What Do We Want to Keep When We Return to School-at-School Next Year?

The New Normal. Have you heard about it? Of course you have. We all speak about it but we really don’t have enough information to know what will be a blip on the screen and what will truly be lasting.

After the terrorist acts on 9/11, we found some of the immediate changes to be a new normal. Security on flights? That was normalized. It’s hard to even remember the innocent world in which we freely roamed through the airport and paper ticketing was the biggest part of the security system.

In our schools, we have found many new normals in regards to student safety, most recently on a large scale following the shootings in Parkland, FL. During the Summer of 2018, school leaders talked more about safety from intruders than any other topic. We changed our protocols, and a majority of schools moved to a “ring-in” system that we have since accepted as normal.

There’s always a new normal, because there’s always change, and we adapt and continue moving forward. The pandemic and subsequent quarantine have been deeply impactful, but it remains to be seen what parts of our current behaviors will be sustained.

So, rather than wait to see what sticks, what might you and your team determine would be welcome changes to continue moving forward? Now is the right time to consider what we may be doing now that we would want to be normalized, that we would want to be a part of a better normal.

We all know that at nearly every school (and church, family, business, for that matter), there are things that we do because we have always done them that way. Here are five areas of reset for your consideration. Five things that we are doing now that might be good to continue as we move into next year (and beyond). There are certainly more than this, but hopefully these five will get your conversations going about what to keep from our current experience.

  1. Now that we’ve shown that we can, should we hold more of our meetings virtually? We can. Should we? It’s worth a conversation. Think about how more efficient it would be to have meetings with parents via Google Meet (or your favorite live video platform)? It’s more convenient for parents, saves them driving time, and for the immediate period (while we continue to practice safe health protocols) it limits individuals from entering the school. Can you move both smaller and larger meetings to a virtual format? We’ve been holding IEP meetings virtually. Can we continue to do so? Parent and teacher conferences for MTSS, SSTs, and virtually anything could be converted to virtual. So can PTO meetings. Parent information and open house events can be produced in a fashion that have some live elements while other portions are pre-recorded and streamed. Think about it: if we eliminate the driving to the school for many (most?) of our meetings, how many more families can we effectively reach? Again, NOW is a good time to explore that possibility, because it’s applicable no matter what circumstances arrive for you in August.
  2. Our relationship with families of students has changed over the past two months. What have we learned and how do we apply it positively moving forward? If you’ve read much of this site, you’ve heard our concerns with the phrase “dealing with parents.” Parents (families) are highly influential in the motivation and subsequent performance of the students in our schools. To do anything other than seek the best relationships with all of the parents of our students is counterproductive at best. How do you reset and reshape the family-school relationships at your school? Everyone should have seen that it sure works better when we work together. Conversations in May, June, and July can lead to a deeper partnership in August and beyond. Don’t miss these moments to shape a reset that can make A LOT of difference on many levels.
  3. There’s a reasonable possibility that some portion of next school year could be “school-at-home” again. What have you learned about assessment and grading in a distance learning environment that will help you moving forward? This is, as they say back home, the portion where I’ve “gone from preaching to meddling.” Grades are always a controversial topic. It might be a bad time to honestly talk about them. It may, however, be a great time to talk about them. My guess is that may differ based on your location (and the mindset of your faculty). Here’s what everyone should have noticed: there’s a big difference between assessment and grading. For all the time we have spent on each of them, it’s amazing how much further we still need to go. Is now the right time to sort through how we assess performance to design learning? How grades are snapshots and not framed portraits? How learning, growth, and mastery fit in? Your teachers are on the job through May. We have June and July beyond that. Clarity on what your school uses assessments and grades for would be a great start.
  4. Classrooms that were control-centric before we moved to school-at-home were ill-prepared for distance learning. Those that were relationship-centric were able to transition more effectively. Preparing for potential distance learning is about tablets and broadband, but it’s also about relationships. How do you really make relationships the cornerstone of all of your classrooms? Student motivation isn’t only about the relationship with the teacher and the culture of the classroom, but those are two things that influenced who did and who didn’t do work when the aspect of control was mostly eliminated. Influence is always stronger than control in the long run… control, however, can be effective in particular environments. School-at-home? Not that environment. What might you do now in conversations over the next month and beyond to help your teachers explore control and relationships? Is that something that can be of benefit no matter what the circumstances of your reopening may be?
  5. How do we stop ourselves from going back, working too much again, and being too out-of-whack in our lives?  COVID-19 has been fatal to over a quarter of a million people to date. It’s awful. There has been tremendous suffering and loss. It’s been devastating.  Flowers can grow in the middle of a pile of rocks, so even in the worst of settings, something good can grow.  I’ve enjoyed meeting with principals and assistant principals over the past two months and hearing about what they’re doing in their yard, and with their kids, and in their lives. What the restrictions on our movements and our access to work has done, it would seem, is something worth learning from. We are sleeping more.  We are taking time to breathe.  We are enjoying life and the people in our lives who make it worth living.  I hope we don’t go back to being just as we were before all of this. My hope is this experience will help you focus on all that you have to be joyful about and grateful for. I hope that appreciation will last when we reopen schools, and when you go back, you will be returning as a reset version of your old self. I hope that we won’t get right back into the everlasting sprint that we had evolved into. We can and will be good leaders, but we need to lead ourselves first. This is the reset I have the greatest hope, the most sincere desire for. The reset in you. A stronger, more confident leader, fortified by having caught your breath and enlightened enough not to easily give it away. This reset is one that isn’t contingent on anything except you. Not necessary to wait for more information on this. You can, right now, begin planning what you will do upon the return. Think about what you’ve learned. Reflect on what’s most important. Pledge and plan to grow from this experience and your reflection on it.  Reset.

