Book:  The Principal: Surviving and Thriving

Author:  Andrew Marotta

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Marotta, A. (2017). The principal: surviving & thriving: 125 points of wisdom, practical tips, and relatable stories for all leaders. Place of publication not identified. Andrew Marotta. 

Three Big Takeaways:

  • Principals must be the most enthusiastic and energetic person in the building. If the principal's energy and enthusiasm fade, so does the school. Do whatever you have to do for energy when you arrive at school, and throughout the day. When you're greeting students on the announcement speaker, meeting parents, or discussing an issue with staff, make sure you give off positive energy and enthusiasm. This will carry you through hard times and set the tone for student education. If you want your students to be excited about learning, you better be able to show excitement for your duties. (pg. 11)

  • Get into classrooms constantly and consistently. This is a top priority. You can get so busy that sometimes it is easier to just sit in your office and "get your work done." Except being in the classroom is your work. To be an educational leader, not just a building manager, get in there. Mix up where you go and when you go. Visit brand-new teachers as well as seasoned veterans. When you do this all the time, the adults and students become comfortable with it. Make visiting classrooms a priority and do it today. (pg. 62)

  • Take care of items and issues for your bosses right away. You cannot miss your boss's stuff. Replying to emails, attending meetings, dealing with things. In spite of whatever is flying at your, make sure you see and tend to your bosses' stuff. Put it on your to-do list. You do not want to be a complicator. Be a simplifier. Bosses have a lot going on and a lot on their plate. you do not want to add to that by giving them reason to worry about you. Will you complete the task? If you miss a couple times, they will start to doubt you and lose trust in you. If you are not tenured, you can forget it. You'll be out quickly. (pg. 98)

Other Key Ideas:

  • In the age of 24/7 social media and real time breaking news, it can be tough for the schools to be the first source people turn to. But you do not want Facebook or some random person releasing news about your school before you present it yourself. You want your office to be the first place people turn to for information in a time of crisis. Get out in front of it and face the music: good or bad. There might be lawyers telling you not to make a statement for one reason or another, so you may want to navigate that; but get out in front of it as quickly as you can and be the reliable, honest source of updates on the situation. Be quick, but not in a hurry. Be accurate, but cautious about giving all the information to the general public. When a dangerous situation arises, you have to be the leader the community can trust for timely, accurate information. (pg. 32)

  • Once a month put a theme day on the calendar that people can dress up for. This started with our spirit week where students would dress up each day to earn points for their classes. We then had bow-tie day, ugly holiday sweater day, and it took off from there. Get creative and have fun with it. You can run contests and have people vote. We usually gather at the end of each theme day and take a yearbook photo. This is a small thing you can do that does not cost much money. These are a simple yet effective way to bring a sense of unity to the staff. (pg. 52)

  • Update signs and bulletin boards on a regular basis. These are what guests and visitors see when they step into the building and walk through the halls. You are in charge, and these little things are important. Make sure every feature, display, calendar, announcement, etc. is always up to date. Think about entering a hotel or restaurant that does not look sharp. Would you want to stay or eat there? Probably not. It is the same in your school. Make it look nice. (pg. 53)

  • Develop transparent policies for parents and students. You may encounter rules and policies that are ancient and outdated. Look at them and determine which ones might need minor tweaks, adjustments, or total revamping. People like to know what's going on, and what to expect. Make this information easy to find and understand. Without clarity and transparency, confusion breeds a sense of mistrust. When everything's out in the open and clear for all to see, you avoid pitfalls and the risk of people being offended. (pg. 56)

  • We live in a busy world. Some of your staff are connected, while others will not check their email for two days. My point: always send reminders. People forget as their minds are on fifty things at once. There are some staff who will forget about an important event, so be aware of this and send reminders. I like to send reminders for professional development a day or two before, the morning of, and ten minutes before. Is this overkill? Maybe, but what is the end result you are looking for? To make people aware of the PD and to get them there. (pg. 63)

  • Clip articles about your students. Hang them for everyone to see. Furthermore, send home a copy to the student's family with a short, personal, handwritten note congratulating them. This means a lot to kids regardless of age, and the parents will appreciate your efforts. It takes extra effort, but the end results are worth it. (pg. 65)

  • Buy fundraising items from the school - don't be cheap! Yes, it adds up, and you feel like every time you turn around you are buying something else, but it is part of the job. The kids and school groups appreciate (and expect!) your participation. How's it going to look when a principal doesn't want to pay $9 to help with an end of the year trip? Terribly. So suck it up and buy the stuff. (pg. 66)

  • Graduation is a major moment! It does not matter what level (kindergarten, elementary, high school) - they are all milestone ceremonies. The principal is 100 percent responsible for making these ceremonies great. Family members expect it to be beautiful, memorable, and perfect, and it is on the principal to make that happen. As a school principal, graduation is one of the biggest things required of you. This is a chance for your school to shine on the biggest stage. You want to knock graduation out of the park. (pg. 73)

  • Get rid of bad employees. After you have done everything you possibly can, it is time for them to go. It is very difficult in the world of education to remove employees from their job, even when they are awful. There are many rules in place that protect grown-ups without considering the negative impact on children when bad people are saved by the system. I am amazed in today's advanced society that we still have some of these archaic rules in place, but they are there, and you need to know how to navigate your work in spite of them. We have zero tolerance for adults who hurt kids - mentally, physically, or educationally. Yes, this is another part of the job that creates extra work for you, but you cannot ignore a problem staff member. It is important to live by the code of "would you want your own child in this person's class?" If the answer is no, then you must do something about it. (pg. 91)

  • When you have an important meeting to be ready for, set up a meeting before the meeting. Angry parent coming in to discuss a disciplinary incident? Hold a meeting with a smaller, closer group so you can get ready and plan for anything that might come out of the next meeting. Pull your research and all pertinent information together. We all want to have a confident, commanding presence when we are running a meeting. Use the meeting before the meeting. (pg. 108)

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