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

Issue Brief from CSRI

Research on Collective Teacher Efficacy

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 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.

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.


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

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

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.


  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.


How to Tell Your Teachers What You Want Them to Know (In Record Time)

Not enough time.

The problem for every principal, particularly at this time of year.  During this season, it’s reasonable for you to be saying that you don’t have enough time for all of the things you want to share with your teachers before school begins.  The truth is, you don’t.  So, what’s next?

Many leaders do what they’ve seen in the past and forsake good teaching to their teachers for making sure that they “cover” everything that has to be covered before the year begins.  A reasonable question to ask is this:

What that you share during pre-planning is actually being heard by your teachers?  Of that, what is being understood?  And of that subset, what will they be able to effectively incorporate in their practice? 

Not to make you feel bad, but if you say everything that’s on your list, but they either don’t hear or understand, or if they aren’t able to transfer the information, what have you really accomplished? 

Adult learners need to process their thoughts out loud with colleagues in order to enhance the likelihood of understanding.  Standing up increases brain activity by five percent. (Walking gives you a fifteen percent boost).  Consider pausing to let your learners “mindshare” at least every ten minutes. 

What’s the solution?  Here are some practical, real-life things you can do as your teachers return and you get them ready for the year to make this time well-spent.

  1.  During your time with your faculty, check for understanding frequently.   If you are giving your faculty a series of things you want them to know, consider:
    1. pausing after each item, or at least after each set of items, ask them to share their understanding with the person sitting next to them; asking them to stand up is a good thing during this as well;
    2. ask some of them to share with the whole group; (consider asking three of your team to share; always have a person to serve as the timer other than you so answers will be as brief as you want them)
    3. acknowledge your team’s processing of the learning and reteach as needed to get to understanding.
  2. Plan your pre-planning work with your teachers just like they say to pack for a big trip:  lay it all out and then only take half of it with you.  Think about it like this:  if you could only share one thing, what would it be?  How about two?  What is the maximum number of items that you can share that you can be confident your teachers will be able to operationalize or act on?  You really don’t have to tell them everything at once and if you did they wouldn’t remember it.  What do you do with the rest of what you want to tell them?  (See number three below!)
  3. OK, here’s the situation.  Your bookkeeper comes to the faculty meeting before the year begins and tells everyone how to take up money for a fundraiser.  She talks about not leaving checks overnight in a desk; she tells them to write receipts; she asks them to not bring a bunch of change from the penny drive in at 4:15 on a Friday.  Fast forward to February.  Someone has a fundraiser.  It’s been six months since they were told how to do it.  They do it all wrong.  What is a better way to get this info to others?  Videos.  Technology.  What if you built a library of short (3-4 minute) videos to show your teachers “How To…” do the things you’d like them to do?  What if they went to that shared Google Drive when they needed to know things and it was there, waiting for them?  There’s really no end to the good you can do by building your “How To” video library for your teachers.  You can ask some of your all-star teachers to make brief videos on how to effectively call parents, working with struggling students, or even how to effectively utilize group learning.  You can make a 3-4 minute video about… whatever you want your teachers to know throughout the year.  In-Time learning is better than in-case learning every day of the week.  (NOTE:  these videos don’t have to be produced– they can be made with phones.  AND, you don’t have to be the star of all of them (some of them you will want to be).  Collect and curate the collective knowledge of “How To” do things at your school and you will have effectively given yourself time.
You can easily use a number of platforms to curate videos “made by your school, just for your school” that can save EVERYONE tons of time.  How to “do grades”?  Use a screencast to show them how.  

Good luck in your work with your teachers!


© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.



Ten Things To Remember As Teachers Return To School

While I was at dinner, I heard someone in the restaurant, obviously a teacher, talking to a friend in line.  I heard her reply, but context leads me to believe it was the question every teacher is hearing now.

“Are you about ready for school to start?”

The teacher, replied back, “yes, I’m excited to get back to the kids and to have a routine, but I’ll miss my summer!  We go back next week.”

So, if your teachers haven’t returned to school yet, they’re thinking about it.  And others are asking them about it.

For you as the school leader, it’s a time you should be excited about.  These teachers are your stars;  they are the ones who will lead your students to discovery, to curiosity, to knowledge.  You should be as excited for them to return to you as the parents are to send their children back to you and your teachers.

