5 Tips for School Administrators in 2012

5 Tips for School Administrators in 2012 | JamesBrauer.comAbout this time each year, I like to reflect on the past year and begin framing “goals” or “areas of emphasis” that will guide me through the forthcoming year. I don’t necessarily believe in New Year’s Resolutions, as they are so easy to break and forget about just days after the new year passes. It’s for this reason, I reflect and plan ahead both professionally and personally.

While each educator and school administrator will certainly have their own respective list of goals to guide their practices in 2012, here are five (5) that may be of particular interest to you:

  1. Family First, Work Second: I have no shame admitting to any past, current, or future employer that my family is my priority. Jobs and employment may come-and-go, but my family is a permanent fixture in my life. However, without proper maintenance on relationship-fostering and memory-building with your own family, your family becomes unstable and could lead to many negative consequences. Of course, employment and your work performance is vital, but my belief is a happy “family man/woman” is also a “happy worker.” Dave Ramsey, financial guru, once warned people to never have affairs on their spouses, for it will tear the marriage to its core. Over-dedication toward one’s career creates a dominant relationship with an entity other than your spouse. Not healthy at all. So be proud and bold–tell everybody you place family first. Lead by example.
  2. Brand Yourself, You Are an Expert: Because public education is so vastly different than the “business world,” branding is definitely not a component of educators’ professional practices. I’m not sure why this is–fear of exposure and attention at a large-scale? Fear of judgement or scrutiny by colleagues and supervisors? Fear of a public identity that is accessible to colleagues, students, parents, and neighbors? Fear of appearing to be self-absorbed and/or a braggart? Regardless, school leaders need to tap into the social media tools available and brand themselves appropriately. By doing so, educators can repurpose their identity toward being an expert, or trusted resource, in their respective discipline. By strategically branding one’s self, it also has the strong potential of building credibility to others. Lastly, branding is an awesome tool to network and connect with others. Such digital networking and connecting leads to digital collaboration, self-regulated learning, and autonomy. Build a website, use social media, publish whitepapers and ebooks, or record podcasts and YouTube videos. Don’t be afraid–you’re an expert. Brand yourself as such!
  3. Pause, Listen to Others: I’ll lead-off by saying that I should have probably listed this tip at #1, as I’m definitely an “emerging-learner” in this category. School leaders and educators need to pause and start listening more. Don’t be confused with my preceding tip about believing that branding one’s self means incessant self-promotion and alienating others’ perspectives. You can still successfully brand yourself, while partnering and collaborating with others. There is so much knowledge that can be gained from others, it would be foolish to not draw upon the wisdom and advice of others. From a leadership standpoint, listening to others’ perspectives helps conveys just how important others truly are. When others know they are being listened to, it increases trust, relationships, rapport, collaboration, and motivation…just to name a few.
  4. Being Untraditional is NOT Bad: This tip “hits home” for me, since I am a school administrator at an alternative school. It didn’t take me long to notice that some individuals do not “succeed” or “prosper” in “traditional” environments. And why would we ever think this to be the case? People are so unique, with extremely-specialized talents, skills, and knowledge. But all of these characteristics could be severely stifled if people are not able to perform in their ideal environments. Therefore, we need to quickly abandon the idea that educators and students can ONLY succeed using “traditional” methods and cookie-cutter, prescribed approaches. School leaders MUST allow colleagues and teachers time to reach, stretch, experiment, create, imagine, and innovate…without punitive responses. Our students deserve better. And they definitely deserve better than the “same old song-and-dance!”
  5. Empower Others: One of the biggest mistakes people make, particularly school administrators, is believing that others cannot be trusted and they must do EVERYTHING. What a big, big mistake! Effective leaders should be constantly thinking about the future; pondering how to improve and how to adapt. But, effective leaders need to also strategically align an organization’s efforts toward its goals. No single person could, or should, be able to achieve the organization’s goals alone. Principals and central office administrators must develop capacity-building within each of its teachers and support staff, empowering EVERYBODY to maximize their contributions. For school leaders, it is essential to believe, and trust, that teachers are totally skilled and eager to perform. By doing so, school leaders can delegate responsibilities to others and lessen the burden that was previously-imposed on a single individual.

I have no doubt many will disagree with my list and probably have wished for other important features to have been included in lieu of others. But, it is my list. I would love to hear your comments and bullet list of your own tips for school administrators for the year 2012.


  1. Mike said:

    Great list. Really agree with 1 and 2! I think as educators we are sometimes reluctant to bring attention to ourselves, but we need to at times.

    December 25, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Thanks for the feedback. When I drafted this list, I really wanted to emphasize tip #1 and spending time with family. Frankly, I probably could have dedicated an entire blog post to that very topic.

      Thanks again…

      December 25, 2011
  2. Don Brown said:

    I really appreciate branding, and I have tried to do that with my “drsgtbrown” handle (okay, a bit quirky). But, I find a lot of scared folks when I portray myself as innovative and non-traditional when meeting with staff or administrators at regular, comprehensive high schools. Elementary maybe OK….middle level I don’t know. I think it’s great to be non-traditional if you are in an non-traditional setting (like an alternative school) but I don’t think I would get hired in a comprehensive high school with an “non-traditional” style.

    Really, alt ed is leading the way in reform and I’d rather be part of that.

