Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Touchy-Feely Crap

You read that correctly.

Tumwater High Principal Scott Seaman (green shirt, right) knows how to get his staff meetings off to a great start. And this morning, on Day 2 of the AWSP New Principals' and Assistant Principals' Workshop, he cut to the chase about those often dreaded meetings: Make people do touchy-feely crap. Because, as Scott astutely observed, "nobody likes to do touchy-feely crap."

What better way, then, to break down barriers and get people out of their comfort zone?

Touchy-feely crap, of course!

Scott and his assistant principal, Penny Therrein, spent about an hour this morning helping new administrators think about ways to better engage staff and encourage teamwork by leading them in some really fun (and appropriate) "touchy-feely crap" exercises. And man, were they a hit! Three of the myriad offered this morning: eyeball tag and good ol' musical chairs.

Eyeball tag (photo at right) is as simple as this: Everyone at the table looks at the ground. On the count of the leader, everyone looks up and must look at someone else. If that same person you are looking at is also looking at you, you're out. This encourages people to meet others and also breaks the ice.

With musical chairs (below), one seat is removed from the table or group, then one person stands in the middle and calls out something they did recently. In today's example, the theme was "something I did this summer." Examples today included "I moved!" or "I went camping!" If you did that activity this summer, you scrambled to change seats. Last one standing calls the next activity. The game can be called off at any time -- but you should allow enough exchanges for everyone to get to know a little bit more about each other in a fun way.

Mosquito/salmon/bear. A Pacific Northwest take on the old "rock/paper/scissors" game, participants do their best impressions of mosquitoes, bears and salmon to beat out other players. You know the order: salmon beats mosquito, bear beats salmon, etc. Have people pair off, then work in teams of fours. Work until one half the group is challenging the other (salmon team beats mosquitoes at right).

Above all else, Scott and Penny encouraged new administrators to have fun and engage others (adults and kids alike). In fact, Scott and his staff have a school motto, "Go Big! Make It Happen!" which is printed on shirts and on other materials at school.

Scott also shared some of his "keys to loving the [principalship]":
  1. Never say, "At my old school..." Instead, show others you are committed to your new school.
  2. Assume the best in others. Wouldn't you want the same treatment?
  3. Treat everyone like professionals (with respect). From the kitchen staff to your teachers and custodial staff. "Treat them like professionals, because that's what they are," Seaman told participants.
  4. Be visible. Interact with kids, parents. If you're on the phone when the bell rings, excuse yourself to get out into the hallways and make a connection with your students.
  5. Apologize. A leader who can't say 'sorry' is doomed.
We'll post Scott's complete list to our Web site (with his permission, of course). You can e-mail him if you're interested in learning more, too.

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