As you prepare for their return, here are Ten Things To Remember about their return to school.

  1. Help All Your Teachers Get Off To An Inspired Start.   You can tell them all of the rules they’ll ever need to know on the first day you have them back, or you can get them excited about what they do and the promise of a new year.  Which method leads to instructional success?
  2. Teach your teachers what you want them to know; don’t just tell them.    It’s easy for you to look at the list of things you want your teachers to know, and the short time you have them to yourself and to try to tell them too much.  Does it really serve you (or them) well for you to try to cover more things than they can digest?  The school year lasts a while; you don’t really need to tell them everything at once.
  3. Together, Design a Great First Day With Students.   What one thing do you want your teachers to focus on in preparation for their first day with their students?  If you take your time with them to prepare them for that goal, will the beginning of school go smoothly?  Are you clear in your description of what you want the first days with students to be?  Painting that picture is important if you want your expectations to be met.  Taking the time to get the FDOS (First Day of School) right will pay dividends all year long.
  4. Atmosphere Contributes to Performance.   If your first days with your teachers seem rushed, over-scheduled, and full of tension, that will set a tone that you may not mean to set.  What if you and your administrative team met your teachers as they entered the school on the first day?  Giving them high-fives and fist bumps like you’d like them to do when their students arrive?  If you model this, would it be more impactful than if you merely told them?
  5. Define the Focus for the Year.   Recently, I heard some nice, wonderful school leaders tell their faculty what the focus would be for the upcoming year.  They then unveiled a powerpoint presentation for over an hour and shared Fourteen Areas of Focus for the upcoming year!!!   My expectations for their success are… very guarded.  If you tell your team fourteen things are important, they may not actually focus on the one that really is the most important. Please don’t say ‘priority’ if you don’t mean it.
  6. Give Your Teachers Space and Time to Connect with Each Other.  Your teachers will be working together, collaboratively, this year.  Don’t forget to give them time to connect and build trust with each other during the first days of school.
  7. Give Special Attention To Your New Teachers.   Who on your administrative team will advocate for each of the new teachers on your staff?  Sure, they have a faculty mentor, but on your team, who will shepherd each of them through the first days?  If you are checking in on them (in person) a couple of times each day during pre-planning and the first days, you’ll set the tone that you aren’t going to leave their success to chance and that you are going to be there for them.
  8. Be Rested and Ready for the Teachers’ First Day.    Here’s an idea worthy of your consideration:  do all of the planning for your teachers’ return, and on the night before they arrive, get refreshed for the next day.  (Exercise, walk, do something non-school;  then get a good night’s sleep)  Before you start shaking your head “NO!”, hear me out, please:  You have to stop your preparation for the teachers’ return sometime.  Stop it with enough time to get yourself to your best as they arrive.  If you are full of energy that first day, you set the tone in a good way.  If you are dragging on their first day, it’ll do the opposite.
  9. Focus on the Good.    Chances are that most of what you plan for the teachers’ first day will go well… but chances are something may not go as you planned.  This is a time when your teachers will see how you respond in such a scenario.  Is it better for them to see you adapt gracefully or to respond fretfully to the unplanned or unexpected?   If the food for breakfast arrives later than you planned, you can let it ruin your day, or you can keep your focus on the good.  And there’s lots of good on the first day for teachers.
  10. Take Time for Your People.   Will your school get off to a better start with you getting around the building and seeing all of your people on their first day(s) back?  How you spend your time on those first days shows others your focus, and the winning hand in school leadership is always a focus on leading your teachers.


Twenty End-of-the-Year Questions To Ask Your Teachers

As has been our theme all week long, we look again at questions, and in this column, questions for… the teachers.

Yes, teachers get surveyed a lot.  You may prefer to gather this data in small groups, in meetings, or in a format that leads to more openness and deeper reflection.

In concluding the school year, it’s incumbent on you as a school leader to measure the growth and progress your school has made.  An important part of that measure is in debriefing your teachers.  You can do so as a part of their summative conference if you like.  The important thing is that you don’t let an opportunity to learn more about this school year pass by you.  The more questions you ask, the more you know about your school and your people, and the better you’ll serve them as their leader.

