I’ve been connected to a group of school leaders from around the United States and Canada for a few years. We refer to ourselves as Principals In Action. Our mission is to encourage leaders to get out of their office and connect with others. We do this through weekly challenges, by giving each other advice and support, by sharing ideas from our school communities, and by participating in #PIAChat, which takes place every other Tuesday evening at 8:00 pm CST. Principals In Action was started by Kids Deserve It author, Adam Welcome, and the vision has spread. We’ve shared our movement at local, state, and national conferences encouraging others to become Principals In Action.


In January, I posted the following Principals In Action Challenge:



I’ve posted other PIA challenges like ride a school bus home, serve lunch in the cafeteria, and participate in a physical education class with enthusiastic response and positive comments. However, the challenge about doing something to help custodians drew a negative response from someone on Twitter. They believed we were undermining the work of school custodians and that they were not valued if anyone else could step in and do their job.


I was stunned and surprised that someone would misconstrue the intention of the challenge. The intent was to encourage principals to help their custodians, and schools, out whenever and wherever they could and that no work in the school is beneath a principal’s skills and duties. Thankfully, the majority of Principals In Action chimed in and talked about how important their custodians are and how they would do anything to support them and show their appreciation. I even pointed out that during one recent snowstorm that started at 9:00 on a Monday morning, a foot of snow fell during the school day. Our one custodian was occupied most of the day with snow shoveling and plowing so it took others to step in to assist with things in the building.


Leaders should always help out and do whatever they can for their school community. That might be pushing a broom, answering the phone, serving lunch, or supervising on the playground. Helping others gets you out of your office, makes you visible in the school, lets you learn about what others do, and makes you appreciate all the people who make a school successful.


Mark French is principal of Gatewood Elementary in the Hopkins Minnesota Public School District. Mark is serving in his 36th year as an educator and 21st as a principal. He’s honored to be the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association Past President and the 2015 Minnesota National Distinguished Principal. PrincipalFrench.com @PrincipalFrench on Twitter

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