This past school year, I’ve learned that my learning community depends on me to be a ‘squeaky wheel.’ But I need to be careful of becoming a ‘squawking principal.’
As the leader of a relatively small school in an enormously large school district, I’ve had to grow in my ability and willingness to advocate, call out for help, and present data that demonstrates our need for critical supports. Here’s what it has looked like for us this year:
- Compiling data and trends that demonstrate a drastic increase in newcomers and, thus, a need for added support (personnel and curriculum) from the Office of Language Acquisition.
- Firmly and politely asking for special consideration to open up another classroom, after all on-site remedies have been exhausted.
- Bringing in district level architects and safety personnel for advice and support to address safety challenges
- Voicing displeasure about a board vote to close a pre-school
- Coupling requests for facility improvement, on the heels of self-help volunteer work days to better our learning environment.
- Respectfully pointing out inequities in the level of arts programs, compared to neighboring schools, by communicating a desire to grow arts in our community.
- Anchoring every single request in the stated vision of our school district, “To see quality neighborhoods in each and every school.”
- Choosing to make first contacts with key personnel in person or over the phone ahead of the incoming email request.
I’ve also seen and experienced where disproportionate and inartful asking can undermine critical relationships and push away partners. Here’s what this might look like:
- Venting to Human Resource personnel about contractually binding processes that are already in place.
- Voicing needs in the form of complaints.
- Neglecting to thank district staff when they have ‘gone to bat’ for us.
- Failing to recognize that partner schools and leaders are facing similar limitations.
- Ripping off emails riddled with critique and demands.
- Becoming the leader that district support staff avoids in a large gathering.
We know that teachers who are “warm demanders” get the most out of their students. This principle applies to principals too.
Be the squeaky wheel. Your learning community depends on your voice.
Avoid being the squawky principal. You’ll likely see limited resource increases. And your reputation will may just limit the supports your students desperately need.