    It’s another nail in the coffin for comprehensive high schools.

    December 25, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Thanks for the comment Don. I definitely agree that it is likely so much easier to be “creative and innovative” within alternative settings, although I can attest that is very easy to become dependent on the prescriptive curriculum and not challenging education policy that stifles teacher creativity and autonomy.

      Looking forward to collaborating with you more in the future…

      December 25, 2011
  3. Terrific list for leading schools and society forward. This creates a great framework for my work in 2012. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

    December 25, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      It was pointed out by an earlier reader, that this list could easily apply to folks of any profession. I hadn’t thought of that prior to writing the post, but I certainly agree.

      I wonder if my list of 5 “tips” will remain consistent throughout the year?

      December 26, 2011
  4. Chas Miller said:

    Great posting, James! It’s interesting how many of us think the same way, yet before social networking tools a lot of us wondered if we were completely alone in those types of beliefs. Like you, I believe those 5 items are the keys to a successful administrator…and something we should continually strive to achieve! Have a great holiday and enjoy 2012!

    December 25, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      That is the true power of connectivism and digital social learning – we construct our knowledge based upon the connections we make online. I agree with you 100% about how we realize how “not alone” we are when we network with others online.

      December 26, 2011
  5. Ed buzz said:

    Great list. Very thoughtful. I’ll be passing it along to my principals.

    December 25, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Thanks Ed…much appreciated.

      December 26, 2011
  6. Kevin Howell said:

    The list is truly an affirmation for.my own beliefs. I would ads building a strong communication base in the local community. We focused there this year and have seen tremendous gains in parent support for our students on our title 1 campus.

    December 26, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      I like that idea of engaging community stakeholders. I can truthfully attest that this is not my current strength at all.

      Perhaps a goal of mine for 2013? OK, maybe a bit extreme…I’m sure I can make a concerted effort a bit sooner.

      Thanks for the input Kevin!

      December 26, 2011
  7. Sam Rangel said:

    Hi James,
    As a new administrator traveling on this huge learning curve, these tips are going to serve me well. I like the branding idea. I had stepped away from that, but I think after reading your post, I’ll give it another go. Looking forward to 2012!

    December 26, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Thanks for the comment Sam. I wish I had more space in the article to expound on “branding for administrators.” I truly think it’s an overlooked component of educational practitioners.

      Social media and social networking made me realize just how many educators, teachers, and principals there are…so how can I make myself standout from the others. Sure, we’re all on the same collective mission of educating our students and working with our faculty/staff, but we each have respective strengths and unique professional/personal attributes. We may as well allow those to flourish and help identify us by others with whom we network with personally and professionally.

      December 26, 2011
  8. Sue Tonnesen said:

    Thanks for this list James. For me, it is in line with what I believe and try to practice as a Vice Principal in my school. One tip that I would add to the list would be Read, Read, Read and stay current. My focus lately has been to read and follow numerous blogs, tweets, articles, and comments of other school administrators and thinkers in education. Social Media is a powerful tool and as I head into 2012, I want to be the best communicator and leader I can be. The more I read and follow online, the more connected I feel to others such as yourself, and the information that is shared. The internet continues to teach us that we are a connected world, and Social Media shows us how truly connected we really are.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    December 27, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Great addition to the list – READ, READ, READ!

      Thanks to Internet communication tools, it seems as though just “taking a break” from reading information and resources (either print or online), I feel myself growing obsolete and out-of-touch with educational practice.

      Thank you for your comment. Here’s to our future digital collaboration…


      December 27, 2011
  9. Great list, James.
    Thank you very much for that.

    Thinking about ‘my dream activity’ from self-development point of view, I felt that after adding “Read Read Read” there was still a gap in it (for me!)

    And now I realize that it something “doing something new”
    It could be playing piano or starting to learn a new language or focusing on a new (for a person) subject.

    We can (and have to) create (release) our ouw strengths, innovation, creativity by pondering on new questions.

    Thank you for your ‘value adding’ attitude and aptitude.

    Have a wonderful 2012!

    December 30, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Alexander —

      I like your suggestion of “doing something new.” As administrators and educators, we certainly should be leading by example and modeling for others, in this case, lifelong learning.

      To demonstrate our excitement and willingness to learn a new language, play an instrument, or develop websites is POWERFUL to our stakeholders.

      Thanks for the feedback Alexander. Happy New Year to you!

      December 30, 2011
  10. Dear Principals,

    I am focusing on my family & I certainly encourage you all to strive for work/life balance. However, at work I would encourage 2012 to be the year we focus on accountability in education. Teachers unions are a menance & the biggest bullies in our schools. We need to start protecting children.

    I remain sincerely yours,

    Kevin Pedersen

    January 3, 2012
    • James Brauer said:

      Kevin – Thanks for the response to my blog post. I would agree with you that educational accountability is definitely, and should be, a concern of all educational stakeholders.

      My analysis of educational accountability is that so many various entities have “the solution” for how to reform our education system. All stakeholders must be very cognizant of the various accountability and ed reform “solutions.”

      I think you would certainly agree with me on this point – we simply cannot continue educating our children in the same ways as we have for the last several decades. Our students deserve better, as do parents, teachers, and our educational leaders.

      January 3, 2012

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