This year I began work as an assistant principal across two primary schools. Along with starting to establish rapport with staff members, one of my first priorities was getting my two offices set up. I saw it as my duty to furnish my workspaces prior to the students’ first day of school, even though my time on the job officially began only about 1.5 weeks before this day. If all teachers were able to get their classrooms up and running, there was no reason why I could not do the same with my rooms.
When decorating my offices I decided to go with student friendly themes, a Pixar theme for one (inspired by Creativity, Inc.) and a superhero theme for another. What I now have serves as a starting point, and I plan to add to the décor throughout the year. Here are five reasons why a building administrator should have a student friendly office:
- A student conversation starter: Student friendly themes can be used to help start up conversation with students, which is especially helpful when working with learners who are more reluctant to open up. These decorations let students know that you share common ground and that you are appreciative of their interests. Many young children probably believe that administrators live personal lives that entirely contrast with those of their own, and we want to do what we can to counteract this misconception.
- A relaxing “escape” for students: We do not always know what types of home lives our students lead. Also, as sad as it may be, some of them never truly become comfortable in their current classroom(s). (As a fourth grade teacher, I definitely had some students with whom I was never able to get through.) While we want to do what we can to maximize classroom time for our children, an administrator’s office can help in providing them with a calm escape in times of need. When students are in my office it is my goal to deescalate any existing problems, and a friendly atmosphere contributes to this cause.
- Remembering your roots: Sometimes it can be difficult for teachers to view administrators as one of them, and I do not think it is far-fetched to believe that some teachers have an “us vs. them” union mentality. A student friendly office shows teachers that you have not lost sight of the fact that the students are everyone’s most valuable asset, and that everyone is working together for their benefit. This type of atmosphere serves as a gentle reminder that the students’ best interests should be at the focal point of every school-related decision.
- Leading by example: No matter what form of change an administrator is attempting to inspire, it is always important to lead by example. Schools (particularly at the primary level) should contain classrooms and workplaces that promote student-centered learning, risk taking, and creativity. Even though it might be difficult for the makeup of an administrative office to endorse all of these attributes (although it can be done), a principal’s office can easily show that “outside the box” thinking/teaching/learning should play a part in the daily education of students. Inspiring change is much more effective than trying to persuade others to change.
- A comfortable workplace: As an assistant principal I will be spending a great deal of alone time in my offices, hammering away at work. The bottom line is I want to work in places that are inspiring and comfortable, as would anyone else who has an office. At the beginning of the year dedicate a little more time (and money) to setting up your office, and then you will hopefully be more likely to stay there, working away until the late hours.
If you are an administrator, how do you decorate your office? If you are a teacher, how do you decorate your classroom? Have you seen any office and/or classroom models that are particularly inspiring?
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