On a chilly Sunday afternoon, my 11-year-old daughter came up with the bright idea to create a scavenger hunt. She instructed me that my challenge was to find a total of 10 clues based on steps in the scavenger hunt. When I started at the first clue, I found the scavenger item without hesitation. However, her handwritten scavenger hunt card caught me by surprise, but the surprise didn’t stop there. My young daughter started every clue card with a positive affirmation such as “good job,” “you’ve got this,” “keep going,” “way to go,” “wow!” etc. Her positive feedback, so simple and yet so powerful, kept me moving through the scavenger hunt clues. I felt empowered, I felt strong, and I felt ready to charge forward. Did she know she made me feel this way with her simple positive feedback? Most definitely not.
So the question resides: What are we doing as leaders that makes a significant impact on educators that we may not even realize we are doing? Oftentimes, we fall in the trap of thinking we aren’t doing enough and need to do more. However, sometimes it is the little things we do naturally that make the most impact.
Being visible on campus is a great place to start. A smile and good morning to a teacher can set the tone for the expectations of the day. Welcoming students by their individual names lets students know you care about them personally. Noticing a student’s transition through campus and providing feedback to the teacher is a small task that yields great results. Catching sight of students going to the library and carrying their books in a way that reflect your campus expectations is a great opportunity to provide a little feedback. It’s the little things that matter most.
You will find me at carpool duty every morning greeting my Cardinals as they arrive on campus. One of my first purchases as a principal was a mobile sound system. The moment students jump out of their car, they hear upbeat music playing through the sound system and see a staff member present to welcome them to school. It’s the little things like popular, kid-friendly music and a smile that get our day started right.
When visiting a teacher’s classroom, whether formally or informally, leave a personal handwritten note. Celebrate the success of what you see the teacher doing, the students saying or the culture of the classroom. Oftentimes, I write a note to the class sharing my favorite part of my visit to their classroom. I further encourage students to visit me in the office to share how they moved forward with their lesson. It’s the little things that matter most.
I am inspired by quotes. When I find a quote that inspires me and makes me think of a specific teacher, I print the quote and put it in the teacher’s mailbox. I also have a daily inspiration calendar with tear-off pages that often remind me of a specific teacher. I tear the daily page off and write a simple yet powerful note that says, “This reminds me of you.” It’s the small things that build a connection between you and your staff. Through those little connections, trust is built.
Unless I have a confidential meeting with staff or a parent, my office door is always open. I want my staff and students to know I am available for a friendly conversation, as a thinking partner, as a resource or whatever they need to be successful. When a student exceeds the teacher’s expectations, I want to know about it. My teachers know to send a student to my office for a positive office referral so we can celebrate their success (with a selfie of course). I want my staff and students to know that I visibly crave their success. It’s the little things that help shape your campus culture.
As an educational leader, continue to remember the little things you do reap great rewards with your staff and students alike. Those little things matter most!
Krissy Womack is a TEPSA member and proud principal in Melissa ISD. She is passionate about creating a campus culture where all students and staff know she supports their success.