In this Principal Perspectives we highlight the inspiring actions of Cathy Jacobs, who currently serves as principal of Matzke Elementary CyFair ISD, which is home to just under 1,000 PreK-5th grade students. Mom of 3. Wife to a real life hero.
Making a Personal Connection
Principal Perspectives #3, January 21, 2019
As a principal, it may sometimes be challenging to find ways to personally interact with students, while simultaneously running a school from an administrative angle. As a result of juggling these professional and personal worlds, there are many schools in which “principal” is a stand-in for “disciplinarian,” with students only meeting their principal in negative circumstances.
However, as a principal, your position of leadership gives you the power to set the overall tone of your school.
By your example, you can create a friendly, open environment, in which “principal” is synonymous with “consideration” and “respect.” You have the opportunity to inspire others, and it all begins with being conscious of the way you treat your students.
Cathy Jacobs is the principal of Matzke Elementary School in Texas, and she is an example of a principal who dedicates her energy and portions of her schedule each day to student interaction.
Cathy is a leader that anyone can learn from – take a look at a few of her strategies listed below.
Greeting Students by Name
[thrive_text_block color=”teal” headline=””]I greeted a student by name walking into school with her dad this morning. He said, with concern, “Why does the principal know your name?” Her response: “Don’t worry, she knows everyone’s name!” Not all but most! Cathy Jacobs[/thrive_text_block]
Every morning, Cathy stands outside of Matzke Elementary School and personally wishes her students a good morning. In fact, Cathy has taken time to remember each student’s name within her school.
This is such a simple way to ensure students know that they matter. By memorizing student’s names, you are letting them know that you are aware of each and every one of them as individuals, not as a general group.
119 Thank You notes went in snail mail today! Love my staff!
— Cathy Jacobs (@cathyjacobs5) November 21, 2017
Do you have a student who excelled in the regional spelling bee? Perhaps the eighth-grade team fought hard in last week’s soccer game.
You can let your students know that you recognize their accomplishments by handwriting “thank you” or “congratulations” notes, and either personally delivering them during school, or mailing them to the students’ homes.
This is a great way to show your students that you are in touch with the specific events occurring within your school and that you share in their successes.
Celebrating Student of the Month
[thrive_text_block color=”teal” headline=””]One of my favorite things we do is @MatzkeElemCFISD to celebrate kids! @MatzkeElemCFISD puts kids first every day! –Cathy Jacobs[/thrive_text_block]
As principal, you are in a position to determine who or what is worthy of an award. Why not begin crowning a “Student of the Month” within your school?
You can reward students based on a wide range of criteria – perhaps you saw a student comforting her friend in the hallway, and you believe her level of empathy deserves an award.
Perhaps you notice a particular student holding the door open every morning for his teacher, and you believe his consideration should be recognized.
You have the power to highlight and reinforce positive behavior within your school, and this positive reinforcement will create a friendlier environment for students and faculty alike.
[thrive_text_block color=”teal” headline=””]I’ve been pushing this book cart around every day trying to get to all the August birthdays. My fave question every time, “Is this a book I get to keep forever?” My fave statement, “It’s so hard to just pick one!” Cathy Jacobs[/thrive_text_block]
Who doesn’t love birthdays and presents? By gifting birthday books, you can show students that you are aware of their special day, and you can reinforce reading as a fun, exciting activity.
Cathy Jacobs keeps a log of student birthdays in her office, and on every birthday she wheels a book cart in and out of classrooms to find the noteworthy students. Cathy then invites each birthday boy or girl to come and select one book from the cart.
This is yet another clever way to show your students that you are thinking of them, and it is so simple to put into practice.
Taking the time to address the interpersonal aspects of your position as principal will lead to a more upbeat, constructive atmosphere within your school. You will also become an example of authority handled with empathy, and this is an example that students will carry with them for a lifetime.
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