Five Strategies To Use to Connect With Parents

As educators, we spend a lot of time with other people. That time can be ongoing, longer relationships or brief, specific encounters. You can categorize mosts of your interactions, at school as well as in the rest of your life, into two columns: transactional encounters and transformational relationships.

When we have transactional encounters, they don’t necessarily have to be bad. They are defined as a limited interaction for a short period of time and may or not be repeated. When you’re out to eat and get a chicken sandwich, you are having a transactional encounter with the person who takes your order. It can be a good one (when it’s their pleasure to see you) or a not-so-good one (when you’re in the drive-thru and they make you park your car because you had a salad). When you go to get your drivers’ license renewed, it’s a transactional encounter. You are unlikely to see that meeting turn into a long-term relationship.

Transformational relationships as the name suggests are quite the opposite. They are beyond an encounter and are instead a chapter in a longer, ongoing book. Transactional encounters are about the transaction; transformational relationships are about the relationship, the people, and how they change individually and together over time.

That takes us to the parents of our students. The time we have together with them is very limited. The nature of our interactions? Unfortunately, they can tend to be matters that are transactional in nature. We spend time with parents when they have an issue or concern, when they are completing required paperwork, and when they are delivering and/or retrieving their children.

What if we worked more intentionally to extend our school family to our parents? What if we created an environment in which those encounters became less transactional because we’d spent time getting to know each other in advance? We also should never forget– the right kind of attitude can make a transformational relationship out of a transactional encounter. Think about your favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or office you go to. Chances are that you feel the way you do about that place at least in part by how you’re treated, by how someone there sees you as a relationship waiting to be developed instead of transaction that has to be completed.

It can be a positive thing for an administrator to know a lot of the parents at the school from previous experience and longterm relationships. That fast-forwards the matter of trust and makes for better relationships and partnerships.

It can’t stop with a widely-connected administrator, however. The relationship of the parent to the school is also defined by their relationships with teachers, with office staff, with bus drivers. If we work at it, transactional encounters don’t have to be only that. Putting your child on the bus can be transactional, but with the right bus driver it can be a relationship that defines a positive perception of everything about the school.

How do we do it? Listed below in the infographic are five ways to connect school and home. There are probably five million things you can do to develop these connections. (We stopped at just five). These ideas are ways to make deeper connections with parents without the need of extensive time. Connections lead to relationships, which lead to trust, which open doors for true partnerships between school and home, between teacher and parent, between people in a community working together for the well-being of individuals and the greater good for all.

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How To Partner With Parents For Success

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors.”

Richard Rothstein, 2010, How To Fix Our Schools

Working to lead students to success without developing a partnership with their parents is like driving a car with a flat tire. Cross country in the rain. Without windshield wipers.

You get it. Research tells us that the influence of parents, or others raising a child in place of parents, is among the most impactful in determining student achievement. We know that a particular type of parental involvement is very effective in leading to student achievement, but at schools we typically don’t spend much time to foster that behavior. John Hattie’s meta-analyses show a high effect size for parental involvement* (.58). There are other things that are prominent at schools everywhere that don’t have the same research basis, but we do them anyway. For example, homework (.29 effect size); 1:1 technology (.16) and mentoring (.12). (Remember that anything below a .40 effect size is not considered to be successful in advancing student achievement.)

So, it’s possible that we do things that may not yield a lot for our efforts while missing out on something that could make a great difference. Why? We know that we tend to do things the way they’ve always been done. Even when we make an effort to “increase parental involvement,” we often spend time on things that don’t necessarily produce a high yield.

Let’s look at Hattie’s study of different types of parental involvement (2018) and their effect on student achievement.

Supervising Child's Homework                        0.19
Parent Participation in School Activities 0.14
Communication with School and Teachers 0.14
Parent Listening to Child Reading 0.51
*High Expectations for Student Achievement 0.58

(and verbalizing these to the child)

According to Hattie, more than homework, more than 1:1, more than mentoring, more than getting parents to come to school events, more than communication between teachers and parents, what really makes the biggest difference is when parents establish and communicate high expectations for student achievement with their child.

It would seem to reason that we the school would work really hard to encourage and influence parents in communicating these high expectations. Yet, when I talk about school separately to parents and teachers/administrators, there is often frustration on each’s part with the other. Rather than dissect those arguments, perhaps we the school would benefit in our mission by seeking more positive relationships with parents. If we could become partners with parents(and often we do!), we can more intentionally focus on a tidal shift of educational expectations among the families of our school. To become partners, we first have to have a relationship, which follows making connections with each other. Those relationships lead to trust, and with trust influence, particularly if we never grow tired of working to earn that trust.

If it sounds like a lot, it is. Relationships take time; partnerships take time, trust, and intentional focus. As much effort as it may take, the benefits of doing so are well worth the effort.

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Influencing Others Through Relationships

One of the most common leadership mistakes is thinking you’ll get maximum performance from others without first building relationships with them. As school leaders, our success is measured not only by our own actions but even more so by the work of those we lead. The same is true of our teachers and their students.

What is it that relationships do? They give you access to the key to leadership: influence.

If you want to lead other people as a teacher leading his class or a principal leading her school, you want to become a powerful influencer. The reason being, you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. Using your authority, you can make things uncomfortable for others in their decisions, but going along with you is still a choice for them.

So why do people do what they do? Here are three things that influence our choices: 1) beliefs; 2) experience; and 3) environment.