There’s A Lot You Can Be Doing Now To Prepare for Next Year

You don’t know everything about the conditions of your reopening of school, but you know that it will be different.

As you plan for a new school year, it’s natural to have a yearning for the way things were, before the quarantine. Most school leaders would like to find a way to return to the comfortable, familiar ways in which schools operated before we stopped in-person school in mid March.

Of all the scenarios for the beginning of next school year, a return to the way things were on March 11 seems the most unlikely. So how will things be? What can you do about them now?

Right now, we lack all of the information to enable us to plan with certainty; in that, we can be certain. As a school leader, rather than be paralyzed by what you don’t know, what if you took another route? Instead, what if you become energized by the possibilities? How can you do more than just return; how might you lead a reset that changes your school for the better?

In the future, what can we do differently now that we’ve done most everything differently already? If you were ever hoping for a window of opportunity to bring about change, this will be it. The truth is, we have lots of things that we have been doing because… we’ve always done them that way.

Guess what? Not anymore. We have done nearly everything in a different way over the past two months. Some things we will want to return to, but others? Maybe not.

Now is a REALLY good time for you to engage your people in conversations about what those things are. Talk with your administrative team; have small group sessions with your teachers; and (in an age-appropriate fashion) brainstorm with students. Ask your parents what they think has worked better in these days. Get input. Gather ideas. Pose the question, when we return to school-at-school, what should be different than before?”

If you can ask these questions with the mindset of a researcher, eager to discover the truth, you’ll get meaningful data that can help you make good decisions. Be humble, be courageous, ask what others think.

Year-End Traditions And Good Ideas in A Virtual World

What’s everybody else doing? What are other people doing about grades? Honors night? Graduation and prom? We share some of the ideas from your colleagues to help you process what’s best for your school and your community.

Herff-Jones (information, not an endorsement) has developed a virtual graduation tool based on the platform of Stage Clip, seen above.

Click above to hear the HS Principal Conversation from April 7, discussing year-end traditions.



C.T. Hussion and his team at Union County High School are kind enough to share the questions they used to check in on their students this week.  Another example of the collaboration we all need to be successful in these unprecedented times.  Thanks, C.T.! 

