Friday, July 31, 2015

The Principal's First 20 Days

How you start the race has a huge impact on how you finish the race. If you're mentally and physically prepared, chances are that you'll finish strong. Show up unprepared, and you'll probably finish last, if you finish at all.

Harry Wong developed the first 20 days to help teachers establish a learning environment for kids that was structured, disciplined and most importantly conducive to learning. The first 20 days are important as they are the foundation for the next 160 days. What teachers do or don't do to establish an engaging and ultimately empowering environment will set the stage for success or failure.   

But what about principals?  What must principals do to create a the same culture for learning in those first 20 days?  After all, what they do will set teachers up for success or failure. They can either make or break the campus as a whole. 

Here's how excellent principals make the first 20 days of school rock. 

In the first 20 days, a principal's ability to communicate solidifies expectations for learning. By continuously communicating a vision of high expectations with a viable plan to reach them, principals establish an environment of excellence, and if they continue communicating in the same fashion the rest of the year, there's a strong chance that kids and teachers will exceed those expectations. 

If you want teachers to grow this year, then they must have time to learn with and from one another. Collaborative time must be provided within the school day at least once per week in order to ensure that teacher learning can occur. If you can make time for an assembly or even a pep rally, you can ensure that there's time for teachers to collaborate during their contracted day.  Remember, everyone learns more in collaboration than they do in isolation.

Expectations vary from teacher to teacher and from grade to grade; therefore, principals must work diligently with all teachers in the first 20 days to calibrate their expectations of students, how they respond when students meet expectations, and how they redirect kids when expectations are not being met. By guiding teachers to calibrate their expectations for kids, they establish and promote a more consistent learning environment in every classroom. 

The first 20 days of school is hard because it takes lots of work to set the tone for the year. Principals must ensure that they make time daily to celebrate teachers, staff, students, and parents for their work in making the first 20 days a success. By celebrating people and their efforts, principals actually reinforce the behaviors and actions that they want to see for the remaining 160 days. Remember, what gets celebrated gets accelerated. 

20 Days of Excellence
A house built on sand will never stand, but a house on a rock solid foundation will endure any storm that develops.  The first 20 days are the foundation, and when solidified with communication, collaboration, consistency and celebration, principals create the ultimate house for learning that will lead all kids and all teachers to excellence.