Whether we’re thinking of students or adults, most of the choices that are made each day in your building are filtered through each person’s beliefs, previous experiences, and perception of the environment.

The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.

~Ken Blanchard

So, as leader (or teacher), you can run yourself ragged spending all of your time hyper-focused on the choices (also known as behavior) of those you supervise and serve. Where our time would be more wisely invested would be in developing relationships instead of directing actions. Some actions, obviously, require immediate attention or redirection, but until the student (or teacher) changes beliefs, gains new experiences, or is presented with a changed environment, their choices will most likely remain as they are.

Instead of making them do, influence them so they’ll want to do.

Back to influence. Think about the people in your life who influence you. What is true about them? Most likely, you’ve developed some sort of relationship that has led to trust. When we trust someone, we are willing to believe them, to be influenced by them.

Make connections and build relationships. We connect with others, continue our conversation, and in time, the conversation leads to a relationship. Relationships, in turn, lead to trust.

Student behavior can be influenced through relationships more effectively than it can be controlled by rules.

If we know the power of influential relationships, why does it remain the road less traveled? Why do we rush to an insistence on other people’s behaviors when we can influence them for good through relationships?

Relationships take time, energy, and a lot of upkeep. But then again, mandating behaviors from students or adults takes a lot of the same. It’s something to consider though: would your time and energy be spent more effectively influencing those you’ve build trust with or insisting behavior from those you haven’t?

© 2020. Mark Wilson.

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Positive Relationships: Path to Success in Your School

Nearly everyone talks about the importance of relationships at a school. So many conversations work around into the comment, “it’s all about relationships.”

For the principal or assistant principal to work well with the faculty and staff? It’s all about relationships. The teacher and her students? Also, all about relationships. Partnership between the school and parents? Again, relationships.

So, you know that they matter, but how do you promote their importance to your people? Even better, how do you help someone develop great relationships when they don’t come so easy for them?

” I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together, we can do great things.”

Mother Teresa

Chances are if you’re a school administrator, the people who hired you noted your natural knack for building relationships. As the leader, you want your faculty and staff to also be great at relationships. Here’s a challenge: what comes naturally to you can be hard for you to teach to others.

Here’s a way you can help others in your school develop the kind of relationships that inspire everyone to do their best:

1.) Talk about relationships. See the graphic above. It’s important to ask your faculty about the fundamental nature of their relationships with students and with each other. The growth begins with a conversation.

2) Encourage reflection. Open the conversation about relationships, then ask your faculty and staff to reflect on their relationships. What are the products of their relationships? What kind of relationships do they have with students who do well in school? And, what kind of relationships do they have with those who don’t do well?

3) Prioritize ongoing growth. If you think that relationships are important, you can bring attention to reflection and growth in relationships. Celebrate those who foster good relationships. Create time for your teachers to recognize their colleagues who excel in relationship-building.

As the principal or assistant principal, if you want your teachers and students to be successful, you should be interested in their behavior and in the quality of their relationships. What people do and how they interact with each other is the definition of your climate and the strongest indicators of your culture. Like anything, your intentional focus in these areas is your best bet to get what you’re looking for, and in building a school where people are successful and enjoy the experience.

© 2020. Dr. Mark D. Wilson

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Passion For Learning! A Force To Be Reckoned With

Attitude Check

Above the door leading into the Professional Learning room of a school I was visiting was a sign that greeted participants with this question:

What attitude do you bring to today’s learning? 

It’s a great question to pose, as it forces its readers into a brief moment of reflection about their approach to the learning that awaits them on the other side.

After Further Review

After the visit and while riding around the hills and plains of Georgia, further reflection led me to ponder a different question, one that wasn’t posted or printed, but one that made me go hmmm?

Shouldn’t educators be passionate about learning without a sign to remind them? 

The sign about attitude on the PL room door… I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing that it was put there either to prevent visibly-bad attitudes about learning OR in response to such attitudes in meetings past. I’ve been around professional learning for decades, so it’s not shocking to think that teachers (or administrators!) might be less than enthusiastic about some learning, but despite that acknowledgment, it’s still disappointing.  How can we get our students to be passionate about learning if we aren’t passionate about it first?

It’s probably easy to contend that while we may not always be passionate about all professional learning, we can still be enthusiastic when in the role of teacher, particularly if we enjoy that content more.  But here’s the problem with that line of thinking:  the students may find the content intended for them just as uninspiring as the content from the PL room that the teacher didn’t engage with.

Passion For Learning

Here’s a question to consider:  When you learn a passion for learning, isn’t everything else easier to learn after that?

Our students would be well-prepared for their next endeavor if they left their class at the end of the year, full of curiosity, a thirst to know things, and a satisfaction in the process and product of learning.  Truth is, we don’t spend enough time on those things, but what if we did?  Would our students approach their learning differently?  Would the content we share be more readily mastered if we taught the value of learning before (and during) our specific instructional goals?

Back to the PLC Room

Let’s connect the classroom back to the PLC Room with this question:

Are your expectations of passion for learning higher for your students than for your teachers?

We have PLCs and other groups and teams of teachers all across the land who value learning, believe in collaboration, and treasure the opportunity for learning with their colleagues.  There are a lot of these teachers and administrators in schools and systems all over the map.  There are, however, teachers and administrators who don’t feel that way.

How about at your school?  How passionate about learning are your teachers?  How passionate are YOU about learning?

When you are leading learning with your faculty, are you modeling quality, empassioned instruction?  PLCs and professional learning ought to be fun.  How is adult learning normed at your school?  What percentage of the time that your adults are in learning settings are they sitting and listening, and what percentage of that time are they talking, sharing, and doing?

