Leading Through Relationships

    Q&A with a Principal: Building Relationships is Key to Successful School Leadership

    Colby Self, Principal
    Fannie Mae Caldwell Elementary
    Round Rock, Texas, Pflugerville ISD
    Raise Your Hand Texas Alumnus ’14 (Harvard – Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership)

    Principal Colby Self remembers when he was a student. “Sometimes, I don’t think I saw my principal in the upper grades as much, and it’s a shame,” he said. “I want the kids to know who their principal is.” Here, Self sat down for a Q&A with Raise Your Hand Texas and talked about the importance of principal-student relationships.

    Q. How important is it for you, as a principal, to know your students?

    A. It’s very important. We have 667 kids. I try to learn most of their names. I can’t say I’m 100 percent, but I try to interact with them. I’m out in the foyer in the morning because I want their parents to know I’m available as well. For the most part, that relationship is huge because they’re not going to be willing to hear what you have to say until they know you care about them and show interest in them.

    Q. How would you quantify the time you spend in the classroom?

    A. We are in every classroom once a week, period. Minimum. My administrative team — we actually have a schedule lined out. And that’s what I did this morning. I was in the Kinder class and they were working on reading. I sat down with a little girl and read through a book and she was identifying letters in her name. We try to be in there to help inform instruction, but also [develop] that relationship with kids.

    Q. What’s your interaction like with your teachers?

    A. Positive feedback is important for the teachers. Hey I like how you’re doing. Would you be willing to share that at a faculty meeting? [Telling them] These are the best practices we’re seeing or These are the areas we need more support and training in. We just try to support [teachers] as best we can.

    Q. What would you tell colleagues about The Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education?

    A. I’ve told others about it. ‘Come up and drink the Kool-Aid! Let’s go! Get on board!’ It’s just a valuable experience.

    Q. What did you want to take away from the program?

    A. I think the thing I always strive for is continuous school improvement. We’re at a particular proficiency level in different areas, but I’m always looking at the best, the brightest, and the latest. The thing I noticed about the Harvard experience was the people who are in education in Cambridge are facing the same issues we are here in Texas: School funding, Common Core, curriculum issues. They have their own assessments just like we do. It’s just getting an idea of what’s worked for them, what’s been effective, and what’s based on research. I was pleased to see the research that supports the best practices we’re doing. It’s not just a Pflugerville, Texas thing. It’s nationwide