OK, I don’t know what you did last summer, but I know what you need to do this summer, if you’re a principal.
Before we get to that, aren’t you amazed that people have no idea what the principal does during the summer?
I remember when someone, someone nice and well-intending would ask me at awards night, “what will you do this summer? I guess you’re excited about having all of that time off!” To which I would reply, with a smile, “Yes.” (Anything else that I wanted to say would not have been productive)
Here are a few ideas for you as this school year begins to wane and the summer is indeed in sight:
- Don’t be lulled by a false sense of time. This was one I learned the hard way. Because of the frenetic pace you keep all year long, it’s easy to all of a sudden feel like you have infinite time. You certainly have more than you usually do, but it’s very finite. What is very easy to happen is this: you change gears and begin to work at a slower pace. That’s fair enough. If you’re not careful, you can blend into a phase where your focus drifts but you’re still at work, and you reconcile it by saying “It’s the summer! I have time for this!” What might be a better plan is to hit it hard when you’re working, but cut down on how much you work. The worst-case scenario is that the summer gets by and you’ve neither rested nor gotten things done, but sort of lived in an in-between world.
- Wax On; Wax Off. Summer is time for you to use the on-off switch more often. Work, and then turn work off. Without all of the other people around who might do things away from school that would create a need for your attention, you really can turn it off during the summer. To do so, get into your calendar. Set boundaries for work and time away from work. Schedule time off.
- Summer is the time for “Re-“ This is the time for you to re-new. Refresh. Recover! Re-introduce yourself to friends, family, and hobbies. Rest. Renew. You need to schedule time for the “Re-” of summer. If you end up working all summer, you’ll be back in the same tracks a year later, but you’ll be more in need of recharging and restoration. Plan it now and work your plan when it comes around.
- Take Time to Plan Early. Here’s an idea. If you’re going to plan for the next school year during the summer, do it as soon as this year ends. Are you going to have a leadership team meeting? Do it at the beginning of the summer (even during post-planning days if you need to) rather than the middle or when school is about to start next year. Things are fresh on everyone’s mind. Get that perception data via leadership team meeting. Plan your work then and you’ll have set your focus for the summer. It’s natural to want to take a deep breath when post-planning days are over, and I can’t blame you for feeling that way. However, if you can keep the momentum going and get your planning sessions done early on, you can set your plan in action as the summer goes on.
- Don’t Run the Office All Summer. Hire a recent graduate. Get an intern. Don’t let your support staff’s summer become your new job. Yes, the school needs to be open much of the summer, but you have the work of the principal to do. I know of principals who get tons of time sucked away from them in the summer. You may need to work in an undisclosed location to get your scheduling work done. Don’t get it interrupted answering the phone and operating the front desk. Train someone else to do those things and then get your work done.
More to come on being the principal during the summer in future posts! This is the foundational, framework pieces that will keep you moving forward and get you ready to lead your best year yet when everyone comes back together in the fall!