One of your most important roles as the school’s instructional leader is to set norms for learning.  Is the learning you facilitate with your teachers engaging?  Are you passionate about it?  Do you work to create a great learning experience with your teachers?

Good Goes Around

Teachers with a passion for learning tend to lead classrooms that foster that same passion.  The principal and administrative team can fuel and foster that passion by leading professional learning and PLCs that circulate a love of learning among all its participants.  When that passion becomes the norm, your teachers will race to get INTO professional learning and their PLCs rather than to race OUT.  When you establish THAT culture about learning, you will thrive not only in PLCs but in your classrooms across the school.

And then you can take down the “what’s your attitude…” sign.

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

Passion for Learning
A passion for life, and a passion for learning is a part of the culture at Rock Springs Elementary School in Walker County, where they host “Crush Your Goals” Assemblies.  Woooo! 

Help! I’m Working All the Time And Not Getting Anywhere!

If you’re working long hours every day, taking work home every night, spending lots of your weekend doing emails and paperwork, and always feeling like you’re running behind, rest assured you’re not the only one.

Just because others are doing it doesn’t make it any less damaging to you as a leader.  At this time of the year you may be feeling the strains of all of those hours that you’ve been logging since July coming home to roost.  Continuous overwork leads to fatigue, poor executive functions, inability to solve complex problems, issues with interpersonal communication and relationships, and shaky judgments.

In other words, overworking leads to less-effective performance in pretty much everything that your job is all about.

First, if you’re working all the time and feeling out of balance, here are three reasons why you may have arrived at this destination:

1.   You’re Doing Too Much One of the biggest reasons principals and assistant principals get overwhelmed is this one:  they try to do too much.

When you have more to do than you can possibly do, and you aren’t sure what ONE thing to do first, principals often try to do EVERYthing.  They end up not doing ANYthing particularly well, but they continue to try to have their fingers in everything.

Newly-arrived principals often do too much.  Sometimes it’s strategic so they can learn how things work;  other times it’s from not knowing who can be trusted to do things, and to do things well.  This can be a transitional practice, but can’t be sustainable.

Finally, there are some leaders who struggle with “doing too much” because… they choose to do too much!  They operate from the  idea that “the only way to make sure that it gets done right is to do it yourself.”  This wears the principal out and also develops a faculty who isn’t prepared to think on their own.
simplify.jpeg
2.  You’re TOO Accessible. 

The modern-day leader has been told by everyone that you need to be accessible.  That’s true, but you can take it to an extreme and when you do, you make it difficult for you to be efficient and effective.

If you are available all day every day, and then again at night whenever people want to text, call or message you, you are too accessible.

The most efficient and effective leaders find the balance between being (and seeming to be) inaccessible and being overly-accessible to the point of harm.  How is it harmful?  If you’re not careful, your folks develop a co-dependent relationship with you.  If you’re willing to do most of the thinking, lots of the problem solving and ALL of the decision making, people will let you.  That’s REALLY dangerous, because the more you operate that way, the less capable your team is to do those things (think, problem-solve, make decisions) and the MORE they will rely on you to do those things.

Don’t go to the other extreme in an attempt to find balance; the answer lies in between.  The answer does NOT lie in you doing all of the brain work.

3.  You’ve Developed Habits of Inefficiency.

Often, BECAUSE you’re doing too much, and BECAUSE you’re too accessible, you inadvertently and often unknowingly develop some really inefficient habits.  One of your challenges is this:  you’re at the top of the food chain at your school.  Unless you have a coach, an attentive supervisor, or a really good mentor, it’s EASY to fall prey to inefficient habits and have no one to prompt you to reflect and evaluate what you’re doing.

The isolation of leadership can leave you ill-prepared to examine or alter your habits, and if they go unchecked for a while, they become your routines and eventually your beliefs.  Beliefs are harder to change.

For example, I was visiting a principal who was so intent on listening in on what was happening in the adjacent front office that we could barely have a coaching conversation.  Every person who came into the office and every interaction that the secretary was having stole the principal’s attention.  Over and again, people came into the office while we were meeting (some with a knock, some with an knock while they were opening the door).  None of them were arriving with things that should have been tagged as “urgent.”

What had happened there was this: EVERYTHING became urgent, and everything had to run through the principal, and it had gone on long enough that it had become normal.

During our coaching session we talked about…. you guessed it.  How the principal was struggling to get it all done.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Regarding the struggle of workload for the current-day principal or assistant principal, despite the aforementioned you are NOT the problem.  We have continued to add on responsibilities to these positions without additional support or people to assist in completing them.  Even if you’re doing it all most efficiently and effectively, it’s STILL a lot.

The suggestion here is this:  can you make your job more reasonable?  Can you be more efficient?  Can you examine your habits and do things better?

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

It’s October. What have we learned so far?

While the temperature soared around 90 degrees in much of Georgia today, the calendar told an entirely different story.  It’s October.

So, what have you learned so far?

You’ve been in school long enough to generate the necessary data to make important inferences.  But, if you don’t invest adequate time to look and listen, you may miss the moment.  You have an opportunity RIGHT NOW to make adjustments that can be the difference you’re looking for, but if you’re not careful, you’ll  just keep driving forward.  There’s always enough work to keep you busy, but if you want to make progress, take a deep look at where you are now, and what adjustments need to be made to move forward as you’d like.

