The life of a school principal is not for the faint-hearted. Busy days are spent dashing from meetings, to classroom observations, to dealing with crises and having difficult conversations with students, parents and teachers.
At the same time, the school principal is expected to be approachable and ‘in-tune’ with his or her students, taking the time to greet and engage with them on the school grounds. These in-between moments often consist of seasonal pleasantries, nuts and bolts interactions, or generic connections and greetings.
However, if used to their full potential with the right comments and questions, principals can use these communication opportunities to propel the school forward, modeling what it means to be a learner and inviting more voices into the decision-making process.
To give you an idea, here are three questions that principals should be asking:
Question #1: What are you reading?
By asking this question (to students or staff), you imply and suggest that they should always be reading something. Reading should be a top priority at all schools and this question sparks a conversation that could lead to other ideas, such as a schoolwide reading hour or staff book club.
Question #2: I’ve been thinking about _____. What do you think?
Asking for help and input is an important leadership skill – rather than being seen as an ‘all-knowing’ leader, asking for help and advice shows that you value the perspectives and opinions of coworkers. It also shows that you are a keen learner and that you’re conscious that there is always room for improvement.
Question #3: If you were me, what would you change?
This question is similar to question two, but is more open-ended. This allows students or staff to express their own ideas; and the more the question is asked, the more insightful the answers become. You’ll learn a lot from this question, so only ask it if and when you are truly ready to listen.
Even though a principal’s day is usually jam-packed and demanding, it’s important to take time to foster and treasure open dialogue and communication. Not only will you gain important insights, but you’ll be seen as an example of a good leader who listens.