55 minutes of questionsBelow are twenty questions that you can ask your teachers before they break for the summer.  Maybe you’ll ask some of them; maybe all of them, and maybe none of them.  The important part of this examination is that you focus on the right questions for your teachers and for your school within the current context.  To get you thinking about what  to ask your teachers, here is a sample set of  twenty questions.  Enjoy.

Twenty Questions To Ask Your Teachers at the End of the Year

  1. What did you do most effectively this year in your classroom?
  2. How well did your students learn this year?
  3. What was an innovative strategy that you employed successfully this year?
  4. What was your biggest failure this year?  What did you learn from it?
  5. Describe the level of relationships that you had with your students this year.  Were your relationships with your students better this year than in other years?  Why or why not?
  6. Think of a student who you were never really able to reach the way you’d hoped.  What did you learn from your efforts?
  7. What did you learn about teaching this year?
  8. Based on your reflection about your work this year, what do you plan to focus your professional development on this summer?
  9. If you had ten minutes to talk about something you do well as a teacher, what would you talk about? (focusing on one thing)
  10. Were you a good team member this year?  What did you do to help your colleagues be more effective as teachers?
  11. If someone was charting your career as a teacher day-by-day from your first day/first year to now,  what would the curve look like?
  12. Teaching is challenging and often stressful.  How well did you handle the stress this year?  What do you find effective in coping with your work stress?
  13. What was your best year ever as a teacher?  Where did this year rank among your years of teaching?
  14. Who helped you in your work this year?  Who did you help in their work?
  15. What do you need from others who work at the school in order to be a more effective teacher?
  16. What do you think about the children who go to our school?  Are they all able to learn?
  17. What was your best experience partnering with a parent this year?
  18. What skill do you need to learn to do more effectively?
  19. Why do you teach?
  20. What is your number one highlight of this school year?

As always, there are many more questions that you could ask and many that can be appropriate within the context of your school.  Work hard to ask the right questions that help you gather the data you need to make good decisions about individuals, groups, and the school as a whole.  The leader who fails to listen better be a really good guesser!  It’s much easier and more effective to become a good listener instead.  It takes good questions, a commitment to take time to ask them, and an ear that listens to understand rather then to reply.

Before your teachers break for summer (and before anyone mentally checks out) invest your time into conversations with your teachers.  You can learn so much from listening!



Support Teacher-Leaders with Acknowledgement, Attendance, and Appreciation

As the principal or assistant principal, teacher-leaders are critical for your school’s success.  More than anything, they need your support.  What does that look like?  Here are three things that you can do to effectively support your teacher-leaders.

  1. Acknowledgement:   Seems simple, but among the most important ways to support your teacher-leader is to acknowledge their efforts.  If you have someone who is heading up an effort at your school, make sure to acknowledge what they’re doing.  You may need to accomplish this in a number of ways.  The most important is face-to-face:  make sure that your teacher-leader hears you say “thank you.”   It’s been my observation that most teachers are wonderful people who will go a long way on just a little.  If you have a teacher who’s taking the lead on a new reading program for the school or her grade level, make sure you acknowledge that you know what they’re doing.  If a couple of your teachers are leading the Honor Society Induction, drop them a note to thank them for their work.  Acknowledge the efforts of your teacher-leaders in meetings, in newsletters, and in your social media efforts.  Don’t just include those who are sponsors and coaches, but also those who are leading academic efforts.  Again, this seems so simple, but it is so important just to acknowledge the extra effort being extended by your teacher-leaders.
  2. Attendance:  Be there.  It goes hand-in-hand with the acknowledgement of their efforts.  Show up.  When one of your teachers is leading the way in using technology in her classroom, be there.  Not just to write it up as an observation, but  to be there to support her work.  You know to be at the marquee events, but the principal who shows up at all of the other events as well is one who is building a culture of teacher-leadership.  Again, this may seem very intuitive for you, and if it does then you’re on the right track.  Sometimes just “showing up” is enough to demonstrate your support for your teacher-leader in a significant way.
  3. appreciationAppreciation:   It’s the next part of this progression:  after you acknowledge that you know that your teacher is leading, and because you attend demonstrations of the work, you are able to show your appreciation to your teacher.  This goes a little deeper than acknowledgement.  Since you’ve been in attendance and seen the work, now you can really show your appreciation.  Find ways to show your gratitude to your teacher-leader for the work that they have done.  One of the most important parts of appreciation is thoughtful follow-through.  “Thank you” is nice;  even nicer is something like this:  “thank you for opening the world up to our students through the work that you did on this project.  The level of commitment that you demonstrated is a great example for all of your students…   Appreciation is demonstrated not only by gratitude, but though an understanding of what’s been accomplished that can only be reached by spending time to observe and reflect.  That’s why appreciation is a step beyond acknowledgement.

