As I enter my eleventh year as an elementary principal in a Title I school, I have learned to prioritize three things to successfully begin a new school year. Even when working during the summer, there always seems to be so much to do, yet so little time. For me, my back-to-school list includes the following.
1. Connecting With Families
Every year, I have attempted to increase my engagement with our families throughout the summer up until the first day of school. This ranges from visiting and reading at our local library to engaging the school community with an ice cream social or checking in on students by texting their adult family members. We have also begun sending letters to all students who will be new to our school from “their principal” where I share with our students information about the school and myself. We also send “good luck” letters, signed by all staff, to our outgoing fifth grade students prior to their first day of middle school. Although these students are no longer part of our school community, they played an important role and will always be South Side alumni!
I have learned that the best relationships are crafted in the most genuine ways, and connecting with families during the summer months goes farther than simply seeing students and their families on our first day of school. These informal interactions allow me to build new and stronger relationships in much smaller and informal settings. This year, I began texting families before the school year begins—mostly for positive reasons—as a way to engage families with their children and their learning. I was surprised how receptive our families were when it came to communicating via text (utilizing my district cellphone) as it offered an additional way to communicate. The appreciation many families shared for this quick update is well worth the investment for any educator!