I was just able to take a short break from some of my other projects to read an extract of an article that Kim Marshall included in his weekly Marshall Memo. If you haven’t seen Kim’s work, it is a weekly compilation of high interest educational pieces that he reads over a variety of educational literature. Check out the site (www.marshallmemo.com) if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s great reading.
In any case, he published an excerpt in his October 29, 2012 edition around “How Principals Can Get Control of Their Time”, which was originally written and published in Phi Delta Kappan and authored by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. I found the piece to be very thought provoking and it made me rethink how I manage my time and how I get to everything that needs to be done. Mind you, until I read this, I thought I was doing pretty good!
The three highlights from the article suggested that principals schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings with teachers, save non-emergency requests for those check-in meetings and delegate. I’ve always prided myself on an “open door” policy, making myself available to staff when they need me. I’ve thought that it helps build rapport, shows myself as visible, and provides me an opportunity to listen to what people have to share. On the other hand, aside from the open door policy, I have also joked about hearing, “Do you have a second?” 100 times per day, and that the “second” is usually more like 3-5 minutes.
Although I worry about the scheduled meetings with teachers, mostly based on the fact that I know something often will crop up during the day, I also liked the idea of being somewhat more liberated from those in and out “drive bys” to be able to get into classrooms and really see teaching and learning in action. My presence in classrooms not only helps me understand what happens across my school instructionally, it also provides me the opportunity to support teachers and students so that everyone gets what they need, when they need it.
I do think that when someone come to see me, the issue is always important to them. There are also many times that the issue may be important to me as well, however, not every time. I really reflected on that and thought that in an effort to provide an “open door” policy, I don’t want to create a co-dependency on me and diminish the opportunity to build distributive leadership and problem solving skills across my staff.
Delegating can be easy, providing that the tasks you have to do can be delegated. Budget, evaluations, meeting with parents, and other administrative tasks will almost always be associated with the principal, and I think that many of us understand that and actually, enjoy the challenge of working across all of those fronts.
For me, the excerpt presented by Kim Marshall has me reflecting on my own use to time, and that taken by others. How can I rethink my interactions with staff, and those directly under my supervision, to ensure that I redirect my time in a way that benefits students and teachers while building the capacity of others?
Lastly, how do you manage your time and the attention your staff and students need?
Thomas Martellone, M Ed, Principal