October is National Principals Month – 9 X 5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Your Principal

Posted
10/5/2021
Jon Konen
District Superintendent
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In my experience, I believe the hardest job in education is the principalship. For those of you in education, you know I am right.

Principals are in the trenches with staff and students, consistently communicating with the community and parents, and they are the filter of all situations. The decisions principals must make are always in view by their school staff and community. Their vision for the educational journey of all students seems to be questioned more and more every day.

We know that the microcosm of a school mirrors that of our larger communities. The principal is the ultimate change agent in the school. What they cultivate, they grow. In the same aspect, what they permit, they allow.

Having been a principal for over a decade in an elementary, middle, and high school, and now a superintendent who oversees six principals, I have nothing but pure respect for the weight that is on the shoulders as a principal.

Principals are essential instructional leaders, valuable human connectors, effective resource providers, sound professional development creators, and magical managers. This leaves little time for some to advocate for their principal colleagues, or advocate for education in general.

Most principals do not like to toot their own horn. This modesty is superlative to the position. The best principals I know put everyone else first, ultimately before their needs are ever met. These principals put time into students, staff, and parents, and it pays off with their success.

But who celebrates the principals? We all must celebrate principals!

I have collected some great ideas from other school communities, but many of the following ideas I have experienced myself. Here are nine unique ideas to celebrate your principal.

1 - Role Model Writing of Appreciation

What does a role model look like? Defining and answering this question with the principal in mind can be the most powerful celebration a principal ever receives. I have a three inch binder full of letters from students from kindergarten to sixth grade. It is the greatest gift I have ever received. The total cost was paper, brainstorming, a binder, and some valuable writing instruction time.

The perspective that students bring to such an assignment can leave a principal in tears. Having a rainy day file since I started education, I pull this binder off the shelf and begin re-reading these tremendous letters from students. It is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face, and reinforces my love of public education.

TRY THESE FIVE...

  1. School Wide Writing Prompt
  2. Grade Level Themed Letters
  3. Digital Portfolio of Letters and Audio Messages
  4. Students Reading to a Principal on a Video Tribute
  5. Writing Buddy Partners (Kinder+Sixth Grader, First Grader + Fifth Grader, etc…)

2 - Dress Like a Hero

Picture this, on a Walk-a-thon themed day, "Dress Like a Hero," the whole school secretly shows up dressed like you. You see your face photocopied off and used as masks for students as they walk. I won't lie, I did shed a tear as I didn't know the students and staff would go to this extent to "Dress Like a Hero."

The power of this activity started with our student council who created the theme. As an elementary principal, I was the student council advisor. Not once did I know that students and staff and PTA were plotting behind my back to dress like the principal. How humbling and compassionate!

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Dress Like a Principal
  2. Walk-a-thon Themed Event for Principal
  3. Grades Dress as One of the Principal's Interests (fishing, hunting, sports theme, etc…)
  4. Create Meme Shirts Describing Principal
  5. Alphabet shirts that spell out words that describe the Principal (ie...C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N-A-T-E, which would take 13 students!)

3 - Grade Level Themed Baskets of Praise

One easy way to appreciate the principal is a themed basket gift by your grade level. Ownership of these baskets can hit all students as they feel like they have contributed. Principals will be appreciative of the group effort to celebrate them.

Start small, put a limit of a couple dollars for a donation to a themed basket. Students can either donate the cash or donate an item to the basket. Not everyone has money to spend on their principal. For those students that cannot afford that, have some items ready for them to donate so they feel they have contributed to the basket.

TRY THESE FIVE...

  1. Food
  2. Outdoors
  3. Scents
  4. Pumpkin Spice or Fall
  5. Sports

4 - Unique Gifts for The Job

Over the twelve years as principal, I never expected a gift from anyone, but was definitely appreciative when the PTA, staff, or students wanted to celebrate me. I have received some unique gifts that have helped me do my job. Many of these gifts I still have and use in my current position as superintendent.

Coming together as a school community, PTA, students, and staff, a pretty good chunk of change can be used to celebrate the principal. One of the most unique gifts I received was a pair of specialized sneakers. After ditching my dress shoes due to outside destruction on recess and crossing guard duty, I moved to sneakers. 10,000-12,000 steps was my goal daily, and I surely wasn't going to do that in my expensive dress shoes. I still wear these sneakers routinely which remind me of these fabulous people.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Portable Principal Rolling Desk
  2. Specialized Lanyard, Matching Belt, and Designed Socks
  3. Massage, Tips, Toes, and Hair
  4. Gift or Donation In Honor of Principal's
  5. Designer Bag or Backpack with School Logo

5 - Dedication Song and Dance

A dedication song or song is a cheap idea and it can go viral and have the principal in tears. Each classroom or grade level practices a song and/or a dance to perform to celebrate the principal. Time and effort are the only things you need to create a unique gift that shows your appreciation for your principal.

