Rethinking July for Principals

It's icy outside. Makes me think about summertime. In many charter schools, principals take a week or 2 off in July. Much needed!

I have a different idea. Principals should consider taking off much of May, turning the school over to a deputy, and then working all of July.

Why?

From Sep 1 til end of June, a principal is always grinding. Reacting. That leaves, theoretically, August and July for "planning."

But many charter schools have their whole staff come back in August to prepare for the coming school year. Therefore the principal isn't planning in August. She's reacting to the teacher planning, trying to get a little quality time with the new teachers, and rolling out the "new stuff" -- schedule, policies, etc that were cooked up in July.

So August isn't really proactive. That leaves July. Typically, July for principals has maybe 2 weeks of downtime. Maybe not even that much. Sometimes a week of real vacation and then "half day." Half days that turn into three quarter days....

So that leaves 2 available weeks of July when the principal is working. During that time one needs all the "planning" for the year, plus:

1. Some "cleaning up" of last year (for example, addressing kids on the bubble of passing or not);

2. Data or forms needed by the Department of Ed;

3. New student enrollment;

4. Often a late hire or two (a teacher who had signed a contract changes his mind);

5. Keeping an eye on kids in summer school, even if not directly managing it.

So. What would a principal do if she'd taken most of May off for a true getaway, and therefore was really energized for July?

I'd suggest: work extensively with each new teacher. Get their curriculum really nailed down (rather than handing someone last year's and hoping for the best). Practice some of the first few lessons aloud, particularly those where the rookie teachers explains rules and procedures. I can imagine the principal running "Rookie Mini Camp" in July -- intensive attention showered just on rookies, like NFL football coaches do.

If a principal really had the first two weeks of July free, she could invest 80+ hours of principal attention just in the new teachers. Got 8 new teachers? Spend an hour each day with each one, for 10 straight days.

My guess:

1. New teachers would love the attention.

2. Principals get to build trusting relationships with their team, set clear expectations, and (I'm speculating) enjoy precisely this type of mentoring...

...without the normal daily during-the-school-year pressure of keeping the whole boat afloat.

3. It's so much easier, in life, to get anything right from the beginning, rather than fix it later. This time allocation would save teachers and principal some downstream headaches.

Why May? Why not winter, April, June?

Winter is cold. Not ideal for downtime, at least here in the Northeast. Folks have Xmas break anyway.

April is often the key month of state tests. Hard to bow out then.

In June the principal needs to lead all sorts of closure, for kids, parents and staff.

Hence: May.

Seems like Rethinking July work well with giving someone else the keys and a chance to lead the school in May for a few weeks. I.e., develop new leaders.

Most principals I know would never consider this. They don't want to be away from their schools while students are in session. They'd have to be persuaded by some mix of teachers, colleagues, and perhaps trustees.

In my mind, it's just a question of which 2 weeks of principal effort has higher payoff. A 2-week, highly-structured July investment in new teachers via 1:1 coaching and trouble-shooting, or 2 weeks of "keeping things running" in May?