Dr Jessica Bonduris is one of the Directors of Elementary Principal Support for the San Francisco Unified School District. Originally an English and History teacher, Jessica then took up various assistant principal positions before becoming an elementary school principal and eventually moved into the supportive position she now has.
What are the most important strategies you used as a teacher and as a principal to make connections with and build the most student to adult relationships?
Student – teacher relationships:
- Stand outside your door and greet every student with a smile when they enter the room – make sure there is no tension in your body – every day is a new day.
Parent – teacher relationships:
- Make phone calls to parents before any negativity happens – parents should know your voice so that when you call they wonder what the call is about rather than immediately assuming something is wrong. You have built the relationship in advance and are much more well-received as a result.
- Ask each parent to send in a letter about their child – what kind of learner they are and what they need. Ask each student to do the same. This helps to create a mental image of the student and how to relate to them.
Principal – teacher relationships:
Communicate effectively –
- Formally with staff – send a regular ‘Monday Memo’ – short bullets around events and pieces of the school vision. Make it clear you expect all teachers to read it every week.
- Informally with staff – make sure you are out and about – in the recess yard, through the hallways in every classroom. This is essential to help you know what may be coming up and be ready.
Principal – parent relationships:
- Create a newsletter – inform parents about new initiatives several months before it happens
- Concentrate on ‘curb appeal’ – this is not just having the grounds of the school well-kept but also being there waving and smiling at parents as they drop off their children, greeting buses and making it clear you are approachable and friendly enough to encourage parents to come in and see you.