Supporting your teacher-leaders in their leadership work and their development is an investment of time but it is most likely going to be something that will be natural for you as a leader.  If you support them with intentionality, you’ll be amazed at what it will do for your culture-building efforts.

This is the final episode of a two-week series on teacher teams and teacher-leaders.  If you take a look back through the last few days here at Principal Matters!, you’ll see how we have arrived where we are today.



Learning to Lead: Experience Wanted

Are leaders born or are they taught?

Regardless of which side of that argument you come down on, you’ll probably agree that experience can be a great teacher of leadership, whether you have predispositions to lead or not.

If that’s true, shouldn’t principals be ever-seeking opportunities for leadership for teachers, students, and staff?

Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at a topic that’s inspiring conversations at schools nearly everywhere:  teacher teams and teacher-leaders.  How do we have the most effective teacher teams?  How do we prepare and support the teachers who lead those teams?

That line of questioning led us to yesterday’s topic:  What if we focused on leadership  with everybody?  Today’s column carries that question to its natural conclusion:  HOW do we connect everyone to leadership opportunities? 

learning to lead

Here are some steps that can support your teachers and students as leaders:

  1. Permission to Lead:  Having a culture of leadership at your school begins with… giving everyone permission to lead.  Sounds unnecessary, but it’s important as the principal to set the tone that everyone’s ideas and contributions matter.  If your teachers and students believe that you’re there to say ‘yes’ then they’ll be more likely to step up to lead.  Make it clear and say it plainly.  Leaders wanted… all over the school.
  2. Identify Your Passion:   Principals need to be asking teachers and students about their individual passions.  We need protocols that support this work.  It can be done easily electronically, but it should be done universally and often.  If you have people thinking about their passion at school, it’ll change the culture immeasurably.  Everyone does better when they’re interested; if you set the tone that everyone’s a leader, step two is to engage everyone in exploration of their own interests and a particular passion.
  3. Gather Your Team:  Once you have permission to lead and have identified your personal passion, it’s time to find like-minded folks to join you on this journey.  You need to build a team.   It can be small (1-2) or large, a standing committee or an organically-formed group who join your interest.  If you’ve built a culture of creativity and collaboration, now all you need is to find each other and begin to act like a team.
  4. State Your Mission:  There’s you, your passion, your team, and now you need a mission.  It needs to be clearly stated and shared for understanding with your team.  The mission drives you through uncertainties and sets you on the course of your journey to success.
  5. Design Your Plan:   Often, people want to go straight to this step without the preceding ones.  That can be problematic.  You don’t need the plan first to get your team.  You DO need your passion, and then your mission.  Once you’re set with the important beginning elements, THEN it’s time to design a plan to support your mission.  
  6. Implement!  Ideas into action! Work your plan.  Just do it.
  7. Own The Results:  Being in charge means accountability.  Many of the candidates for leadership positions have the interest in the position but maybe not the experience.  This is what I believe to be one of the most important components of learning leadership.  Without a sense of vulnerability and a risk that your idea might not work, there’s not a lot to learn.  Leadership skills grow when you have to work with others, you own the results, and you are responsible for both parts (the results and the people involved).

How can you connect your people into this leadership framework?  The more that teachers and students lead, the more that teachers and students learn.  Leadership can (and does) happen in the classroom, but everything that happens in the classroom isn’t necessarily leadership.

Inspire leading by inspiring learning.  Foster a sense of exploration and curiosity.  Ask people what they’re passionate about.  Challenge both teachers and students to create things.

The more leaders at your school, the more ideas you’ll have and the more effective your school will be.