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Make a great first impression

One of my favorite chores is mowing the lawn on the riding lawn mower. It’s my quiet time to think, and the yard looks fabulous when I’m done. Many years ago on a quiet Sunday afternoon, the lawn mower somehow caused a rock to strike the passenger window of my SUV, breaking the glass into a spider web of dangerous-looking cracks. My handy husband offered to put a piece of cardboard behind the glass so I could safely drive to work the next day and get the window replaced.

I had just recently started a new job as a science coordinator in a school district and was still working on making a good first impression. My clever husband found a sturdy box in the garage and did a lovely job of fitting and taping the cardboard into the window frame. It wasn’t until I came out to inspect his work that he realized he had used a liquor box and had even placed it label side out so that everyone I passed or parked near could see the brand of alcohol the box once held.
The next morning I sheepishly parked my car in front of my office, hoping that no one would notice my window decoration. The busted window and liquor box were not a true representation of me. This was not the image I wanted to present to my new boss and coworkers. Thankfully, the glass company replaced my window before the workday was over and I never again advertised liquor in my car window.
My new boss was a good sport and the glass company was quick to do their job, but I had work to do to prove that my one day of crazy was not the norm. So what can we learn from my experience to help us be better science administrators?
Great first impressions are important. Whether you’re beginning a new role as a science leader or returning to a position you’ve held for years, you have the opportunity to launch the new school year with an amazing experience for teachers. It may be tempting to let the day unfold as it may, but you only get one chance to start this school year, so take control of everything you can.
Be prepared
Confirm the number of teachers who will attend professional development, including paraprofessionals and those from special education. Make sure the rooms you reserve have plenty of space and have seats that are as comfortable as possible. Asking teachers to spend an entire day on cafeteria stools will not make them receptive to new learning.
Dress the part
You are the leader so look the part. Dress a shade nicer than your teachers are expected to dress so there is no doubt who is in charge. Professional dress can influence your own behavior as well as those around you.
Share the data
Besides goals for the school year, you’ll be expected to share your district’s testing results for the previous school year. Spend some serious time analyzing and looking for trends to be prepared to talk teachers through the big picture. It is certainly worth celebrating if scores are amazing or show significant improvement, but no matter the outcome, it’s time to present a plan to improve areas of need. This is a prime opportunity to let teachers know the focus for the year. If you’re interested in growing this skill, join us at Region 4 for a workshop geared toward science instructional coaches and leaders looking at data
Keep it positive and upbeat
There is no other field quite as cyclical as education. With the start of a new school year, there’s a combination of excitement and anticipation, but you’ll also find some feelings of being overwhelmed (especially for new teachers) and a little grieving that summer break is over. Your educators need to hear that it’s going to be a great year and they are part of an amazing team.
So make a plan for success. Have a game plan so that even if the unexpected happens, a busted window and a liquor box won’t derail your whole day. And even if you have a little mishap, I’m sure it’ll make a great story to tell your friends later. It will go something like, “There was this one time . . . .”
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