Relationships are the key to all successful educational settings. When principals build relationships with the student body, it helps to create a supportive environment that is conducive to learning. Unfortunately for many principals, they are only seen when a problem erupts and often spend most of their time in their offices. There are several steps that principals can take to build better relationships with students.
Get out in the hallways
One of the first changes that a principal should make is to step out of the office and into the hallway while students are passing between classes, lunch breaks or before and after school. It helps to give the students a sense that the principal is actually observing what is going on as well as giving the principal an opportunity to interact with the students.
Step into the classrooms
Many principals are reluctant to step into the classrooms of teachers without an invitation to a special activity. Principals should make a concerted effort to try to stop into every classroom to see what it is happening. Not as a disciplinarian, but to gain information about the student body. If the principal steps into a speech class and watches a student complete a demonstration of how to tie a fly for fishing, that principal learns something about that student and can later compliment the student or ask about the hobby. Learning more about students from observing in the classroom, can help create common bonds.
Ask teachers about special events
Certainly if teachers do have special activities planned, it can be important for the principal to be there to support the class. It may appear unnoticed or unimportant, but students gain the unspoken message that they are important to him or her. This is one of the most important ways to show caring.
Students like to know that principals are proud of their involvement in activities. Attending sporting events, plays, concerts and other participatory activities should not be seen as an obligation, but rather as a way to connect with students. It becomes a clear place to develop a bond with the students.
Call the students by name
Even if the school is very large, it is essential to try to learn the names of all the students. Then when addressing the student make sure to use the name. It helps the student see that the principal cares enough to know who they are, even when they are being ordinary kids and not just when they are in trouble.
Develop small group activities
One way to develop stronger bonds with the students is to work with them in small groups. Organize committees for school activities such as homecoming or back-to-school night and have a variety of students on those committees. When students see that the administration really cares about their input, it strengthens the relationship with the principal.
It seems like a simple thing to do, but all too often administrators seem way too serious. To students it comes off as being stern and someone just looking for students to have an infraction. Instead try to appear a little more friendly and not so serious and dour.
One of the most important things to strive for in education is consistency with students. If students have the perception that certain students are allowed bad behavior and other students are not, it creates animosity and resentment. Inaccurate perceptions abound in this area and are unavoidable sometimes. It is helpful for administrators to try to abide by the rules set forth in the school handbook and apply those rules consistently while supporting the educational staff.
Students who may be having problems at school, conflicts with teachers, or issues that require some counseling, just need someone to listen to them. It is important to truly give the student one’s full attention and eye contact while they talk. Allowing the student to explain without trying to argue about the problem can often diffuse a serious problem.
Finally an important aspect to building relationships with students is to keep calm. Try not to lose composure. The more calmly problems and disagreeable students can be dealt with the greater the respect will be from the student body. That doesn’t mean that there is no discipline, just that the problem is dealt with calmly and professionally. Avoid reactions that may embarrass or humiliate a student, because the long term damage is that relationships with the students are weakened.
Developing healthy relationships with students can assist an administrator in managing a successful school. Relationships does not equal being their friend or buddy. Instead it means being a respectful reliable professional who acts in the best interests of the students.