First Day of School: Now What?
We all think about what we are going to do to be prepared for that first day students arrive on campus. Unfortunately, you only have one opportunity for a good first impression! The best plan to have is to be thoroughly prepared and be flexible enough for any emergency.
If you are an experienced principal surrounded by capable staff, this experience will be less traumatic than for the new principal or the principal of a reconfigured or new school However, it is always a good idea to plan this important day carefully.
Meet with different groups (administrators, team leaders, teachers, counselors, clerical, custodians, cafeteria staff, etc.) several times well in advance of the opening day. Brainstorm to make sure all issues are covered. Create a thorough checklist, and revisit last year's checklist to help remind you of any problems that might have occurred.
Possible items to include on your checklist:
- Will you have an orientation program for students and parents? This could be especially important for incoming and new students. Orientation should include the expectations of your school as well as helping students become familiar with the campus. Do you have a packet of materials that all students (or all new students) will receive? Are all the materials up to date? Who will collect these materials into a "welcome packet" for students?
Effective planning is the key to a successful opening day of school. If you are an experienced principal, you will probably just have to revisit and update your plan. If you are new to the principalship or new to that school, certainly look at what the school has done in the past. Ask colleagues at other schools to share their preparation plans. Discuss your concerns with the area superintendent or superintendent and, of course, with your staff. Everyone has an important stake in a smooth opening of school. Good luck!
Les Potter is Principal of Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange, Florida, and a 2004 Scholastic Principal Fellow. Karen Potter is a classroom teacher and administrator in training at Sweetwater Elementary School, Port Orange, Florida.