The most effective school principals are those who aren’t tied to their office desks. Do you know where they are often? In hallways. At that spot where they can greet everyone who passes by during the start of a school day, recess, or going-home time.
Perhaps you do this yourself, too — hollering ‘have a great weekend’ to students or reminding your staff about that 6 p.m. meeting. Honestly, you can do hallway interactions so much better than these generic greetings. What’s a nicer alternative? Questions. Here are some good questions you can consider.
How would you describe today?
Or if you’re greeting people at the start of the day, you can ask them, ‘What do you look forward to today?’ Both questions allow students and staff to reflect, to do some introspection. They may not be able to answer you right away, but that’s okay. The point is to let them think for themselves, because only then can your interaction with them be meaningful and memorable.
Now, there will be instances when they do respond right away. When they say something positive, take note of that, so you can bring it up in your next interaction. When they act like something’s off, then that’s your cue to bring up a light-hearted humorous remark or offer to talk about it some time. This is how you build rapport. You go beyond surface-level conversations.
What do you think?
At those times when students and staff will have a lot more time to stop and think, share with them a plan you’ve been mulling over and ask them what they think about it. Get their feedback, listen intently, and consider their suggestions.
For example, after school, discuss with the cafeteria staff your plan to quicken the flow of kids entering the cafeteria. During recess, before the kids walk to the playground, tell them about your plan to build cycle shelters to promote your bike-to-school program.
Solicit their opinions. With this habit, you can gain a lot of valuable insights for your plans and more importantly, communicate to the community that you value their say on matters.
What are you reading?
Sometimes, you just have to take cues from the interests of the people you meet. If they’re holding or reading a novel, ask them how they got interested in it. If they’re carrying a skateboard, ask them where they usually hang out. If they have headphones wrapped around their necks, ask what kind of music they listen to often.
This way, you’ll be able to connect to the things they like, things that don’t involve classroom lessons or job duties. Students and staff will appreciate that you’re interested in the stuff they’re interested in. Of course, needless to say, be genuinely, wholeheartedly curious about the things that matter to them. It’s easy to spot insincerity, mind you.
Do you have the habit of greeting people going in and out of your campus? Good. Make it better. Ask members of your school community with meaningful questions.