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May 27, 2017 by

Building strong relationships is important for school leaders, here’s how to connect.

Relationships at All Levels

Education is largely a social endeavor.  Of course, the individual is the ultimate repository of knowledge, but our understanding of the world around us is defined by our relationships with others.  We rely on others to impart knowledge, and we assemble in communities to receive that knowledge. For the school leader, strong interpersonal skills are essential elements for success. That means continuous responsive feedback to all stakeholders. If a school leader cannot put on that smile from the moment they walk into that schoolhouse gate to the moment they walk out. That principal is in the wrong profession.  A school leader will work with a vast array of educational shareholders and community members throughout the course of their job.  Students, parents, staff and faculty all come together to make a school function at the expected level.  How they relate as professionals and individuals will have a profound effect on outcomes at a school.  A school leader understands their own role in this community and how to shape a productive learning community through interpersonal relationships. That means that the principal has an understanding of who s/he is in order to move the school forward.

Student Relations

The school principal is the embodiment of their school.  When students visualize their school, they usually include the school leadership in that image. Excellent school leaders are visibly present as the students arrive and as they move through their day.  They are seen in the classrooms, hallways and lunch rooms.  They see the students off at the end of the school day and remain afterwards for sporting events, extracurricular clubs, parent meetings and more.  But it takes more than presence and advocacy to really lead a school.  The best school leaders build relationships with students by memorizing individual names and details about students.  They know them as individuals, and that can make all the difference when students need direction and support.

Parent Relations

The earliest and most powerful educator in any student’s life will be their parents.  To truly understand students, one has to take the time to understand those earliest educators and that means knowing parents and other family members.  It is preferable to have a working relationship with parents prior to addressing some negative aspect of their child’s education.  Unfortunately, school leaders often meet parents under negative circumstances.  Strong school leaders establish relationships with parents whenever possible.  They collaborate with their PTA or PTO.  They get to know parents as they deliver their children to school and they make themselves available for discussion. Developing relationships based on mutual respect with parents and guardians will lead to more effective communication whatever the circumstance may be.

Teacher Relations

Perhaps the most important relationship for a school leader is their relationship with teachers.  No principal will succeed without the support of a dedicated faculty.  School leaders should always be mindful of the overall morale of their educators as well as the mindsets of individual teachers.  Exceptional school leaders work hard to earn the loyalty of their teachers through developing meaningful, personal relationships. It goes beyond celebrating the accomplishments of teachers in the classroom.  It requires an emotional investment from the school leader to know whether a teacher is happy or frustrated.  It takes time, trust and respect make a school leader privy to the personal life of individual teachers, but by understanding faculty members as complete people, the school leader has the greatest impact.

Community Relations

Building a good rapport with all stakeholders is fundamental to maintaining an inclusive school environment. The larger community, like the student body, should consider school leaders as the embodiment of their school.  Traditionally, the school principal has enjoyed positive interactions with community leaders like politicians, law enforcement officers and athletic boosters, but a great school leader will expand that circle of influence.  Faith-based community leaders, block captains, neighborhood watch groups and business owners can be important collaborators in the success of that school.  For many community members, the relationship with the local school has existed since they were students.  Those former students represent a significant resource that are waiting to re-establish a relationship with their alma mater and school leaders. Education is a communal effort, but great school leaders take the time to create and foster those relationships, from that very first moment the principal steps into that building.

Keywords: School-Community Partnerships, school partnerships, PTA, PTO

Comment Below: what innovative ways is your school or school district committed to maintaining long term communication?

References

Barth, R. S. (2006). Improving Relationships Within the Schoolhouse. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar06/vol63/num06/Improving-Relationships-Within-the-Schoolhouse.aspx

Goodman, S. (2015). The Importance of Teaching Through Relationships. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/importance-teaching-through-relationships-stacey-goodman

Quintero, E. (2015). Relationships Matter: Putting It All Together. Retrieved from http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/relationships-matter-putting-it-all-together

Reig, S. A., & Marcoline, J. F. (2008, February). Relationship Building: The First “R” for Principals . Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED501101.pdf

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