Top Ten Survivor Tips For Back to School

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It’s time to go back to school!  Some of you have a few weeks until the first day.  Some of you have a few days.  Some of you are already welcoming staff and students.  Are you starting to get that feeling of panic?  Are you dreaming about your to do list?  Do you have those butterflies in your stomach, excited about the start of a fresh, new school year?  Grab your gear, think about your strategy, get excited about your team, and check out these tips to help you not just survive the start, but thrive, and launch an amazing year!

Finding Alliances
As the leader in your building it is important to establish relationships with your staff. Some of your biggest alliances during the school year are going to be your secretary, nurse, custodian, counselor, and parent organization leaders.  These individuals are the heartbeat of the school and have a great pulse on the school’s climate, work to establish and maintain open communication.

One of the best tools I (Kelley) have as a principal is a group of like-minded individuals who I call my tribe. As a principal, we often feel like we are alone on the island. Because I (Claire) was on that island, I felt like I was falling behind, and not keeping up with the Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.31.51 AMever-changing education system. Getting off that island will springboard you to amazing things. It’s imperative to find other administrators who understand your vision and can help support you as you strive to improve your school. Whether it’s a Voxer group, a hashtag like #principalsinaction or #momsasprincipals – find your tribe!  You deserve to be supported, pushed, encouraged, and even questioned. Find educators and leaders like yourself by whatever means necessary – Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, or even a phone call! Don’t become the castaway surrounded with only yourself as a sounding board.

First Impressions
You’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”  Remember every interaction is an opportunity to leave a great first impression.  Invest time in building and developing relationships with all stakeholders.  Get to know your teachers and support staff. I (Melissa) send all staff members a hand-written card or give them a call before school begins to tell them how excited you are to welcome them back for a great school year. Greet all visitors who come to your school office (no matter how busy you may be). Be present at arrival and dismissal to make those impressions for students and families. Show appreciation for your hardworking custodial staff who put countless time in to get the building ready for the start of a new year.  How are you “onboarding” your new staff? How will you make returning staff feel just as special and excited to embark on the coming school year? This will definitely set the tone for your school. How you treat others and present yourself matters. Your interactions with others will become a huge part of your brand.

Chopping Block

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.31.58 AMIt’s vital that you give yourself permission to say, “No,” and recognize that you can’t do it all by yourself.  There is nothing wrong with needing help with the never-ending chores at home as the laundry, cleaning, dishes, and errands never seem to end!  I (Tracey) decided to hire someone to come in and clean my house once a week and I can honestly say that it is worth every penny.  I now do not spend every weekend mopping floors and vacuuming, and more importantly, I have more time to spend with my daughters and husband!  And the same goes for the never-ending to do list at school.  Don’t forget to delegate, and recognize that you can’t run the school all by yourself.

Amongst your closest companions, it is important that you allow yourself time to vent. My (Lindsy’s) personal rule is 3 minutes. Talk about it for 3 minutes and move on. Keep in mind that it is perfectly fine to vent; it is healthy, as long as you move on.  In the school system, we often encounter decisions and initiatives that are simply out of your control.  Allow yourself a small amount of time to be frustrated (You’re human, remember?), but don’t let it hamper your ability to interact positively with a staff member, student, or parent.

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You are never exempt from criticism, and there are always observers. Create a place to tell your school’s story so someone doesn’t create stories to tell. Twitter, Instagram, or
Facebook…pick your immunity idol. These social media avenues will help in sharing your school’s story.

Below are links to how we share our school’s’ story:

Washington Elementary

Florence Roche Elementary
@FloRoElem #gdrsdchat

Mary Williams Elementary
@The_Colons #mwcubs

Wilson Elementary
@WilsonTallen #allrams

Graber Elementary

John F. Kennedy Elementary
@kennedyschool81 on Instagram
@SPKennedy81 on Twitter

East Elementary School


It’s important to plan for how you are going to spread your school motto throughout your Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.32.13 AMbuilding and into the community.  Sometimes this means you need to think of getting school swag.  Maybe it means that you have staff shirts with an inspirational slogan.  Or maybe you have school bumper stickers, magnets, posters, water bottles, notepads.  Make your motto visible, wear it with pride, and get creative about sharing it with the world!

As you start the school year, you need to think about how you will bring your staff together.  You have grade level teams, specialists, support staff, all kinds of groups.  I (Liz) approach my back to school staff meeting as a pep rally.  You need to bring everyone together, both physically and emotionally.  We need to come together as a united team, ready to do what is best for kids!  You also have parents and community members that may be starting the year on all different teams.  As the leader, you need to think of how to bring everyone together; get everyone on the bus and moving forward with you!

What lights you up?  Lead with passion.  Use your excitement to help others make things better for kids. Your energy is contagious, will you use it to spread fire or extinguish it?  Shine a light on doing what is best for kids.

Moving forward we challenge you to think about…

  • How will you not become a castaway this year? How are you going to connect with other like-minded educators?
  • What are you going to put on your chopping block for the upcoming school year? Make it something that will maximize your time with family for streamline your workflow at school.
  • Reflect on your torch for this upcoming school year. What ignites your passion? How are you going to push the status quo and move beyond your comfort level?
  • What is one thing you will do to find others who understand your vision and can help support you as you strive to improve your school?
Special thanks to the Award Winning CBS show Survivor for providing the MomsAsPrincipals group with inspiration in order to share with others who are getting ready to thrive, not just survive, during this school year.

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