School principals have tough jobs. When you are responsible for hundreds of students and parents, dozens of staff, and countless stakeholders in the community – including those in afterschool programs – maintaining order is a constant challenge. From teacher evaluations to handling serious discipline issues, principals have various responsibilities and are rarely appreciated for their work.
October is National Principals Month! It’s an opportunity to say “thank you” to principals everywhere and honor their hard work and dedication. After school professionals should mark this special month to recognize and show appreciation for the support principals provide in helping to assure their programs are aligned with the school’s curricula in order to provide seamless, high-quality learning experiences for children and youth. But how can you acknowledge their work in a way that would be meaningful and memorable for a principal?
Dr. Paul Young, author of Principal Matters and Lead the Way! (and a past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals) suggests these five strategies:
- Plan a celebratory program or assembly. Principals often plan events for others, but rarely does anyone plan one for them. To make it special, allow the kids themselves (with your supervision and guidance) to plan, organize and play key roles in expressing their appreciation for their principal. Effective principals are kid-focused, and seeing and hearing what their students feel about them and their support of the after school program will be certain to touch their hearts. Together with your students, don’t limit your imagination. Good planning and execution will make this program unique, remarkable and unforgettable!
- Give them flowers. Anyone can buy flowers from a florist. Instead, allow your students and staff to make their own flowers as a special art project. These will likely receive a more prominent display in the principal’s office and generate more conversation than anything you might purchase. And the special thought will last much longer.
- Give them candy. But wait, candy might not fit your program’s healthy eating guidelines. Be creative and make “candy” into a healthy snack or celebratory food that can be made, served and shared with the principal by the students in your program.
- Sing their praises. Music touches the soul. What you can’t easily say about your principal in words, do with music. Create your own song, jingle or rap, or cover a recognizable song or tune that the kids can easily perform.
- Share the celebration. Encourage students to create special invitations to the program for the principal and invited guests. Encourage kids to make their own awards and certificates of appreciation. Then, don’t fail to capture the special celebratory moments on video to archive and share in a variety of ways through social media and other outlets.
Creating fun and celebratory experiences should be a regular feature of after school programming. They provide opportunities for kids and adults to showcase what is best about after school. Principals relish genuine and heartfelt appreciation. Let them know how your program – and their support of it – is remarkable!