Old School – In the Weeds

Published on: Author: sharonbr

The best job I ever had was as a principal.  Yes, there were lots of days when I was frustrated and overwhelmed, but most days were extremely rewarding.  Some days I had to go looking for that rewarding feeling.  A visit to kindergarten or a master teacher’s classroom always made the worst day go away.  There is nothing like a kindergartner telling you how beautiful you are, even when you forgot to comb your hair or seeing a struggling reader see success.  So how did I sustain my love of the job while putting out fires, being bombarded with discipline issues, district, state and national mandates while improving student achievement and looking out for the whole child? Here were my five must do’s:

  1. Start fresh every day. Forget the injustices from the day before.  Forget about the parent who cussed you out, the kid who refused to do their work, the teacher who filed a grievance, the custodian who thinks you expect too much, and the ongoing list of events that make you wonder why you are a principal.
  2. Visit every classroom every day to make connections with teachers and students. Relationships are key to running a successful school.  Visiting every classroom also enhances your ability to understand the scope and sequence of the curriculum.  High visibility also allows you to speak honesty to parents about what is occurring in classrooms because you see it every day.
  3. Remind teachers and staff that they are the key to school culture and achievement. If they don’t believe it can happen, chances are it won’t.  If they don’t want to be there, chances are neither do the kids.
  4. Create a sense of urgency. Make everything seem a priority from getting to class on time, to making every minute of the day count.
  5. Advocate for the school. No one can tell your story like you can. If you promote your school, when bad press occurs you have countless positives.
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Sharon Brittingham has 47 years of Delaware public education experience including 24 as a middle school language arts teacher and ten as an elementary principal. Both her elementary and middle schools were National Blue Ribbon Schools. Sharon has an extensive background in special education, gifted education and literacy. In addition, she has years of successful leadership coaching and professional development. Sharon has presented at national and state conferences as well as trained educators in Maryland, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tobago. EdTrust (It’s Being Done, Karin Chenoworth) and PD360 (Schools that Succeed video series) recognize the work Sharon did in turning around her elementary school. Sharon continues to work in schools, coach teachers and administrators and teach courses at the graduate and undergraduate level.