10 Things Great School Leaders Do To Start The School Year Off Strong!
For many school leaders, the summer months provide some much needed time for rest and catching up. As the start of the new academic school year approaches, it is important to start getting organized so that you can feel prepared for everything the year will bring.
We've put together a list of 10 things successful school leaders do before the first day of school. Each one is important and will help you kick off your year with a strong start!
1. Take Sufficient Time To Rest And Disconnect
This one is the most important (hence why we placed it at number one). You cannot help others and be at your best unless you are feeling rested and energized. Taking time to rest and disconnect from work allows you to approach things calmly, logically, and with efficiency. If you feel stressed, exhausted, and burnt out, you will be functioning in survival mode. Many school leaders have felt this way before because so much falls on them, so it is important to use this time of the year to focus on yourself.
Don't be afraid to turn your "out of office" responses on in the summer and take some much deserved time to do things that you enjoy. Some great ways to help you rest and disconnect are:
- Take outdoor walks or exercise
- Make time for a hobby that you enjoy
- Spend time with friends and family
- Travel if possible, or enjoy a local change of scenery
- Treat yourself to a massage or some pampering
When you feel well rested, you will feel ready to take on anything!
2. Check In With Your Staff
A great school leader always makes sure they have taken the time to check in with each and every staff member. This is a great time for a catch-up, but it is also a great time to see how everyone feels about the new year. Are they feeling stressed? excited? anxious? Do they need some support?
You can create a welcome back packet for each member of staff. Give them a little "goodie bag" full of essentials all teachers need throughout the school year, such as some cleaning wipes, hand sanitizers, snack bars, a journal, post-it notes, etc. Also, hand them an updated employee handbook and information on anything else they need to know about the upcoming year.
Checking in with staff creates a healthy workspace culture. It's ideal to have a workplace where staff members feel that they can come to you for support when they need it. Making sure you meet with everyone really helps keep great relationships in the workplace and gives you an idea as to where everyone stands.
3. Set Up Some Pockets Of Peace To Help Throughout The Year
Successful school leaders know that once the school year picks up, things can get pretty hectic pretty fast. This is where pockets of peace come in handy! Pockets of peace are small moments in the day where one can breathe, find some joy, and feel a sense of calm. They can be little things like having a cup of coffee, enjoying a snack, or journaling.
Figure out a few pockets of peace that work for you. Everyone is different, so think about what would help you feel joy. If you don't know where to start, here are some suggestions:
- Include some things that bring you joy in your office: plants, decor items, some fun accessories
- Have a drawer with treats: your favorite tea bags, snacks, etc.
- Get an oil diffuser for your office and have a few essential oils ready for when you need some calmness or energy
- On the weeks you have a board meeting, schedule a massage or something you enjoy so you can have something to look forward to
- Give yourself an "out of office" hour occasionally. This can be a time when you are not available for questions. Use this time to catch up on tasks that need to be done. You need uninterrupted work cycles too!
It's good to take the time and organize a few of these moments of joy to get you through the year. It is important to prioritize your mental health and take steps to avoid burnout.
4. Update EVERYTHING
This one is going to be time-consuming, but it is important to go through all of your operations and checklists before the first day of school. Making sure everything is up to date makes your school look professional. It also helps to save you time throughout the busy school year. Here are a few things you should make sure are fully updated by the time school starts up again:
- Your school website
- Academic Calendar
- Parent and staff handbooks
- Newsletter templates
- School and office supplies
- Social media platforms and school announcements
- Licensing requirements
These are all great places to start, but you could certainly go above and beyond to make sure everything is in order. Assuring an orderly start to the year will save you time and energy in the long run!
5. Find A Space For Community Support
Burnout is something that almost every school leader has experienced... even the most successful ones! It can be difficult wearing so many hats at once, balancing families, children, staff, your board, and so much more. Make sure you join communities that can be there to support you. No one has all the answers, but when working with a larger community, you can access a wealth of information from people at every experience level. Don't be alone at the top; here are a few ways you can find your school leadership community:
- Join a Facebook group specifically for Montessori school leaders (there are many). Join our Thrive group today!
- Join our weekly town halls. These are free Zoom calls that take place every Thursday from September to June. Each week we have a new school leadership topic.
- If you are an AMI or AMS member, join their forums and online events
- Check out Montessori Thrive, a collection of school resources and a private leadership forum
- Find a Montessori consultant to talk to and go to for questions
A great leader knows when to ask for help, so don't be afraid to reach out to other Montessori leaders. The great thing about Montessorians, they are kind, generous, and willing to help!
6. Prepare For The Worst Case Scenarios
If you were a school leader throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, then you know what it feels like not to know what comes next. It can never hurt to have plans in place to help when difficulties out of your control can strike.
Having contingency plans can help you feel more at ease. A few things you can do to help with this are:
- Have a lawyer that you can consult with
- Make sure all of your contracts are binding and up to date
- Have a list of local companies that you can contact when you need repairs
- Have a consultant you can call up when important and timely questions arise
7. Set Intentions And Measurable Goals
A great leader sets good intentions and measurable goals for the year to come. Everyone will have different goals, but it is important to make them measurable so that you can have a realistic way to reach them.
It's great to set these for yourself, but it's even better to get all of your staff involved. You can set school-wide goals, professional development goals, and personal goals. This allows you to check in with yourself and make sure there are things that you can achieve and celebrate.
You can also share your successes with groups and leadership communities. It's great to share your stories and experiences with others in the Montessori space.
8. Make Time For Professional And Personal Improvement
Professional and personal improvement happen throughout the year. Take some time to look at your calendar and block out some time for leadership courses, classes you'd like to take, and time to do things that will help you feel more fulfilled in your career and personal life.
If these things are on your calendar, you can look forward to new experiences where you will learn valuable information and take time to better yourself as a leader and as an individual.
9. Simplify What Can Be Simplified
It's okay to take some steps to make your life a bit easier! Doing everything manually is time-consuming and stressful. You could be using that time to connect with the families in your community, and to rest and recharge.
Montessorians are not always known for being "tech savvy," but using automation can make things much easier.
Here are a few things you can do to simplify your life as a school leader:
- Use a CRM (client relationship manager) to automate tour scheduling, parent communication, and marketing
- Revise your operations
- Consider classroom management tools (there are many apps and platforms available)
- Find services that can help you with your workload (whether it's to help with your marketing, finances, or fundraising)
10. Celebrate The "Welcome Back" Process
The start of a new school year should be an exciting process. Great leaders know this is an opportunity for team building and setting the tone for a great year ahead. You don't have to do something big, but it's great to have a way to welcome back your staff.
Here are some ideas to celebrate the start of the academic year and show gratitude for your staff:
- Have free breakfast and coffee on the first day of school
- Invite your staff to a complimentary lunch when they are setting up their classrooms
- Invite your staff to a meal at a restaurant before the school year begins
- Offer them welcome back packets (Information, handbook, goodies, treats, and anything else you'd like to include)
- Host a fun team-building activity: pottery painting, hiking, a cooking class. This can help set a great tone for the year and build connections
Ultimately, you'll know what's best for your school community, but we think a welcome gesture can't hurt!
We hope you have a great start to the new school year! If you have any questions, comments, or tips you'd like to add, comment below!