A principal’s job is endless. School holidays are no exception. The winter break typically occurs in the middle of the school year. This is the perfect time to make some adjustments and improvements that will be beneficial for the remainder of the year. While you likely cannot initiate major changes, there are several little things that a principal can do over the winter break that will make a positive impact on the remainder of the year.
Before the Winter Break
- Meet with teachers individually before the break. Meeting with your teachers individually is always very beneficial. It allows you an opportunity to get valuable insight into how their school year is going, what is working for them, and it gives them an avenue to express any concerns that they may have. It also gives you a chance to offer suggestions and encouragement that they can apply in the second half of the year. This can be particularly valuable to first year teachers who are still trying to get their feet under themselves. Many teacher evaluations will be conducted in the second half of the year, so these meetings can provide an informal opportunity to go over areas where improvement is needed, which gives them time to improve before the formal evaluation occurs.
- Contact parents of struggling students. It is essential that you effectively communicate with all parents, but especially with those of struggling students. Continuously updating them on their child’s progress has many benefits. Primarily it does not allow those parents to have the excuse that didn’t know their child was struggling. Furthermore, it shows that you genuinely care and that you want what is best for that student. It also gives you a chance to evaluate strategies that were used for that student in the first half of the year. As a team you can determine what worked, what did not, and make adjustments accordingly. This approach will hopefully lead to increased academic growth for the student over the course of the remainder of the year.
- Analyze student data trends. It is always interesting to look at student data in the middle of the school year. Student discipline reports and student attendance reports are two forms of data that can prove to be interesting. Student discipline reports are especially useful in that they can tell which teacher is referring the most students, which students are repeat offenders, where the majority of discipline problems are occurring, and what types of problems are showing up the most. You can make many adjustments based off these trends that will ultimately make your job easier. Comparing beginning and middle of the year benchmark scores is very useful as well. It gives you an overall feel of how effective your teachers are. If you have two third classes and one teacher has 22/25 students improve and the other teacher only has 11/25 students improve, then you know you need to pay more attention to the latter in the second half of the year to determine why there is such a vast difference.
During the Winter Break
- Get some rest. By the time this break arrives, you are most likely more than ready for some time off both physically and mentally. Being a school principal can take its toll. Use any time you get off to rest and relax. Find some time to do things that you enjoy and that will allow you to totally get your mind off your job. It is essential that you come back refreshed and refocused for the remainder of the school year. As the educational leader in your building this is essential. This is a stressful job, so use the little time you have off to your advantage and re-energize during this time.
- Plan for the remainder of the year. It is important that you are organized and prepared. Put together a check list of all the things occurring on the school calendar for the remainder of the year. Prioritize those things on the check list and be as detailed as possible in your preparation for handling them. There are always surprises, so being prepared for the routine things, will make it less stressful on you when a surprise situation occurs. Decide what changes and adjustments need to be made according to your student data and notes taken over the course of the first half of the year and create a plan to remedy those situations.
After the Winter Break
- Meet with superintendent. After you have completed all the previously mentioned things, it is important to apprise your superintendent of the changes you plan to make the remainder of the school year. Having a great working relationship with your superintendent will make your job so much easier. Keeping them up-to-date on happenings in your building throughout the year and seeking their advice on truly difficult decisions will make that relationship better.
- Meet with teachers as a group immediately after the break. Have a faculty meeting immediately after your return from the holidays. Explain the student data trends to your teachers as well as your approach to deal with the negative trends. Go over the schedule for the remainder of the year emphasizing the important dates and events. Share your goals and expectations for the remainder of the year.
- Meet with students as a group immediately after the break. Students have a hard time getting back into the flow of school after being out for a few weeks. Have an assembly and go over any changes that you put into effect for the remainder of the year. Remind them of the school’s academic goals and important student handbook policies. Share concerns that you had from the first part of the year, but don’t be afraid to praise them for their successes either.