Nothing is more powerful than a kindergarten class singing a song of praise for you in the office. I would take this any day as a principal. This idea first started when we celebrated our secretary. We would video some of these expressions of kindness, especially for the school secretary, and garnered thousands of hits in our community to celebrate her! Try it with your principal.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Grade Level Themes Songs
  2. Student Created Dances and Songs
  3. Song Writing Contest for Students and Staff in Honor of Principal
  4. Create Video Dance Tributes
  5. Mascot Makeover Dance Competition in Honor of Principal

6 - Fundraiser for a Fun Cause

In my last school district, our school foundation was phenomenal. One of the exciting aspects that community members could do was donate to the foundation in your honor. With the money coming back to kids in our district, this is a noble gesture to celebrate your principal.

I was lucky enough to have community members donate to our school foundation and earmarked the money for me to spend as I see fit for students in our elementary school. All donations ran through the foundation, but ideas abounded. I then got students involved to help decide what we were going to do with this money.

I took the donated money a step further and created a "Shark Tank" competition between teams. I even invited those donors back to be the "sharks." The community members would then vote on which projects would be funded. Of course, the "sharks" tried to fund all projects in which the students brought forward, partially or fully funded.

Making a donation to the school in honor of the principal, then allowing the principal to decide how to spend that money would be a great way to celebrate them.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Start a Shark Tank Competition with Donated Money
  2. Donate to a School Foundation Honoring the Principal
  3. Create a fundraiser where proceeds go to Principal to Spend back on School
  4. Donate to Shelter, Food Pantry, etc...honoring the Principal
  5. Start a Matching Funds Campaign to Purchase something for School in Honor of Principal

7 - Flash Mob Dinner Date +50

In one of my colleagues' schools, she shared that the PTA and staff set up a fancy dinner date for her and her husband. When she and her husband started eating, PTA and staff members started filling the empty tables around them one by one. They didn't interact with her and her husband, they continued to act like everything was normal. Within 15 minutes the entire restaurant was full of PTA and staff members. It was now an adult school party in honor of the principal.

Her husband was "in" on the whole ploy as he continued to talk to her like normal while everyone was filing into the restaurant. The excitement was eminent. The comical piece was that the PTA and staff bought them another gift card for dinner to be used any other night for themselves.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Gift Card for a Meal
  2. Adult Night with the Principal
  3. Adult Dance Night with a DJ in Honor of Principal
  4. Dollar Donation Dance (most commonly seen at weddings) for Principal
  5. Formal Dinner Night Where PTA and Staff Serves Principal (no kids...LOL!)

8 - Radio Raves

In my tenure in my school district I was able to make connections with local radio announcers. In fact, I even called basketball games for one season as an announcer. These relationships proved important as I took some of my ideas to the airwaves to celebrate other people. We celebrated students and staff on the radio with some 30 second spots. How powerful was it listening to students talk about their teachers. Why not do this for the principal?

Get your staff and PTA involved in creating radio spots to celebrate the principal of the school. Make sure to highlight the things that the principal does that make your school the best place to work and learn. If you are in a district with multiple schools, take this idea district wide to celebrate principals during the month of October. We need great stories like these hitting the airwaves.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Radio Raves About the Principal by Students, Staff, and PTA
  2. Radio Advertisement to Come Work for Principal, include Great Qualities
  3. Create Audio Spots that Can be Played at School During Announcements
  4. Get the Principal's Mother or Father On Board to Talk About Them
  5. Get the Principal's kids to Talk about Funny and Rewarding Moments at Home (Screen the moments before they go live and know your principal!)

9 - Sensationalized on Social Media

In my current school district, last year we celebrated all our administrative team by creating social media blurts about them. We included a picture, why they chose to be a principal, and other fun facts that could be used to create an informational graphic.

The many comments that were left were powerful for several reasons. The principals got to see these comments, as well as the community, but the overall support for our administration was fabulous. Exactly what we needed October of 2020 in the midst of the Covid Pandemic.

We recently purchased a new website provider that includes an App. This app pushes out information to our families through push notifications. In addition, the app uses Thrillshare which has the ability to connect all our social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Website News feed, and soon, Instagram. We can post once across several platforms. Think of the power you can have on social media celebrating your principal.

TRY THESE FIVE…

  1. Create Memes by Students Celebrating the Principal
  2. Create Vines or short TikTok videos Celebrating the Principal
  3. Create a social media celebration calendar and divvy responsibilities to several groups (kindergarten team week 1, high school freshman core week 2, etc…)
  4. Go Virtually Viral -- Create a social media post celebrating a principal and have every student, staff member, and community member like and share it out.
  5. Interview the Principal and put on Social Media.

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