(Originally posted at A Principal’s Life. )

By David Ellena

As a new year begins, hopefully we have all set goals and determined things that we will do better this year than last. I know I have. I always say that I am going to spend more time in classrooms (is there ever a time when you get to spend TOO much time in a stay-engaged-david-ellenaclassroom?). But, then the real world creeps in. Papers begin to pile up, deadlines from central office appear, little fires grow into big ones, and when they are put out others pop up. We all know this story. How can we, as leaders, put aside the busy work and ensure that we are spending quality time doing the things that matter most? This was one of the questions that I have given some thought to since school let out June 13th. Here are some of the things that I have decided to implement this coming school year to make sure that I am staying out from underneath the pile!


Establish Rituals


I read a blog post from Lolly Daskal a few weeks ago. She is the creator of the “Lead from Within” blog and presents on leadership across the country. If you are not following her blog you should be. This post was about Rituals that make every day count. You can read it here tinyurl.com/n6ntz87. After reading the blog, I decided to make a short list of rituals that I aim to do every day to make me a better leader. That list consists of reading something for my personal growth as a leader, writing in my professional journal and listening closely to a colleague.


Visit at Least Five Classrooms Twice a Day


I always learn something new from my PLN. One trick I picked up was a take on the popsicle stick questioning technique. You know, where the teacher has a can of popsicle sticks with every students name on them. The teacher randomly picks a stick to call on students to answer questions? This substitutes teachers names for student names. Heading out to walk the halls? Draw five popsicle sticks. Stop by these rooms and do a walk through. Place the sticks in a second can. When the first can is empty, start the process over again.


Tell Our School’s Story


This year, I want to increase the use of social media to make sure that our schools story is getting out to the community. Last year I created a blog for the school to keep parents informed. I also sent out a weekly e-mail to parents to keep them abreast of upcoming events and news. This year, I want to expand our resources. I want to increase the use of our YouTube channel, post more frequently on the school blog and combine InstaGram and Storify to help get the story out.


Become More Involved in the Community


This year, I want to be more active in the school community itself. I have volunteered to sit on a panel at a local faith organization on bullying. I am also going make an effort to attend more sporting events not school sponsored, but where my students are involved. Some of this part is a work in progress.


What are YOUR commitments for this year? How are you going to become a better leader this year? Share your ideas and goals for the coming year.



David Ellena is the Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals. He shares his insights on his website, A Principal’s Life. Follow David on Twitter at @TCMSPrincipal.