If we don’t run our day, our day will run us. If you are a school administrator or educator, then you know exactly what I mean! We must set priorities and schedule them or other things will take their place whether we like it or not. If it’s that important to us, we must put it on the calendar and stick to it!
Inspired by my #PrincipalsInAction peeps, I’ve decided to read to every class, every month during this school year. I have read to classes many times, but not this consistently or purposefully. It’s time to step up my game!
A common complaint about principals is that they don’t remember what it’s like to be a teacher – the hardships, the lack of support, the overwhelming nature of the job, etc. While I think in many cases that may be true and not true, getting into the classroom and working with students is a great reminder of the daily life of a teacher and student. Promoting reading and directly teaching our students is a great use of my principal time!
I’ve told teachers that they can go take care of work outside the classroom or take a quick break while I’m with their class. I’ve added an activity to each book that I read to further press my message to the students and work on my classroom management skills. Big shout-out to California Principal Jessica Gomez @jgomezprincipal for sharing her system for planning her read alouds! That really helped me view this differently.
In September, I met my goal reading to all of our 36 classes across the school! Admittedly I often have these grandious ideas of new things I want to try and at times (more often than not) I don’t focus on them enough. I’m so glad I’m sticking with this one!
For preschool, kindergarten, and first grades, I mostly read It’s Ok to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr. I love Todd’s use of visuals and I’ve had a poster of his book It’s Ok to Be Different in my office for years. I though this was a fitting message to our students as they started the school year, especially in the younger grade levels.
But the book that was the most fun was reading The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt to most of the school. This book is not only fun, but has a message that if you are not being challenged enough, you should keep seeking others out to challenge you and help you grow. The kids loved it and even participated in the reading. Each time a battle was announced between two characters, I had them use their best announcer voice and read it out loud together, like “scissors versus dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets!” Seeing a book highlight dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets made me chuckle and was personal to me as a parent considering how many times we’ve cooked that for our kids at home!
The most enjoyable part for the students was probably the rock, paper, scissors single-elimination class tournament. Win and you stay in, lose and you watch. The winner for the first round played me and the winner for the 2nd round played their teacher. They loved this but I was also able to teach good sportsmanship and turn-taking. Before and after playing each other, win or lose, they had to give high fives and thank the other person for playing. Check out a little compilation video of our teachers competing with their students. It was special to provide a nice moment for them by doing this.
I learned a few lessons while I was in the classrooms such as how document cameras help all students view the pages on the book better. And how I really need to remember the attention grabbers that we use so that I’m not saying, “sshh” all the time. And how I need to be prepared with materials and a solid plan for my activity, not winging it. And that we should be proud as a school community to have such great teachers and students!
It’s October now and I’ve started my next book, We’re All Wonders, by R. J. Palacio. This one has a special message that I can’t wait to share with you in another post!
It’s ok to have fun. It’s ok to enjoy our time in school. In fact, we need to make this happen more.
If you don’t feel like you are enjoying each day in your position, make sure to schedule the fun and meaningful experiences into your day and stay with your schedule. We are better as leaders when we are focused on students, grounded in the work that our teachers are doing, and spending time in classrooms. Don’t let your day run you, make sure to run your day!