Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Upside of Being “Out There”

Greeting students in the morning in the bus lane and on the front steps is a great way to help make a school more welcoming. My awesome vice-principal and I like to touch base with anyone we are worried about, remind students to get forms in, ask about a recent event, and just say hello and stay connected to what is going on in the building and the community. Parents will notice us and come over to chat. The staff knows where to find us, and it gives them a chance to ask a question or let us know what is going on in their classroom. Being out in the halls during class change, at lunch, and after school, as well as being in and out of classrooms gives us even more opportunities for face time with kids and colleagues alike. I think its also pretty safe to say that students are more prone to respectful behaviour when they know we are around, and though the better tests of character certainly occur when we are not there, our presence makes for good practice for some kids at the very least, and improves the tone of the building for everybody.

I think the best reason to be out and about during the higher traffic times is that it can remind us why we are in education. We are here to make a difference for kids and I am sure that it does matter to them when an adult makes the effort to say hello when they pass by. An effective school needs to be a community first, and a healthy social connection leads to better learning.

The BC public school system is currently engaged in a teacher job action, and with staff not attending meetings, handling memos, or doing supervision, there has been a giant shift in principals’ responsibilities away from planning and meeting towards supervision and information distribution. The practice of being visible and greeting students is something our principal team has valued for some time, but the job action has probably doubled the responsibility and the opportunity to engage in this practice. In addition to just trying to make the most of a challenging situation, there is nothing like saying “Good Morning” to dozens of students to cheer us up and put us in a more positive frame of mind.


  1. Peter,

    I agree with being "out there". In Vancouver, I would spend 15-20 minutes outside the front door on a Friday to chat with parents who picked up their kids. As a result communication with all parties improved. This meant students, parents and teacher all had the student's best interest at heart. It also reduced my parent interview time as a by product as well, as the parent already had a good idea how their son or daughter was doing. Of course this was in an independent situation, but the evidence for me was there that being "out there" was good for community, communication and ultimately the student/s.

  2. Yes, it's hard to argue. I was mostly trying to remind myself to try to make the most of the difficult situation we are in right now in the public system. No matter what is going on, everyone appreciates a principal who is visible and accessible. Cheers, PJ

  3. As a student, I cannot stress enough how nice it can be for a teacher, principal, bus driver, librarian, janitor, or whoever to just be approachable, out there and relatively cheerful. If you're a student who isn't feeling very well, having someone say "good morning, how are you?" who actually wants to hear the answer is not only refreshing, but welcoming. It brightens up your morning, even just a little bit.

  4. Well put, Brian. Thanks for the comment.