“A principal’s job is designed for distraction,” says Newark (NJ) school leader and author Paul Bambrick-Santoyo in this helpful Kappan article. “Every day brings unpredictable crises and situations that feel incredibly urgent.” In addition, principals are social creatures and it’s hard for them to say no to someone making an in-person request. How can school leaders maximize their value-added work – observing classrooms and interacting with colleagues on curriculum, assessment, and instruction? Here are Bambrick-Santoyo’s suggestions:
• Schedule a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with each teacher. These brief check-in meetings are for discussing classroom observations, curriculum plans, assessment results, and anything else that needs attention. Knowing that you’re going to sit down with teachers on a regular basis provides a powerful incentive to get into their classrooms and crystallize your suggestions and commendations. It also makes it easier to say no to over-the-transom requests. [In his book, Leverage Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2012), Bambrick-Santoyo suggests that each school-based administrator supervise no more than 15 teachers and make short, unannounced visits to each teacher each week, providing much of the substance for each teacher’s weekly check-in meeting. If the ratio is over 15 for an administrator, the frequency of classroom visits and check-in meetings should be every other week.]
• Save non-emergency requests for check-in meetings. Principals naturally want to be accessible to colleagues, students, and parents, but an open-door policy inevitably means that time is nibbled away by an unending stream of random “Got a minute?” conversations each day. By asking staff members to hold non-urgent questions for their regular check-in time, principals build a “screen door” that eliminates many of each day’s time-consuming interruptions. In addition, many concerns that seem compelling at the time end up getting resolved without the principal’s intervention.
• Delegate. Teachers, vendors, parents, and others generally want to talk to the principal, but that’s not always essential or efficient. Questions about school lunches should be directed to an administrative assistant, questions about the boiler to the chief custodian, and so on.
“Take Back Your Time” by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo in Phi Delta Kappan, October 2012 (Vol. 94, #2, p. 70-71), www.kappanmagazine.org