflection, reading and relaxation. Coming back from winter break means everyone gets a fresh start to hit the ground running again. The winter break rituals that help me prepare for a strong start back include:

  • Reflecting on how the first half of the year has gone. What worked well, were did the challenges fall and what still needs to be accomplished before the school year ends?
  • Reading an inspirational and motivating professional book is key.
  • Giving staff time to recharge. No text or emails that need their attention.
  • Taking time to relax. It is almost impossible to come back strong when you have not recharged.”

—Jennifer Truitt-Lewis, Colonel Johnston Elementary, Fort Huachuca, Arizona

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