Leading a Kindergarten Center has many, many rewards and a few challenges along the way. One of which is building relationships quick with families as they enter and exit your building in one school year. Working with five and six year olds really takes a full community to ensure we are making gains and success for all kids. During this journey I have found 3 Things that have really helped build those relationships as a Principal.
- Be Present. A Principal’s pace is fast. We are juggling a hundred things at a time and usually trying to with a smile on our face. I have found that when parents come to us-they are nervous, intimated, and/or worried about how we will respond to them. I do my very best to be available in the various school environments. My favorite-outside at parent drop off/pick up. Parents have a different appreciation for you when they see you day after day greeting their children, helping them out of car seats or handing out hugs and high fives to everyone that walks by. Last year I started doing bus duty as a matter of necessity for staffing-I kept doing it as it was an excellent way to meet parents outside of the school building. There is something to seeing the ‘boss’ of the school (as I have been called by many 5-year olds) in a big fur hat in below zero temps, soaking wet from snow/rain, or in bright PINK hair after the students raised a significant amount of money for cancer research.
2. Be Honest. Parents want the very best for their kids. Building trust with parents takes time and consistency in your responses and actions. Sometimes being honest is having to say things that are hard to hear. I try my very best to call every parent if a child makes an office visit. I start with “Hello–Mr/Mrs. this is Mrs. Cabeen from Woodson-could I have a moment of your time?” from there I talk about what happened and frame it with this in mind “I have found that kindergartners have a hard time recalling the day for parents and I wouldn’t want your child coming home saying they went to the office and you didn’t have talking points to reference”. Now mind you this incidents are few-and minor-but the feedback I have received usually includes a “thank you-your right they don’t always recall exactly how the day went”. At conference time in the winter I sit in on conversations for students who are struggling. My role-to be honest and ask for parent support. I usually show data visually (here is where your child is and this is the target for the end of K), and ask if they can help us. If they can’t okay-if they can we discuss things we need help in (attendance, encouraging a growth mind-set for their child, supporting literacy at home) and get feedback as to the ways in which they think they can help make that happen.
3. Be Vunerable. So this one is something I have gotten pretty good at…insert our family Christmas card two years ago:
I have noticed parents tend to let their guard down a little when they learn *gasp* that the Principal is not….perfect! Parents have seen my own kids run circles around me after multiple attempts to redirect them in the grocery store. They see me apologize for being pulled/tugged on when I am trying to talk to them at a soccer meet. And…..well….they have seen my own kids act in a way that might send them to the principal’s office if they were in school. I remember listing to Dr. Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys when he shared how his own children acted during this sermons and it really helped me to let my own guard down. Parents don’t want a ‘Perfect’ Principal, they want a Principal they can relate to-one that has struggles with homework and bedtime just like the rest of us.
So does it work? I’d like to think so-parents report back to me how their kids are doing in elementary school and I make sure to reference something specific that I remembered about their child and wish them the very best for the year. My husband doesn’t necessarily like taking me to the grocery store as he knows we will get stopped by current and former families giving me updates and I do my best to listen like it was a member of my own family-which does add some extra time to the trip. Is it worth it-of course! If you only have 174 days with a family/child-you have to make every moment count!
Continue to Dream Big for our Littlest Learners!