All right. How?  How might you take stock of your current situation and plan the next steps forward?  Here are some specific steps to take to gather the data needed, and analyze it meaningfully for change.

1.  Planning Meeting.  Bookend your quarterly examination with strategy meetings, one at the start and the other at the conclusion of your review.  You convene a planning meeting of you and your guiding coalition.  (That group might be your administrative team.  It could be an extended version of that group.  It could be any group that you determine to be helpful in reviewing your progress and strategizing next actions. Don’t EVEN try to do this alone.  You won’t have the perspective you need, nor the time to do it by yourself.)

The planning meeting is to compile a list of everything you want to know at this point.  What does August and September have to tell us?  Many of those answers should be in easy-to-access data that you’re collecting.  Other questions may require additional effort.  It’s one thing to know which students are soaring, which are floating, and which are sinking.  That’s the OPENING, not the whole story.  With that information, how might you determine WHYthose students are in each of those three categories?

One of the things your planning session might accomplish is to determine who you need to listen to, and who will do the listening.  If you truly are committed to progress, face value isn’t going to be enough.  You will need to find out WHY people are behaving (and performing) as they are.

For you as an administrator, you will want to know the same things about your teachers as we’ve already suggested regarding your students:  who’s soaring?; who’s floating?; and who’s sinking?   Yes, you have TKES to support your work but, just as is the case with the student data, this is an opener, and not the whole show.  You will want to know WHY teachers who are soaring, floating, or sinking are doing so.

Your planning session is to develop the list of what you want to know– what August and September have to tell you.  Remember this:  if you want to move the needle, you’re going to need to plan, and if you are going to plan, you’ll need to INVEST time in this process.  Many of you have Data Teams that routinely and regularly are looking at data, but this quarterly review is a bit different.  You can BUILD on the work of your data teams, but this is bigger-view exercise; you will need to get away from distractions, allot adequate time, and focus on the work in order to successfully progress.

Once you determine what you want to know, it’s time to move to step two:

IMG_8486
2.)  Gathering Information. You’ve made your plan; now you work it.  You collect the data you need to give you an idea of what progress has been made during August and September.  THEN, you begin a series of conversations with a number of people to gain a clear understanding of not only WHAT happened, but WHY?

Some of these conversations can be held in small groups; others may need to be 1:1.  You can get a jump start in gathering perception data by administering surveys to both students and teachers.  From those surveys, you can get a broader picture of the WHY…  for example, if you ask students who are soaring why they are doing well, they might tell you that their teachers are particularly engaging or insistent in their expectations.  The survey may accomplish much of what you’re after, but if not, having face-to-face small-group conversations may get you the rest of the way.  You don’t necessarily need to interview every teacher and every student, even in small groups;  but you can assemble some representatives for focus group work.  Also, you (the principal) doesn’t need to do all of the interviewing.  With good coordination, you can spread it out among the members of your guiding coalition.

The bottom line is this:  spend adequate, but not exorbitant time seeking the answer to ‘why’ are the results we are seeing taking place.  It will involve polling many of your Ss and Ts, and interviewing a representative sample for deeper understanding.

If you want to make progress, you have to listen to the people who are engaged in the work at the foundational level (the teachers and the students).

3:  Strategy Meeting.  Now you’ve gathered data and it’s time to convene the initial group again.  The first meeting was to design a plan to hear what August and September can tell you.  Step two was to go and listen;  now, you’re at the third and final step– what do you do with what you have learned?

The strategies that arise from this data analysis can be structural, on a school-level, or support to effect the classroom level.

For example, let’s say that your data tell you that students in your third grade are minimally progressing in mathematics during August/September.  Your brief surveys and follow up conversations tell you that students believe that instruction is moving too quickly for them.

At this point, you and your administrative team determine what you might do to approach the progress you’re after.  Maybe you focus on supporting the teacher in formative assessment; maybe you review your MTSS strategies for these students; perhaps you spend time in the classroom to take a deeper look at what may be regularly occurring.

The intended goal is this:  using the information you’ve collected, how might you align your resources and strategies in the most impactful way to lead students towards the progress you seek?

August and September have a very rich story to tell you about what’s been happening in the walls of your classrooms, the halls of your school, and the minds of your students.  You just need to invest the time needed to plan what to ask, listen carefully, and adjust as needed.

The first quarter is ending; it’s time to make the adjustments you need to go into halftime with a lead.

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

Successful Schools Begin When The Adults Believe They Can Lead Success

Science has proven what you probably suspected.

The number one influence in schools related to student achievement is what your teachers collectively believe about your students. 

John Hattie and his team, using a meta meta-analysis have studied effect size of what works in schools.  Hattie’s work is chronicled in his numerous books, conference speeches, and papers, notably found in his book Visible Learning.

The single most important question for any school or school system is this:  what do the teachers at this school REALLY think about the students?

If the teachers REALLY believe that students can learn, that collective belief becomes who they are as a faculty.  The opposite is just as true.  If the teachers don’t believe they can make a difference, regardless of what other initiatives you launch, their impact will be limited.

What Hattie and his team have done and updated regularly is a list of factors (252 to be exact) related to student achievement and their effect sizes.  The higher the effect size, the more likely the positive outcomes on student achievement.

Ranking number one is collective teacher efficacy, defined by Hattie as the “collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students.”

Another way to look at it could be the “group think” of the adults in your school;  that notion you’ve been working on since you’ve been in school leadership– culture.  Specifically, your school’s culture around whether they believe that together, they can make a difference.

