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7 Tips for a Great School Year

It’s "Back to School" time! That has long been one of my favorite times of the year! Whether a student, teacher, or administrator, it’s a fresh start every August with new goals and challenges ahead. Freshly sharpened pencils, new books, fresh classrooms and smiling faces, always make me glad to greet a new school year!

As you begin a new year, it’s a great time to set some goals and plan for a successful year ahead. Here are a few things important to building success:

  • Preparation – While we can’t be prepared for everything that will come our way in the new school year, we can prepare for the inevitable challenges we anticipate. Good preparation, whether you are a teacher or administrator, is integral to success. As the boy scouts always said, “be prepared!” Come to school each day with ample preparation for the day ahead. Whether you have a classroom of students or a day of staff and parent meetings, being prepared, so that you can best meet the needs of those depending on you, makes it a smoother day for everyone, including you!

  • Organization – Organization goes hand in hand with preparation. Preliminary organization is necessary for good preparation. In addition to being organized for the day, with materials and plans at the ready, an organized space is important for students and teachers. With an increased awareness of students with varying special needs, disorganized and distracting, over decorated classrooms make learning more difficult for many. Have a well-lit, inviting space that looks fresh and organized, but keep extraneous decorations to a minimum. Teachers attending a meeting, also want to enter an inviting and organized space where they can focus on the topic at hand. Organization and preparation are cornerstones to success.

  • Expectations and Consistency – Everyone needs clearly defined expectations of their role. Teachers and administrators need to clearly state expectations which include: what is to be done, what will be needed for the job, as well as a timeline for completion of the task. Additionally, consistency in follow through, and fairly following through with everyone in the same manner, makes for a more productive environment for success for all.

  • Communication and Visibility – When asked the 3 most important things to many jobs (especially a school administrator), you often see the answer, “Communication, communication, communication!” That is really true of most roles. Good two-way communication, with solid information, details and transparency, is of great importance. Whether it’s giving an agenda for a meeting, informing people of a topic in advance, or communicating with students, parents, and peer staff members, everyone wants to know what is happening, in order to be fully prepared. Going into meetings where one party wants to surprise the other with a “gotcha,” isn’t productive for anyone involved and doesn’t foster collaboration. Establishing good 2 way communication with those in your school, as well as being visible and accessible to those who need you, helps foster a trusting and collaborative environment which is integral to success. Visibility is important to those who rely on you. Whether walking the halls of school, being present at carpool, or moving about the classroom and interacting with your students, visibility helps establish trust and reliability.

  • Relationships – Build relationships. Relationship building is integral to fostering a collaborative team approach. Take time to get to know people beyond just their role. Ask about a favorite pet or hobby. Learning something about them as an individual will help you connect to them beyond the role they fill, and will help foster trust. Relationship building helps build cohesive and collaborative teams.

  • Risks – Don’t be afraid to take a few risks! Try a new technique, move outside of your comfort zone by bringing in some new ideas. While risk taking may involve a few flopped ideas, it’s ok. When you make the effort to try something new, some innovations will have a great pay-out, and even though some won’t, everyone will know you made the effort.

  • Laugh – Laughter is healing for everyone. While we need to take our roles seriously, we should never be too uptight to laugh at our own mistakes and laugh with co-workers or students. Laughter is a very humanizing expression of emotion. According to Psychology Today (

“of all the elements that contribute to the warm atmosphere of good relationships, there is one that seldom gets translated into advice or even therapy, yet is something that everyone desires and most people would like more of: Laughter.”

Additionally, they say that laughter is a “social signal” that “binds people together” and “synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.” Besides building relationships on your team, laughter is also a great stress release and makes for a happier workplace.

While the year ahead is sure to bring challenges, along with rewards, taking the time to focus on the things that foster teamwork, will definitely be worthwhile. Here’s to a great school year!