Why is it that so many people say things like, “You probably won’t get to know Sally very well…she’s never sent to the principal’s office,” or conversely, “You’ll be seeing a lot of Timmy…he’s constantly being sent to the principal’s office.” I’ll tell you why, it’s because traditionally the principal’s office has been known as “bad kid” behavior triage. Even though that perception has significantly shifted from the time I was a kid (a heck of a long time ago), us principals still face some lingering “you’re in trouble if your in my office” energy. In my opinion, we need to band together and squash it!
My focus for the upcoming school year is partnerships. More specifically, I am focused on “Partnerships That Perpetuate Joyful Teaching & Learning.” I’ve spent some time this summer working to design an office space that might help me, and those I serve, to focus on that focus. So far, it’s going well. Of the few people who’ve visited me, two have commented. One said, “Wow, you’re office is so welcome,” and the other said, “What a comfortable office space!” Both comments are right in line with the intentionality behind my vision. I plan to make note of other comments and interactions so that I can adapt as needed throughout the year.
We all know that intentional classroom design is critical for joyful teaching and learning. I’m here to suggest that the same is true for the principal’s office. Sure, I will have some challenging conversations in my office this year. However, I also intend to have many joyful ones. I envision teachers, students, and parents joining me to brainstorm ideas, collaborate on projects, share insights, read, write, think, and reset for forward progress toward individual and collective goals. A principal’s office should be a safe place for all of the above. Here are some of my thoughts/ideas so far (stay tuned for updates throughout the year):
Distinct, Defined, & Purposeful Spaces
My office is not that big, but there is enough space to separate the various kinds of work that needs to done over the course of any given day. When I’m meeting with stakeholders and colleagues I prefer not to have physical barriers between us. I’ve put a small round table with three chairs near the window so that people can comfortably talk and work together as partners. I put a box of tissues on that table to address runny noses. I believe that walking around from behind my desk to sit with the people I serve sends a welcoming and positive message…and if there are times when I want to send a different message, I still have the desk to sit behind.
My workspace is separated from the other spaces in my office by this wonderful desk set I’m fortunate to have inherited, and by its placement on the other side of the room. Again, my office is a relatively small space, but with some focused creative thinking even small spaces can be designed for targeted purposes.
I’ve set up a lounge/library for informal meetings and down time. Sometimes students, teachers, and even parents might want to join me in the office for some down time while I work, they might want to simply chat, or they might want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the classrooms and hallways. This area is a good space for that kind of stuff, whether or not I’m in the office with them.
I’m a reading specialist by degree, and I have a deep passion for all things literacy learning! One of the main concepts I used in designing a classroom space to promote literacy learning was to make sure it was literature rich. I love making connections through reading, writing, talking, and listening. I’ve filled my office with books from multiple genres and across a range of reading levels. I’m ready and equipped to share my professional literature with colleagues and parents, and I am looking forward to reading and discussing children’s literature with my students.
Also, I read a lot. Even if it’s just ten minutes while I eat an afternoon snack, modeling my passion for literature as an essential driver of learning and growth is something that I believe strongly in.
And then there’s the art. I’m not finished with that, but I strongly believe in displaying art that is in some way connected to my focus (along with actually displaying my focus). It’s good fodder for discussion. I will also be displaying real-time pictures of learning as it unfolds in my our building throughout the year.
There’s so much more to think about when designing ideal learning spaces anywhere is your school building. The key for principals is that our job is to bring out the best and most joyful teaching and learning possible in our community. We are charged with constantly building capacity toward that end. I make sure to have some fun and useful supplies, and even an occasional snack (sometimes teachers and visiting parents require the tiniest bit of chocolate). I suggest that we consider our chug in everything we do, even when setting up our offices. What do you think?
Bonus…A Link for Teachers
Teachers, you would be well served to check out http://classroomcribs.com/ if you’re looking for ideas for setting up “brain friendly learning spaces.” Some of my teacher colleagues have been ranting and raving about the resources available there!
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.