The honeymoon period marks a time of new beginnings. School administrators, unlike many other professionals, experience an opportunity for a fresh start each fall. Renewed, teachers come back from summer break believing in the promise of a new year. Parents send children with new outfits and backpacks to classrooms with new teachers. And as the new beginning unfolds, the first weeks of school are charged with hope and possibility.
As with any new beginning involving determined people, the site administrator and staff focus on taking time to communicate, support each other, and develop plans. And in the absence of the daily challenges that build over time, there is a sense of well-being and community that permeates the school. But what are the things principals do in that first month of school that create the glow of a new beginning? And, more important, what can administrators do to continue those practices throughout the school year?
In his article, “Sustain the Honeymoon Period All School Year,” Steve Moore describes himself as a “bare-knuckled optimist.” As a teacher, he values the work of administrators who have “an attitude that keeps the honeymoon going.” Moore believes it is deliberate work focused on “thoughts, questions, and actions that keep the luster ongoing.” He contends that when a principal asks how a teacher or aide is doing, it demonstrates a commitment to providing support and creates a culture of caring that continually renews the people in the school.
Creating a culture of caring, according to Quint Studer, author of Hardwiring Excellence, is achieved by having meaningful conversations with employees. And facilitating meaningful communication with teachers and staff helps extend the honeymoon period, not because conversations are focused on curriculum or policy, but rather because they are guided by efforts to understand what a staff member is thinking and how he or she is feeling. Studer suggests checking in with employees at regular intervals of six to nine weeks. With this in mind, a principal might resolve to ask at least one teacher or staff member daily, “How are you doing?”
The roll-out of a new school year naturally gets enmeshed in day-to-day challenges. Sometimes thoughtful conversations appear to become altogether lost when handling discipline issues, listening to parents’ concerns, or trying to shore up a weary teacher. But the thread of care established in the promise of each new year can become the sinewy core around which everything that happens at a school winds itself. And the “honeymoon” period at the start of a school year can stay alive when we bolster relationships with kind words and supportive actions rather than allowing the inevitable work of attending to daily challenges to push relationships aside.
Moore, S. (n.d.). Sustain the honeymoon period all school year. TeachHUB.com. Online: http://www.teachhub.com/sustain-honeymoon-period-all-school-year
Studer, Q. (2003). Hardwiring excellence: Purpose, worthwhile work, making a difference. Gulfbreeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.