In your efforts to improve instruction at your school, are you building confidence in the heads and hearts of your teachers that they can do their work well, and together make a difference?

At this point in the school year, you are deep into observations, observation write-ups, and the evaluation process.  Do the teachers truly see your work as a vehicle to help them be better prepared individually and collectively to make a difference for your students?  Or, do they see you much like you view the fire marshall when they make an appearance at your school?  (necessary but not necessarily welcomed)

The subtle difference of your work in the evaluation process can make a difference in the way that individual teachers at your school think about their work.  This isn’t a suggestion to “go easy” on your teachers in evaluation work: it’s quite the opposite.  Teachers who get meaningful feedback and timely follow-up become more confident to do the work, and then begin to believe that their work can make a difference. That attitude spreads; if teachers think that your feedback is a canned response, rushed, or for compliance, its influence on their belief in their work will be limited if anything at all.

Think back to your days as a student. The teachers who challenged you are the ones who made the biggest difference in your learning. If you can challenge your teachers individually to be the best they can be as a part of a team of teachers that are on an important mission, you’ll be amazed at how differently your school can be.  Like all good things, it takes time.

Where do you begin?  With one teacher at a time, but in each interaction sharing a vision of what you can do together.

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

For additional study, check out these links:

Hattie’s Visible Learning Listing
https://visible-learning.org/2018/03/collective-teacher-efficacy-hattie/

Issue Brief from CSRI
https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED499254.pdf

Research on Collective Teacher Efficacy
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6167/a32cba0f727d72b071df00f8fc2d8b6d8673.pdf

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Safe and Orderly Schools: Learning Resources

Safe and Orderly School Learning Plan

 

In schools everywhere, there is a spotlight on safety and on leading a school that is “safe and orderly.”  At first glance it seems like it’s all about a focus on security and preventing intruders from disrupting the safety and lives of our children and staffs.

When you look again, leading a safe and orderly school is a multi-faceted challenge.  What do you think of when you hear “safe and orderly”?  What does the school leader do to not only secure the school, but to make it safe- socially and emotionally as well as from outside forces.

At our Principal and AP Academies, this is our focus for September.  Please find the following link to a Google Drive folder full of links, resources, and other items for your study and learning about leading a school that is safe and orderly.  Take a look, and if you have additional resources that ought to be in that folder, please contact me with those links so we can share with them with the group at large.  Thanks!  ~ Mark

Safe and Orderly Schools: A Folder of Links and Resources

 

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.

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Your Job? Helping Teachers Grow.

Becoming a Principal can be a curious thing.

You get the job before you know the job, and then a big part of your job is to figure out what your job really is.

Are you with me?  Please let me explain.

The expectations of the principal haven’t changed over the years… instead, they’ve multiplied!  People still expect the principal do things they’ve done for decades– be the face of the school, support the students at extracurricular events, open car doors in the morning and solve bus issues in the afternoon.

And.

And develop a comprehensive school improvement plan.  And a hospitable culture to rival Chick-Fil-A.  And infuse STEM, Mindset Training, and Differentiate for teachers and students alike.

That’s just a sliver of all of the things you’re asked to do, as you know.  But here’s the challenge:  out of the many important things that you do, what’s the most critical for you to do to live up to the standards set for your performance?

Help your teachers grow.

Yes, your responsible for safety is always the most important thing you do, but the most critical for you to be deemed successful is to help your teachers grow.

It’s for that reason everyone says you need to be visible.  It’s to help your teachers grow that you go to grade-level meetings, and PLCs, and book studies.  It’s the goal of your school’s evaluation program.  It’s the most critical thing you do.  In its absence, you are at best a caretaker of the school, not a leader.  Our business is learning;  our key representatives in the business are our teachers;  their performance IS your performance.  It is on this that you focus if you want your school to meet the needs of the students, because it’s through your teachers that you reach out to each and every one of your students.  Your heart and your head through their hands.  Hands whose work YOU are responsible for.

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Your commitment to the task at hand– leading your teachers in their professional growth– is the pathway to success for you, your teachers, your students, and your school.  Using the evaluation system as a support and as a needs assessment, your role as the school leader is to find out what your people need and get it to them.  (Just as the teacher’s role is to do the same for her students!)

I’ve heard school administrators tell their faculty members, “my job is to make your job easier,”  That’s a notion worth a challenge.  The truth is, the teacher’s job isn’t really easy, and while administrators offer support, our best play isn’t to present ourselves as Tech Support or the Geek Squad.  Perhaps our goal should be to be more like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid?  A trusted, wise coach whose wisdom matches up with his authority.

Making your teachers’ jobs easier may be a lot to promise, but what if your focus is on helping your teachers find more meaning in their work?  What if your “job’ is to help them learn so much about doing their job that their confidence stands taller than their troubles and their doubts?  That’s a lot more substantive and sustainable of a gift.

As we enter September and the second phase of the school  year, the performance of your teachers will become more and more an indicator of the success of your students, AND your quality of life as the principal.  Their growth is your job.  Make sure your calendar reflects it as the priority that it is.

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

 

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Leading A Culture of Professional Growth for All Teachers

Do you have MTSS for your teachers?  We often think that we don’t have to differentiate for our teachers since they’re professionals, they’re adults, and they’re paid to come to work.

What if we could develop a more effective approach to helping our teachers grow by differentiating our work with them towards their development?

