For the first time ever, elementary and secondary school leaders will join together at the 2017 National Principals Conference. The event will provide opportunities to examine the challenges and benefits of primary-secondary relationships. As you prepare for the conference or to make meaningful connections with other school leaders on your own, consider the following to help build and sustain your professional connections:
- Learn together. Start a professional book study group with a K–12 perspective, where one principal could act as a facilitator depending on the connection between the book’s content and their grade level expertise. Possible books include Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, The Art of Possibility, and Causes and Cures in the Classroom.
- Connect during administrative meetings and ask questions. Encourage and seek opportunities to connect with colleagues you don’t normally socialize with. Step outside your comfort zone, ask probing questions, and embrace curiosity. Questions to elementary school colleagues like “How do you deal with so many little kids in a lunchroom at once?” may seem trivial, but they allow you to break the ice and learn something about others’ work.
- Set up a principal buddy system. Create a buddy system program where you correspond through weekly check-ins via text, email, morning coffee, or a phone call. The idea here is to support each other as colleagues and learn something new about what you each do.
- Keep your door open. Maintain an open-door policy regarding school visits from other schools or students from other grades. Elementary students get excited visiting secondary campuses, while secondary students may reminisce and feel a sense of pride for how far they’ve come as scholars when visiting elementary campuses.
As administrators, we tend to focus on the students we currently serve—their grade level, academic and sociocultural needs, and the standards and accountability measures to ensure their achievement. However, the key to student success is focusing not just on who your students are today, but where they came from and where they are going. One way to do this is to build bridges with colleagues and become part of a larger cohort committed to preparing all students for postsecondary pursuits.
Have you or your collegues looked for ways to build bridges across grade levels? Register today to attend the 2017 National Principals Conference, to be held July 9–11 in Philadelphia, PA.
Julie Perron, PhD, is a principal at Buena Park Elementary School in Buena Park, CA. She has worked at both the elementary and secondary school levels.