There is nothing quite like “Opening Day” with its excitement and aspirations tinged with butterflies and a bit of wistfulness for summer’s end. Principals are geared up for their opening meetings with staff – a time to identify priorities and set the tone for the coming year. No matter how thoughtful the opening presentation or engaging the opening activity, it’s important to remember that relationships come first.
The first issue of the year of
Educational Leadership arrived last week to provide a timely reminder of just that. The theme of “
Relationships First” focuses on building relationships with students and includes several worthwhile pieces on making connecting with students with various needs. A strong connection to the work in Massachusetts that I wrote about last week to promote the importance of social emotional learning in schools.
But relationships with staff matter just as much. In a piece called “
The Principal Factor,” Tim Westerberg reminds us that: “
(P)rincipals play a lead in establishing relationships among adults within the school. In fact, if we consider both the direct impact of the school principal and his or her indirect influence over selecting and developing teachers, building leadership may be the most important factor in establishing a stable, warm and trusting environment for teachers and students.” He goes on to outline six “principles” of leadership that ensure we put relationships first – for staff and students.
Tim’s piece echoes the work of Roland Barth, the founder of the Harvard Principals’ Center, who suggested:
“The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.”
Tim may downplay his principles as “
a blinding flash of obvious,” but pieces like his help us make what we do more explicit and intentional. If you are an ASCD member, you can read more at:
Wishing you all a successful opening of school. May you set the tone that will support a “stable, warm and trusting environment” for teachers and students in the coming year.
MESPA Executive Director