Leading with Love: Simple Steps for Principals to Improve School Climate

Be Visible

Do the students stop and stare when you walk into a classroom? They shouldn’t. They should know that it is business as usual when you walk into the room. They may be excited to see you. They may even smile and wave, but they should know that your presence is not a special event. If it is a special event, get into the classrooms more often. At my current school, it is not a surprise when an administrator walks into a room. At no time is our presence designed to be a “gotcha” moment. We are there to lift the teachers up, praise what is going well, and offer suggestions for improvement or new techniques to try. As much as possible, we are present in the classrooms, hallways, lunchroom, playground, and our carloop arrival and dismissal. Parents and students also appreciate seeing us at carloop. This visibility leads to approachability and warmth.


Be Approachable

As much as possible, leave your office door open when you are in it. Situate your desk in a way that does not put your back to the door. This simple step makes you more approachable and available to your colleagues. Unless you are in the midst of a crisis, stop what you are doing and respond to any person who requests to speak with you. Smile. Greet people in the hallway and on campus. Nobody should pass you anywhere at school without acknowledgement. Before the day begins, pop into classrooms just to say, “Good morning.” It may open doors to other conversations and connections with the adults in the building. Small personal touches add up to make a leader more approachable to everyone at school.


Appreciate People

Do all the adults and children at your school know you appreciate them? What are you doing to let them know?


Cards and Notes

I love to write cards and notes to remind people I appreciate them or that I’m thinking of them. My school has 850 students, and each family receives a handwritten card from me at the holidays. I start writing around Halloween to finish in time to mail them for the holidays. I also write cards for all the teachers, office staff, campus monitors, and teaching assistants at the school to go with their Christmas gift. Throughout the year, I drop little notes to encourage people and make sure they know I see the difference they make for our community.


Treat Delivery

Once a month, my assistant principals and I load a cart full of fruits, donuts, cookies, trail mix, juice, soda, and water to deliver around the school. This takes about an hour to reach all of the classrooms and offices, but it brightens everyone’s day. These back to school cookies were made by a parent at our school and brought huge smiles to everyone when we delivered them. Thank you to Wild Flour Confections in Las Vegas, Nevada!


Awards

Our students can give awards to their teachers, and they love to do it. They write a special note to their teacher on a “Shining Star Teacher Nomination” form that they can get in the office. We read these aloud at morning announcements and hand the certificate to the teachers when we call them in front of the school. Teachers and staff also nominate each other for a “Fred Award” by emailing administration explaining how another staff member has gone above and beyond to help on campus. This award is inspired by the Mark Sanborn book, The Fred Factor. On staff development days or at staff meetings, we read aloud the Fred Awards and place a medal around the neck of the recipient. By the end of the year, every teacher and staff member has a collection of these different awards hanging around their desks. These tokens of appreciation go a long way to show everyone that they are doing important work on a daily basis.


If you are looking for new ideas to lead with love, try a few of these. A leader who is visible, approachable, and appreciative will change the climate of any school building.