Classroom Insights / Jun 14, 2023

Educational Leader Insights for 2023: ProfessionalED CommUnity Builder Sarah Norman

Repairing Parent Relationships With Sarah Norman (2)

In today’s fast-paced landscape, educational leaders with varied experiences often drive positive change for their schools and districts. Enter Sarah Norman, an educational community-building trailblazer with a commitment to empowering students, teachers, and families alike.

Norman consistently demonstrates a relentless pursuit of excellence and an unwavering commitment to enhancing education and parent-teacher relationships. Today, she uses her rich expertise to help school and district leaders on a daily basis as the School Partnerships Manager for ClassTag, Inc. 

And why? Because she’s a lifelong educator herself. 

Until recently, Norman served as Assistant Principal at Thomas Arnold Elementary School. There, in addition to developing resources to enhance instructional practices, she increased parent and family engagement. And before that, she developed her skillset in education as a school counselor at Salado ISD.

In this ClassTag CommUnity chat, Sarah offers her take on hot educational topics for teacher leaders to chuckle about, consider over the summer, and get inspired.

Is there an area where educational leaders typically spend too much time on their resources?


Which educational leaders or thought leaders do you look to for reference, and why?

Principal Kafele is a former principal who has written books, speaks at conferences, and does consulting. He focuses a lot on the role of the Assistant Principal, which not many do. During the pandemic, he started the Virtual AP Leadership Academy. Every Saturday he would go live on Facebook and cover different topics for APs. 

What are you reading or listening to right now? 

Not currently reading but sitting on my nightstand- How’s the Culture in your Kingdom? It’s a book by a former Disney executive about building good culture as a leader. I think that’s something that’s really important in education right now, too.

You know, we’re seeing a lot of educators leaving the workplace. Not demanding, but wanting that better work environment. And so I think it would be really important for leaders to work on building that culture and making their school a great place to work.

And so that book is not geared towards educators, but I think there’s so much that anybody can learn from it. And I love Disney, so I’m excited to read it and just see what I can find in there.

I know we don’t always think of parents and students as customers, but they kind of are in education, they are our customers. They’re who we are there to serve. It may not relate directly, but [we should look to] pull those tidbits from outside sources and apply them to the educational setting as well.

What is your greatest hope for students in 2023?

Well, I don’t think that mine has changed so much. It’s something I’ve really always been passionate about and it’s kind of what helped guide my educational career. I have always been passionate about kids having a positive school experience. 

We are obviously there for academics. One of the priorities [of educational leaders] is to teach our students, but it’s so much more than that.  Students spend so much time at school interacting [so it’s important that] staff at school really just give kids a positive school experience in all aspects. We should be looking at the whole child and knowing that there’s more than just those assignments or just those test scores. [We should] make them want to be there because we know if kids are excited to be there, they want to be there and if they love the people that are working there, then they’re gonna be open to learning from them.

How do you think artificial intelligence-powered tools like ChatGPT are going to affect K-12 schools?

They are going to change everything. I don’t know about teachers using them currently but the younger generations (students) are going to discover these tools and they’re going to find a way to use them. 

I think it’s our responsibility to stay ahead of the game. Learn about them, [and] teach our students how to use them responsibly and incorporate them into the classroom. Think about student engagement if you’re the teacher letting them learn/use ChatGPT! AI is this generation’s calculator.

What is your approach to addressing mental health and wellness in schools?

I am very real. I’m not a person who gives into “toxic positivity”. It’s ok to have a bad day, it’s ok to be upset about something. I’m not going to tell someone to be positive or not let those things bother them. Be passionate about whatever it is, but take the time to process it and work through it and then come back stronger.

Where do you think educational leaders should turn their focus in 2023 and 2024?

I think one of the most important things right now that can be done in education is repairing the relationship between parents and schools. I don’t know where it went sideways but I feel like in the spring of the pandemic we were kind of on this high and everybody was worshiping teachers and recognizing teachers for everything that they do for their students.

And somehow we’ve gone all the way to, the opposite side. There’s a lot of distrust between parents and schools. And, I don’t know why, and I don’t know where it came from, but I think it’s really important to really focus and be intentional about repairing those relationships.

I think all that parents want to know is that educational leaders are out there in the schools doing their best and keeping their kids’ best interests in mind, whether it’s with safety, academics, or their, social relationships at school.

And I think that’s what teachers do, and that’s what educators do. That is what’s most important to them– having the kids’ best interests in mind. Doing what’s best for the kids.

But somehow there’s a division in that.

Each side is not seeing that that’s what the other side is there for. So I really think being intentional to repair those relationships, to build those positive relationships, to create opportunities for those relationships to be built, is really important going into the next school year. It may just be like calling a truce and saying, “Let’s start over.” 

And in this case, I think the educators have to be the bigger person and have to start that and say, “Hey, I’m here, [and] I love your kid more than anything….I’m here to do what’s best for them. I love all kids and we’re gonna do this together. We’re not two sides, we’re here together and we’re gonna work together this year.” 

What’s been one of your favorite success stories?

Most of the phone calls I make home are not great. It’s usually to tell a parent that their kid did something they shouldn’t have. Or, that their kid was victim to something. But I love when I call parents and they say, “Oh! You’re the one who always sends those messages on ClassTag.” Even if I have had minimal interaction with them, they automatically associate my name with something positive (the consistent communication through ClassTag) and that makes it so much easier to have those tough conversations.

How has ClassTag helped you? 

ClassTag provides a platform to build those partnerships and relationships with parents while still giving teachers the boundaries they need to not be overly available. It also makes parents feel close to the school even when they can’t be there. Being a unified tool, ClassTag eliminates confusion and gives parents one place to go for information which means they go to the source and don’t rely on others.

What would you say would put a smile on your face every day working in the principal’s office?

Always the kids. I love talking to the kids and hearing their stories, especially elementary kids. They have no filter and they will just tell it to you like they see it. It’s just always, always fun. Even the kids that came to the office because they maybe did something they shouldn’t have. I still enjoyed talking with them. And getting to have that time with them, to hopefully inspire them to change their behavior, or talk through something that was on their mind or bothering them.

So send students to the office for good things. Your admin will love that if you can send them to brag on something good they did, or to show good work that they did, or just to go say, “Hello!” I promise your admin will love that.


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