The following graphic is here to provoke your thoughts about the nature of professional growth for ALL of your teachers, and a framework in which you may find success.  Share it with your administrative team.  Talk about which of your teachers would belong in which tiers, and then consider the possibility of a more effective school driven by the recognition of the varying needs of your teachers towards their learning and growth!

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

Supporting growth for all of your teachers

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It’s Not The Ideas; It’s The Implementation

OK!  You’re convinced that the growth of your teachers is critical for success at your school and now you’re ready to do something about it.

You’ve been credentialed to evaluate teachers, you’ve been recognized as a good teacher yourself, and you have served as an instructional coach and/or a team or department leader.

In short, you’ve got game!

Here’s the challenge:  what got you here won’t keep you here (and it won’t get you there >>>  either!).

Your self-discipline, attention to details, and amazing work ethic got you through the door and into school leadership.

Your ability to lead adults (not always the most coachable learners in your building) is now the pathway to your continued success.  However, one or more of your teachers isn’t doing what you want them to do.

Getting mad at them for not being “on it” at the same level as you  isn’t very effective.  What IS more effective is taking a look at the progression between the idea (whatever part of instruction you’re focusing on) and successful performance.  Hopefully, the chart will lead to conversations between you and your administrative team, and will help you see the progression that happens for students in class… and for your teachers with you just as well.

The progression is:

  1. Awareness;
  2. Understanding;
  3. Application;
  4. Performance.

Often as school leaders, we assume that our people can come right out of the gate into the fourth level of the implementation progression, Performance.  That notion rarely works out like that, and we can spend more time going back through the steps than if we had began directly with an intentional awareness campaign, followed by checking for understanding, assessing for clarity by observing the application of the idea, and finally sharing in the joy of performance of a new idea, something of which you can celebrate among your faculty and staff.

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

Four Steps in Leading Improvement in Instruction

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The New Principal Show! S2 E2: Support Your New Teachers.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xnzfz-97bf43

Support Your New Teachers

As we begin the new school year, one of the most important priorities for us as Ps and APs should be the successful introduction of new Ts to our building and especially new teachers to the profession.

You know the data points… that within five years, half of new teachers have left the profession.  You also know we are hiring from a deficit rather than from a surplus.  Once it was true that effective hiring was one of if not the most important actions a P could take.

NOW, you would do well to consider developing and retaining your Ts as a priority.  We can’t continue to work with new Ts as we did in the past.  We need a fresh new approach to support, nurture, and encourage our new Ts.

Let’s take a look at several scenarios for you as a P in regard to your new teachers and consider which of those set your Ts up for success and which of them set them up to have a more difficult year. 

In this episode, we look at ten different decisions that you as a P make regarding new teachers, and consider what those decisions do to encourage or discourage Ts as they begin their career.

Here we go!

  1.  Assignment of Classes/Courses:
  2.  Mentor Assignment
  3. Working with Colleagues
  4. Working with Parents
  5. Opportunity to Vent
  6. Feedback for Improvement
  7. Encouragement
  8. Duty Assignments
  9. First-Year Support? 
  10. Appropriate Onboard and Orientation

 

Thanks for listening!  

More resources for you!

 

Announcer for the New Principal Show!: Alex Johnson 

Music Licensed via Soundstripe:

Track Title: Little Unexpected Surprises

Artist Name(s): Cast Of Characters

The New Principal Show! S2 E1: Trust and the New Principal

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2bh7c-973d29

Trust and The Principal.

Q:   WHY do we always advise new principals to proceed gradually in bringing about change?

A:   Trust.

As Stephen Covey wrote, “change happens at the speed of trust.”  In this episode of The New Principal Show! we explore trust and the principal through these questions:

  • Trust and the Principal:  
  •  Internal:  Building Trust among your Faculty and Staff
  • External:  Earning Trust of Parents, Community, and Central Office
  • Personal:  Trusting Yourself to Lead:  (Confidence v. Fear;  The difference between confidence and arrogance)
  • What’d we learn?  Wrap up from each of us

Read more about Trust and The Principal here:  Trust and the Principal

Your The New Principal Show! hosts are:

Mark Wilson:  Teacher and Coach of Principals, (@MarkWilsonGA);

Octavius Mulligan:  Principal, Tesnatee Gap Elementary School; (@Dr_Octavius77)

Debra Murdock, Executive Director, Cherokee County Schools.  (@Warrior_Pal)

——————–

More resources for you!

Announcer for the New Principal Show!: Alex Johnson

Music Licensed via Soundstripe:

Track Title: Little Unexpected Surprises

Artist Name(s): Cast Of Characters

Season Two Begins Tonight!

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-af7au-9736f5

Tonight’s the night!

Join us here for the live show at 8PM EDT  Join the LIVE Show

BIG NEWS….

Tonight’s co-hosts are Octavius Mulligan and Debra Murdock.  They will be the co-hosts for ALL of the LIVE shows in this year’s series!  That will be great for you to get to know them better, to learn more from them, and for us to share with the live audience and for those on the podcast as well.
EQUALLY BIG NEWS…

In addition to the 10 LIVE shows, we will be posting PODCAST only 30-minute episodes this year as well.  During those 20 episodes, Mark will be talking one-on-one with a special guest and posting the convo here for you.

NONE of this is much fun unless someone uses it to support their work, so please know how grateful we are that you listen.

Hope to see you tonight LIVE or back here for the podcast after the show.

Thanks!
The New Principal Show! Team

Trust and the Principal.

