Starting a New Year on the Rite Foot

Posted by Matt Berringer on August 24, 2011

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

Well, here we are on the eve of another school year. However, before I go any further, I am sure that you have noticed my choice of words in the title of this blog. Let me assure you, this was not a grammatical error on my part. I intentionally used the word rite for a good reason. Rite, to mean a custom or habit, fits perfectly into the start of a new school year.

As an educational leader, it is important that you understand the power of a particular rite of preparing for a new year. If you, as a custom, meet with your staff on the eve of a new school year, you will have a great opportunity to set the tone for what will occur during the upcoming year. I would suggest that this is a time to celebrate, refocus, reassure, and reenergize.

The eve of a new school year is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past year. This is a time to let your team know that you have noticed their hard work. As an example, I have read excerpts from e-mails sent by others outside of my department praising the work that we, as a team had accomplished. I think it is important to recognize the team and not individuals, as identifying individuals at this time may have negative consequences. And most importantly, this is a time for you, as their leader, to genuinely thank your staff for working to make positive things happen.

The eve of a new school year is also a time to refocus. As I have mentioned in the past, it is imperative to the success of your team that they understand your goals and expectations. This is not a time to scold your team for missteps or a time for chastising your team if tasks had unintended results in the previous year. The key here is to let your team “remember” how you want your team to function. This can be as simple as reminding everyone to be punctual to something more direct as following the chain of command. Remember, your team has to know what you expect, if they are to reach your expectations.

There is no doubt that every new year brings about changes. Whether changes are related to a budget crisis or related to reorganization. Know that your staff will always come into a new year with questions. Try to anticipate the questions so that you can answer the questions before they are even asked. If there was a staff reduction, let them know the reasons for the action. If there is a reduced budget, let them know how the budget reduction will affect the department/campus. If you have made organizational changes, explain how those changes will contribute to the overall success in the new year. Be straightforward with your staff, they will definitely appreciate it.

And finally, get excited about starting a new year. The start of a new year wipes the slate clean. The start of a new year is a time for creating new opportunities for success. Let your staff know that you are excited about the start of the new year. Of course, be sincere and genuine. It makes no sense to do so otherwise. And if you aren’t feeling excited about what you are doing then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your purpose. But that is another topic for another blog.

Perhaps, many of you may be accustomed for this type of activity occurring solely at the district level. It really needs to happen at your level regardless of whether you are a Superintendent, Principal, or Department Head. Following through with this activity year after year will add continuity to your workflow and among your team.

Topics: staff development, education, training, K-12