Mentoring Monday with Melissa Kartsimas

Hi Friends, I want you to meet a fellow principal friend.  Melissa Kartsimas is a principal from the Chicago area.  I met her via Twitter and through her blog Reflections from an Elementary Principal.  It is so great to find other blogging principals and connect right away.  Read below Melissa's advice to new principals.

Being a principal can certainly be a lonely position, but it doesn’t have to be! Through Twitter, Instagram & Blogs, I’ve been able to connect with many talented administrators who I continue to learn from and connect with digitally. By growing my PLN, I’ve been able to share ideas & bring many new ideas into my daily practice. Although there are many tips I could offer new principals, below are the ones I feel are most important to share:

CONNECT: My first recommendation for new principals is to connect with other administrators, near and far. Twitter has been an easy way to connect with others who share common passions and
interests: Education, Technology, Leadership, etc. I’ve been able to connect with some of my favorite authors and have added hundreds of blogs to my Feedly Reader, written by those I follow on Twitter. If you’re nervous about Twitter or unsure of how to get started, there are many tutorials. Another easy way to learn and be part of educational dialogues is joining/following a Twitter Chat. There are regular chats that take place weekly. Each chat is lead by a moderator who poses questions and those who are following the chat answer. It’s easy to follow a certain hashtag (ex: #kinderchat) and follow along--even better, participate in the chat and share your ideas, too!There are many Twitter Chats. A comprehensive list can be found here. Building your PLN and connecting with other administrators will certainly help you in your first year-it validates the feelings you experience and gives you a support system! Are you a new principal? Have you joined the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program?

RELATIONSHIPS: Invest time in building and developing relationships with all stakeholders. Get to know your teachers. Support them. Develop them. Show them you appreciate their hard work (These shout outs by Baudville are a cute way to write a positive note to a teacher!) Establish a culture where student learning is a priority. Be visible. Greet students and parents each morning during arrival. Be present during lunch in the cafeteria and in the hallways. Spend time each day in the classrooms. Ensure students get home safely at the end of the day. Where you spend the majority of your time shows your priorities. If quality teaching and learning are your main priority, you should be spending your time with students and teachers. Of course there are days when meetings prevent you from doing this, but make sure you remember to make up for it the following day! Maintain your credibility and integrity as an instructional leader by spending time in the classrooms. Get to know each and every students’ name in your school. Building good relationships adds to the positive culture of your school.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE: As an administrator, be sure your staff continues to see you as the lead learner, continually growing and learning about best practices to improve student achievement. Model best practices, share instructional strategies with staff, include professional articles in your communication with staff. Don’t share what quality teaching looks like--show them! Demonstrate to your staff that you aren’t the keeper of all the answers, but that you’re willing to work hard and learn everything you can to be the best principal you can be. As a principal, I never ask or expect the staff to do something I would not be willing to do myself. For example, I modeled the implementation of our staff blog in hopes that teachers would see blogging as a powerful, dynamic tool to use with their students. As a result, many teachers implemented their own teaching blogs, and evening student blogging, too! Always exude a positive attitude; one that supports an environment conducive to learning. If the principal is under stress, all eyes are on the leader to see how to react. Make sure you always keep your eye on the best needs of the students. Be willing to make the students’ needs a priority above the needs of the adults in your building. As the leader, you have the “balcony view” and must maintain the vision of making decisions in the best interest of children.

COMMUNICATE: As a principal, communication is essential. It must be timely, clear, concise and with various different stakeholders. You will communicate in meetings. Emails. Phone calls. Social Media. Conversations with children, adults--and even adults who act like ......! You will present to groups of teachers, groups of parents, your Board of Education. You will prepare written communication to be sent home in letters, published on your website. Everything you communicate and how you communicate will be critiqued. Even your nonverbal communication will be scrutinized. Every form and every way you communicate is a chance to spread your beliefs and professional values for children. Here’s my digital PR Plan for the school year.

The job is incredibly demanding. It may seem like you never have enough time to get your work done. I have no advice to help alleviate that stress. All I can say is that many others share your stress, but also share in the incredible responsibility and amazing feeling as they embark on a principalship. Remember to never lose sight of each and every child entrusted to you.

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