back to school advice for principals and teachers

Back to School Advice for Principals and Teachers

Heading back to school with the right attitude is vital to our success as educators. These are important days, days that change everything. Educator, your importance is tremendous!

You know why you're so important?

Because — you can change everything about a kid's life. There are few turning points in life. First days of school are often life-changers.

There are few turning points in life. First days of school are often life-changers.

This summer, a father told me a heartbreaking story about his daughter. Her first-grade teacher told her,

“I just don't like you.”

Oh my goodness! Who would say such a thing? And the father said that day his daughter decided school just “wasn't for her.” One remark changed everything about life. Everything.

But many educators change kids for good. Some educators even roll out the red carpet! You have so much influence! You can change a life! Who gets to do that?

Great educators transform lives one child at a time. But changing lives isn't enough, our profession is about improving them.

Great educators transform lives one child at a time.

The “To Do's” are Important

During opening day, some educators only mention what kids should not do. They never tell kids what to do!

We want kids to…

  • Love learning.
  • Be kind.
  • Get excited.
  • Ask good questions!

We must say “yes,” not just “no.”

All things considered, I will not measure my success by how many kids don't go to jail or don't end up homeless. In the long run, I'd rather measure success by how many do great things.


Back to school advice for teachers and principals

What Anybody Can Do

Any person can walk into a school building with a scowl on their face, and angrily tell kids rules.

Anybody can do that. Reading rules takes no imagination. Not to mention, just reading rules builds no excitement. Rules might be required, but they are rarely riveting. (Unless you're minions. Grin ;-)

Just about anybody who can read can go to school and read a script that they wrote, or even worse someone else wrote for the first day.

Some people are so busy giving kids the rules that they never give them the right!  Some educators so want to prevent a repeat of a bad experience with a child last year, that they don't set themselves up for the good experiences this year! Learn from the past. Then, LET IT GO.


What the Exceptional Educator Can Do

But it takes a transformational leader to change things for the better.

You can:

  • Excite them.
  • Call students by name.
  • Plan an epic beginning.
  • Be glad that they're there!

You're excited and nervous –they are too! So we're all nervous! Let's get past our nerves. In addition, let's start having fun learning!

You're going to spend far too many days at school this year to risk being bored and unhappy! It all starts on this first day. It all starts with you.

Educators are important. Back to School advice Cool cat Teacher

Be Happy to Be There

Have you ever seen it? It happens at the mall sometimes. Sometimes it happens at the movie theater. You walk in. You see a friendly person. This person is just smiling at everybody. And laughing. And making jokes. Just happy to be there. I want to be THAT person wherever I am.

Once someone told me that when you smile you release certain chemicals that make you happier. So this statement “fake it till you make it” is pretty accurate when it comes to smiling.

Some People Stew in Pain

We wouldn't dream of giving a child a bath in radioactive waste. But do we think nothing of complaining, fussing, and cussing in front of kids? What's the difference?

Toxic waste poisons a person from the outside in.

Toxic attitudes poison people from the inside out.

Toxic wasted buried underground is horrible. But, I think I'm more afraid of the kind of toxic waste buried in people's hearts.

Is wallowing in our pain going to bring us pleasure? Will it make us better teachers to count our many miseries?

Certainly, many people have hard lives. But negative people make living harder than necessary.


Your Classroom Starts with You

Let me tell you something. The person in the front office is responsible for the person in the front office. If you're mad at someone in the front office, why take it out on the kids in your classroom?

All things considered, the kids in your classroom need you to think about them when you go in their classroom. When you close the door, and you are away from everyone, the front office or the person next to you is irrelevant.

It's just you and the kids.

And if you're harsh to those kids because of someone you're mad at somewhere else in the school, then you've done wrong.

You make the weather in your classroom. When you close the classroom door, that classroom is what you make of it with your students.

Back to School Principles for Principals

If you are a principal, the same applies to you. I don't care what's going on the district office. I don't care what horrible things you deal with. (OK, I do care, but I'm trying to make a point.) Here's the thing: Kids don't know. So, the kids don't care. They can't.

All the kids care about is how you treat them. That's all they know. Not, Mr. Jones is dealing with some difficult situations right now. Kids are not able to comprehend that. In all honesty, as teachers, we can't either.

In essence, a million miles spans the distance between the teacher's side of the desk (mine) to yours (the principal.) That is true.

But most people see a me–centered view of the world.

People aren't wired to think about another's struggles. In the end, people are wired to think about their own. They're going to form their opinion on what you think of them on that first day. Are you going to make a great impression? Are you going to be a leader?

Principal, somehow you have to find it in you to leave those burdens in your top desk drawer. Then, you have to walk out and greet people with a smile, a handshake, and joy.  Somehow.

You are important!

You are important because the future is important. Even more, kids are important.

What makes you even more valuable, is that some people in our profession don't realize the importance of kindness, professionalism, excitement, energy, and doing the right thing by kids. They have their own me-centered approach to school. And they miss out. It makes me sad for them.

Schools are not here to give teachers and principals jobs. Our jobs exist to help educate kids so they can have a bright future.

Schools are not here to give teachers and principals jobs. Those jobs exist to help educate kids so they can have a bright future.

You can do it! I know it's hard. I know it's difficult. I know it's hard to push aside all the stresses and worries of the day and start school.

But whatever you do, love the kids.

Do your best.

Give them a smile.

Love on them.

And remember that great learning starts with a great relationship and a great relationship starts on day one.

Good luck!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Kathryn Lantz August 1, 2016 - 10:33 pm

Wow! Thanks for sharing the good thoughts. Remebering the “to do” and not always the “don’t” rules for kids. And love love love the Minions class rules video!!!! Can I show it to my students too?
I love reading your emails and blog! So talented and generous with your time and gifts. Thank you again!

Vicki Davis August 2, 2016 - 6:47 am

Thanks Kathryn and the minion rule video is one I found on YouTube! Go to the source and go for it. I know lots of teachers who use it! Thanks for the kind words!

Barbara Radisavljevic August 2, 2016 - 12:06 am

I hope every teacher and principal reads this. That’s why I’m sharing it widely.

Vicki Davis August 2, 2016 - 6:46 am

Thank you Barbara! I do too!

Todd Kominiak August 2, 2016 - 8:27 am

These are some great tips. The more we can include students in class organization and planning from the start, the better. This idea that learning starts with relationships is so important.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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