Breaking Out of the Kindergarten Box, Staying Sane in the Sandbox: Lessons in Principal Leadership

Making Timely Decisions. #HackingEarlyLearning

As leaders you are asked many questions in a day (or even an hour).

  • Do we have inside recess?
  • How many sections of (insert grade level) will we have next year?
  • What time is the staff meeting again?
  • Are you busy?

Sometimes the question we are asked are simply yes/no’s. But other times the questions may come across quick-but the levels of implication are deep. For me I am learning how to land in between a hard no….and a fast yes. As someone who is driven to make decisions and also complete all tasks in a day-I struggle to slow down and ask deeper questions. As an area of focus I have reached out to an incredible educator (and an amazing instructional coach) to keep me grounded in digging deeper for our staff and students.

Steps to Staying In Gear


As a former secondary school administrator I continually recognize that my learning curve is steep in the early years. Using the questions above helps me to not only deepen my own practical knowledge and application, but also allows the staff to have an opportunity to share their own passion, knowledge and expertise in their teaching of students.

While it is incredibly important to ensure we are meeting our early learner’s social/emotional, academic and developmental needs-it is equally important that as leaders we are aware of what “one more thing” will add to our students and staff’s plates. Ensuring whatever we do in the day is relevant, intentional, and appropriate for the age of students is critical.

Here is one very recent example we worked through:

IDEA: Adding an a Teachers Pay Teachers curriculum for SEL.

  1. Why is there a need for this? With the implementation of Zones of Regulation and a Character Ed program to our curriculum calendar, classroom teachers still would like to see activities that enhance the understanding of the two main SEL components for students.
  2. How does this align to our current site plan/school practices?  including (insert curriculum) would extend the student knowledge of the core components of Zones of Regulation and the Character Traits such as perseverance, teamwork, caring that are taught during the year. This is supplementing the current SEL work-not supplanting practices. 
  3. What research/practical knowledge supports the work? The teacher and instructional coach reviewed materials, highlighted vocabulary alignment to current practices and are willing to try the curriculum for the remainder of the school year to test it out with the possibility of creating an SEL curriculum for next year for all staff to access as ways to enhance current practices. Curriculum cities specific PreK-K research and aligns vocabulary with what students are already learning. 
  4. Is it developmentally appropriate? Teacher is confident that the vocabulary and activities are a developmental match and has found specific times of the day in which the activities can be delivered by teacher or classroom para. Consideration to offering activities to families as ways to extend knowledge at home is being reviewed.

This framework is helping me engage in a conversation that puts a little gas on my ‘hard no’, but slows down the ‘fast yes’ approach I have taken in the past. Does this take more time-yes. Does it allow an opportunity for all participants to have a solid understanding of what, why, how and when we enhance programing for our students-absolutely.

Loving where I lead means having the opportunity to learn from those who have been doing this longer, while enhancing all of understanding of the work we do.

Always learning…..everyday.



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