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Reimagining the Principal's Office

October 21, 2015

Listen. Listen. Then, listen some more.

This advice, given to me a few moments after I was hired for my first job as an administrator from one of my mentors has been at the forefront of my thinking, no matter what title or building I have worked in. For some time, I thought simply having an open door policy would work. I soon realized the day to day tasks I am charged with, and the day to day work of teachers and students presented a roadblock in my quest to hear from as many people as I could. Instead of waiting for students and staff to come to me, I had to go to them.

Mobile technology has transformed our world, and it should transform our work. Through the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones, your office can now travel with you. Scanned documents, file sharing with cloud services, and mobile apps to focus on tasks and keep appointments straight make it possible to take your day to day workload with you and get you out of your office. I have adopted hardware and software solutions that make the principal’s office mobile, and I challenge my colleagues to do likewise:

  • Do you use Post-It notes to remember your list of tasks to get done? Switch to Remember the Milk.
  • Do you want staff to simply be able to book appointments with you without a back and forth email exchange? Check out Calendly.
  • Get rid of your binders. Start scanning the documents you need and saving them, along with your notes in space like Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, or OneDrive.
  • Do you want to stop heading back to your office to send feedback after an instructional walkthrough? Design your own Wufoo form and get in more classrooms. 

When principals grab a device, find a spot in your school, and take some time to get your work done, they’re amazed at how many people stop and talk for a few minutes. It allows us to listen, to reflect on their comments, and we find ourselves supporting your teachers and students in much better ways. Instead of waiting for communication to come to us, let’s take action, and work where the people are.


John Bernia is principal of Carleton Middle School in Michigan and a 2015 Digital Principal Award winner by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. This blog entry is part of a weekly series in honor of National Principals Month (