Everyone who begins a new tenure at a school as the Principal hears the same advice: (including from Principal Matters!)  don’t start making changes right away, and maybe not any big changes in your first year at all.

You’ve heard that.  It most usually holds true.  The ‘why’ of it, however, isn’t always discussed.

It’s pretty simple.  People reserve their full effort until they trust you as the leader. 

An initiative you lead after you’ve gained the trust of your team has very different outcomes than one you initiate before they’re ready to join you.  Of course, there are always leaders who fail to heed this advice and plunge in anyway.  Some of them aren’t given a choice by their supervisors and are called upon to do immediate changes.

If you begin to make too many changes before you’ve earned trust, now you run the risk that not only do they not trust you, but they are not sure they can trust your judgment.  (Others often view the leader’s judgment along with the results; if you push something before you gain trust and it flops, then your judgment falls into question and you’re further set back in your journey to gain their trust.)

OK, here’s how it plays out in practice.  Sometimes it is really necessary to change some things sooner than you’d like.  If your teachers are yelling or disrespecting students, that’s nothing you can wait on.  If you have staff who leave their classes unattended, don’t come to work on time (or at all!) you can’t wait on that either.  If there are practices that a reasonable person would consider to be unsafe, you have to get going on those as well.

Success falls upon the prudent more than the overly-cautious or the impulsive.  Do what must be done, and then gain the necessary trust to do what should be done.

Your staff probably can be divided up into those who are quick to trust, those who may never fully trust, and the overwhelmingly largest group (68%… you know the bell curve) who are waiting to see which of the first two groups are correct!  For those, trust is a function of time, a matter of developing relationships, and observably consistent behavior on your part (i.e.- what you do and what you say match up)

Trust will come (if you are trust-worthy) over time, and then moving the organization forward becomes a much different (and more effective) task.

Funny thing about earning trust… takes much longer to earn than to lose.  Being a person who can be trusted, a leader who seeks the best for her people, a team member who sets aside his personal agenda for the better of the school.. that’s how you can keep trust once you’ve gained it.


On Monday Night (from 8:00-9:00 PM EDT) you can access the first episode of season two of “The New Principal Show.”  Our topic:  Trust and the Principal.

You can join the LIVE show here:  The New Principal Show! LIVE .   If you miss it, you can catch the recording as a podcast here:  Podcast: TNPS! .

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

Season Two

The New Principal Show! August 13- Season Two Debut

Being a Principal is the greatest job ever!

AND, it’s really a challenge.

You need to be in conversation with other practitioners.  We provide the opportunity for you to do so without leaving your home.

The New Principal Show! is back for Season Two and begins on Monday, August 13.   From 8-9 PM at this link:  https://www.gotomeet.me/principal-matters

  • We have a LIVE show once each month;
  • Each live show is posted as a podcast the next day at https://thenewprincipalshow.podbean.com/
  • We have additional, new podcasts weekly at the same site.

At the LIVE shows, you have a chance to:

  • interact with other practitioners;
  • use the chat function to talk about topics via text;
  • use the microphone function to talk to others and literally join the conversation;
  • get support and encouragement from others who want you to be successful!

There’s no charge; we aren’t selling anything.  We just want you to do well.

Join us.  Details below, including the schedule for this year!

Season Two

 

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

Keep the Momentum Going! Here’s How.

Ever heard a principal say, “we had the best opening we’ve ever had.  I just hope we can keep the momentum going…”

Each year while teaching school leadership classes, I’ll ask, “who had a good opening to school?”  No matter where we are, the response is consistent:  nearly everyone raises their hand with a slight nod and a look of accomplishment.  We can usually get school started:  but then, how do we keep it going?

The answer can be found in this question:  why did the beginning of school go well?  With only a little bit of reflection, you can put your finger on it:  you had success because you planned for it.

Of course, you never have as much time to plan during the school year as you do before it begins.  That said, you don’t have to say goodbye to the act of planning just because the teachers and students have returned.

Here are three ideas to help you keep that “beginning-of-the-year” momentum going all year long!

  1.  Put Planning Times/Dates On Your Calendar Right Now:   Your intentions won’t keep the momentum going, but your planning will, and your calendar is the place from which action arises.  (To-do lists are where dreams go to die… RIP)  If you can schedule a Momentum Meeting with your school inner circle a week from now, would that make a difference?  Sure it would.  How about another Momentum Meeting  two weeks later?  Yes.  And, these meetings don’t need to be lengthy— but they do need to be very, very FOCUSED.  If you go longer than two weeks without developing and working a plan, the kudzu will grow up around you.  And you won’t be able to get rid of it.  Planning is winning and winning is planning.  If you don’t do it, your strategy REALLY IS hope.
  2. Don’t Forget:  What Worked on The First Day of School Can Work on Day 27.  And Day 39.  And Day 114.    Why does the first day work?  As mentioned above, because we plan, but a second reason is that the attitudes of the adults are at a high level.   We saw lots of high-fives and smiles at schools everywhere at the beginning.  (Check out these pics here:  https://tinyurl.com/FDOS-2018a )  Why not every day?  Of course, it’s not as special if you do it every day, but couldn’t we do some things to make EVERY day a celebration of learning?  If we rock it on day one and then fall back into ruts after that, we won’t be keeping the momentum going.  It takes planning and intent, something you and your teachers should talk about together.
  3. You Gotta Believe.  There will be others who will not believe that you can sustain a positive, learning-focused, enthusiastic climate throughout the year.  As the leader, your will has to be stronger than their disbelief.  This phenomena begins with the leader, the person who audaciously believes that every day can be amazing, every student can learn, every teacher can grow, and that, when put together, all of this matters.  You have to believe deeply enough to get others to believe.  That’s what’s needed of you.  Your belief + Every-Other-Week Planning + Positive Climate at your school= Success for Students and Teachers.  Don’t get sucked into pettiness, or jealously, or anger.  You have to see over the mist and into the horizon and have a picture in your head of the good that is to come, even if others are only seeing the haze of the day.  That is the task of the leader, but also leads to your greatest joy.  That moment when everyone arrives at that place you’ve been seeing all along.

