Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Ways to Welcome Back Staff and Students: Tips for Principals/Lead Learners

I love being a classroom teacher. I work hard at it, and I know that I am competent and do my best on a daily basis. I feel at home in a classroom.

Now, I am stepping outside of my comfort zone. I am going to be stepping into a role of Acting Vice-Principal in the fall. Call it a test-run if you will.

It will be all new to me, and I am really not sure where to start.

So I turned to Twitter.

The #IAedchat caught my eye, as the evening's topic was "Ways to Welcome Back Staff and Students".  I figured that tips from experts would be a great way to get myself started.

In order to consolidate my learning from the chat, I have selected 10 of the many tips that I learned, and reflected on them.

And so, in no particular order, here they are:

1.   K @Teach4SpclNeeds shared her plan to make a welcome back video for the whole school with photos of staff and positive messages.  Ok, how fun is that. Here is an amazing example with a staff All-Star Draft and Press Conference video. And what a great way to practice using a green screen, video apps and software, and special effects.

2.   Tara @TaraNotz is going to have student-led announcements for the school and parents through Google Hangouts.  What a fantastic idea. This will go beyond the faceless voice for announcements; props, costumes, student artifacts, these can all be included in announcements.

3.   Joel @joelped33 suggested making sure that parents hear good news before they hear bad.  Choose some of your students who struggle most and call their parents with positive news before anything negative has happened. All teachers should be encouraged to do this.  It really is incredible currency, and builds relationships with families.

4.   Josh @JoshNGriffith is going to use Vine videos to show snapshots of learning throughout the school. I can't wait to try out this idea.  Last year I racked my brain to try and figure out a way to incorporate vine into my classroom. I guess I had better start practicing my "vine-ing" before back-to-school.

5.   Dr. Greg Goins @wfsuper remarked that Smore is a great tool for e-newsletters, with video-embed options.  I had no idea what Smore was (other than something we have been eating way too many of this summer around the campfire!) so of course, I googled it. Turns out it creates beautiful graphic newsletters. I used Piktochart last year, which is more of an infographic tool that I adapted. I will definitely play around with Smore to compare it.

6.   Mandy @mandyeellis has the Port-a-Principal. Click to check out her rolling, portable workstation. No more being stuck in the office. Principals can be visible throughout the school and still get to work on what they need to do.  What a fantastic idea.

7.   Nick @Nick_Proud goes to every staff member after the first day of school and asks how their day went.  He also brings candy.  I hate to admit it, but I am definitely a teacher who appreciated candy. And chocolate. I plan to stock up at Costco when I am back-to-school shopping to keep a stash in my new office.  At the end of a long day in the classroom, I have had principals show up at my doorway with candy, and it definitely brings a smile. I want to be able to pay that forward this year.

8. Ann @AnnBuckley19 will often reply to emails and include a GIF or a Vine at the end that will bring a smile.  It's so cliche, but sometimes it really is the smallest gestures that can make someones day.  Anyone have some to share?

9. Another one from Josh @JoshNGriffith. He stays that you can show teachers support by getting into their classrooms and helping with the heavy lifting during classroom set up before school begins.  This is so true. I once has a principal offer to put up my bulletin board backgrounds for me, a job that I truly hate.  I was so appreciative. This is a way that I can get to know staff, something about their teaching style by the way they set up their room, and show my willingness to help out. I know that as a teacher I was always so grateful to have help.

10. Brad @seamberb hopes to get his entire staff on Voxer to communicate.  I have just started playing with Voxer this summer, and I see a lot of value in it.  The walkie-talkie app would be great for yard supervision emergencies, getting a quick message (or a cry for help) to admin as they are moving throughout the school, cutting down on the need to send a student to find supplies by voxing a teacher nearby (Do you have any more glue sticks we can borrow? Pencils? Notebooks?). I would love to have this tool in school. Does anyone have other uses for it? Tips?

There are many more takeaways that I had from the chat. I think I learned more by lurking for that hour than I could have by reading half a dozen professional texts. It's all about building relationships, and acts of kindness can go a very long way to showing people that you truly care.

If you want to view the rest of the chat content, here is the #IAedchat Storify that was created of the chat.

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