NORTH FORSYTH — Although she works with adults to help them get GEDs, a Forsyth County woman learned the ins and outs of a public school’s administrative job when she became a principal for a day.
Annaliza Thomas, executive director of Literacy Forsyth, shadowed Little Mill Middle School Principal Connie McCrary on her morning duties Wednesday.
The visit was part of a month-long program with the Forsyth County school system and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce to promote understanding and a partnership.
The annual program brought chamber partners and business leaders to a school, where they observed anything a principal may do that day, from classroom visits and meetings to student discipline.
Every school welcomed a principal for a day, who ranged from business owners to commissioners to senators.
This is the second year Thomas has participated. She said a major part of being a principal is “being present.” Even standing in the halls as students get to school each morning shows them their educators are involved and invested in their learning.
Administrators cannot sit behind a desk all day, she said. They have to interact with students.
One way to enhance interaction is to visit teachers and students in the classroom to personally see the learning process.
Thomas followed McCrary to a band and chorus class before taking the trip to a few math and language classrooms.
They observed teachers giving lessons while students checked quiz answers. They watched students respond to pictures with the corresponding word in Spanish.
“It’s interesting to see how much goes into the administration of a school and how accountable everyone is,” Thomas said. “It’s not as easy as people think.”
McCrary said the hardest part of a day is dealing with student discipline, but that’s not all a principal does. How they deal with it is key.
“Kids have a choice to make good decisions and bad decisions,” Thomas said.
Instead of simply punishing a student for breaking a rule, McCrary, her administration and teachers positively reinforce good decisions, which has effectively reduced office referrals, Thomas said.
She also said the day is a great chance to learn how to support the parents.
Literacy Forsyth holds evening GED classes at Little Mill and offers overlapping extracurricular activities for children so parents don’t have to leave their kids at home.
McCrary said she enjoys having Principal for a Day “shadows” because learning goes both ways. While Thomas sees how much work is goes into running a school, McCrary said she tries to show why the partnership between businesses and schools is so important.
“It’s such a good chance for [shadows] to see how good of people we have, from the board of education to the superintendent to our leadership in the schools,” McCrary said. “They can really see it first-hand.”
She said the high level of instruction at schools in the county are a main reason why people move here and why businesses want to locate within its limits, so it makes sense to have business and community leaders see the schools’ inside gears.
While the principals and principals for a day glean information from each other, the central interest comes down to the students, McCrary said.
“It’s what I love about the job,” she said. “To get the kids thinking, being with them, to learn what they’re learning [through classroom visits and interaction].”