You can keep the momentum going all year long, and “all year long” begins today!  Good planning to you and yours!

 

© 2018.  Dr. Mark Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

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The New Principal Show! Season Two Begins August 13

We’re pleased to announce Season Two of “The New Principal Show!”, debuting on Monday, August 13.

Features for Season Two include:

  • Ten Live Shows. Once each month (from August through May), we will host a LIVE show, featuring guests, and providing an interactive opportunity for anyone who joins.  You can reach these shows by joining us at gotomeet.me/principal-matters at 8:00 PM, beginning on August 13.  (Full live show calendar listed below);
  • Twenty Additional Podcasts.    Each of our live shows is recorded and uploaded as a podcast at our podcast landing site,  thenewprincipalshow.podbean.com  This year we ALSO will be posting twenty additional pre-recorded podcasts for a total of 30 podcasts for this season!   Podcasts also are released on Mondays at 8:00 pm (EDT/EST).
  • We’ll be making releases of our guests in advance of each broadcast, and are excited about the opportunity thirty episodes gives us to have dozens of educational leaders on the show!  More details coming soon.

Join us on Monday, August 13 at 8:00 PM for the season premier.  It’s going to be fun!

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

21

The Teacher’s Journey: The Paths That Led Your Faculty Together

As the new school year begins, it’s important for the principal and the administrative team to focus on the mindset of the teachers as they prepare to welcome the students for another year of exploration and learning.

Here is an activity you can use that can help connect your teachers to their purpose, to their colleagues, to the school’s vision, and to their work this year.

Life Maps.   As you look out at the faculty you’ve assembled, it’s important to consider that they are unquestionably the greatest resource you have to accomplish the good work of the school.  So, what drives them?  What path led them to be a part of your school?  What are their anchors?

Consider leading your faculty in an exploration of their journey by asking them to            draw their life maps.  (Remember “the Game of Life”?  Twisting, turning, full of                    curves and traps.)  It’s a simple exercise:  Give your teachers each a sheet of chart paper, some sharpies, and ask them to search google images for  ‘life maps’ , not for a template but for some inspiration in designing their own map.

They’ll need adequate time to reflect on their lives… their choices, their triumphs, their tragedies, and the essential points in their journey that led them to your school.   (This is probably a thirty-minute event).

After they’ve finished their maps, depending upon the size of your team, you have several options for your teachers to share the story of their journey.  You can break them up into small groups (6-8 is what we’ve learned works best) and ask each person to share their story.  Then, you can ask all of your faculty to post their maps in a hallway or room for a gallery walk.  As your teachers walk around and look at their colleagues journeys, give them post-it notes so they can make comments as they make their way around.  (Sort of an Instagram, alpha version!)

What can you hope to get from this exercise?  For all of the groups I’ve used this with, the individuals in the group have discovered a deep appreciation for the other members of their cohort.  Even at schools where the faculty has been together for a number of years, I’m amazed at how important parts of someone’s life has seemed to remain unknown by other colleagues.

This is more than an ice-breaker or a get-to-know-you activity.  WHO your people really are (and what experiences led them to this point) has a significant impact on HOW they work with others, and WHAT they will do each day in their work.  When your faculty members get to know each other and appreciate their paths, it breaks down walls, gives them a point on which to connect, and opens the door to deep collaboration.

Your school will be more effective if your faculty works collaboratively and with respect for one another.  As they learn more about each other and the paths that led them together, they have a greater likelihood of coming together to do extraordinary work with your students.

And if you arrive there, it was well worth the investment of time.

©  2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.   All Rights Reserved.

 

Recipe Card:  Life Map Exercise Activity

Life Map Exercise

Purpose:  Your teachers reflect on the journey that led them to this moment where they are a member of your faculty.  They gain insight through their own personal exploration, and in discovering the paths of their colleagues.

Method:

  1. Distribute a piece of chart paper to each member of your faculty.  Give them adequate table space to create their map.  (Note: Everyone completes their own map, but they may want options for this activity.  Offer choice to your learners.  Some might want to work in the same space as a colleague to talk while they work; others might need quiet.)
  2. Based on your group size (leadership team? whole faculty? departments or grade levels?), determine if you’ll have your teachers share their journey with the whole group or in smaller groups.
  3. Consider posting the maps in a gallery style and give everyone post-it notes to “leave comments” on other’s maps.
  4. Ask your teachers to reflect.  You can do this in a written format, or you may choose to do a stand-up rotation for dialogue.  Some questions for reflection could include:
    1. How does the path that led you to this point impact who you are as a teacher?
    2. What did you learn about your colleagues through this activity?
    3. Why do the journeys of you and your colleagues matter in the work of your school?
    4. What’s next in your journey?
  5. You may have other variables you want to add to this activity, but one of the biggest take-aways most groups have is how applicable it is to their classroom and with their students.  Getting to know your students and the journey they have been on is also an important pathway to their success.

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