UCHS Student Pulse Check
As we are adjusting to school online, we would like to remind you that you are more than just a bunch of grades and assignments to us. We would appreciate it if you could fill out this form completely so that we can get an idea about how this is working and to help keep up with you and what’s going on in our Panther community. Thanks!

*Required Answer

1. Email address *

ACADEMICS:
Please answer the questions that follow about your academic experience since we’ve moved online.

2.  What is the longest that you spent on a single daily assignment for one class last week? *

___  Less Than 30 minutes
___  Around 30 minutes
___ 1-2 Hours
___  2-3 Hours
___  Over 3 Hours

3.  In total, about how long did you spend on your online schoolwork each day for all classes combined? *

___ 1-2 Hours
___ 2-3 Hours
___ more than 3 Hours

4.  Please describe the online lesson you enjoyed the most last week and what it was that you liked about it.

(Open Response)

You are important to us! Please tell us how you’re doing.

PERSONAL:

Meaningful School Traditions~ In A Virtual World

Image Credit: BBT

With school-in-person cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-2020 year, administrators are addressing lots of questions about how meaningful year-end events will be conducted. Prom, graduation, fifth-grade recognition, ninth-grade orientation, third-grade field day. Honoring retiring teachers, holding year-end banquets and awards, powderpuff, and cleaning out your room for the end of the year. There are a LOT of things that are supposed to be happening now. With the public health dangers we are confronting, how do we handle our most cherished traditions?

Here are a few thoughts for your consideration as you develop your plans.

  1. There is not just one correct answer to these questions. It is reasonable to think that one course of actions will work well at one school, while the polar opposite is more effective at another. Knowing your students and community and what is important to them is critical now. You always have limited resources of time, money, and energy, and in these circumstances its important to use them in the most effective manner. Postponement? Cancellation? Different Format? After exploring the different options, you and your local school and community will have to determine which path is the right one for you.
  2. Things aren’t like they’re used to be, but you can use what you DO have to get what you want. This isn’t ideal, but we aren’t without resources. We have you, your team, and your skills to create, imagine, and design experiences for your students, their parents, and your teachers. You can do this! It begins with listing what you want to do, and then matching it up with what you have. You aren’t going to be able to do the spring orientation for your sixth-graders (or ninth-graders or kindergarteners) in person, but you CAN do a virtual tour like realtors do of houses they are showing. You can have orientation teams (via Zoom) complete with “tour guides” (students already at your school) and can develop relationships with incoming students now. Their parents? You can still hold an event (or multiple events) to welcome them to school, complete with appearances from teachers, counselors, even other parents already a part of your school family. It’s not how it’s been, but you have a lot you can use to do what you want to do.
  3. It’s time for extreme collaboration, not competition. If you have a good idea, share it, please. If you see someone doing something that looks like a winner, let others know. There is no award for “Best in Quarantine.” Everyone is trying to do the same thing: make lemonade out of our big box of lemons. We don’t need to feel the need to be first to put something cool on social media. As professionals, we ought to all want each other to prosper during these (and all) times. Some of the kids being recognized at your neighbor’s school may be at yours in the fall. Even if they aren’t let’s use this time to connect and share so that we all can do well in replacing our traditions with new traditions, or workarounds during these interesting times.
  4. Don’t Miss ‘Now.’ Think about how to honor and recognize your students now while you are able. You may be committed to an in-person event later, but you still have ‘now,’ and you won’t be able to return here later. So, in the now, how can you honor your seniors? Your retirees? Your students? You can plan to convene together in person when crowds are safe and permitted, but you can ALSO create an experience for now. With the resources that you have available, how can you properly recognize and appreciate all of your people?

So, bring the creative minds of your team together and explore how to do what you want to do with what you’ve got to do it. Good luck!

Tweets may have to replace treats for now but as always, it’s the thought that matters the most.

Exemplary Work in Remote Learning and Leading (Volume 3)

People everywhere are seeing what we all have always known– that teachers, administrators and staff are dedicated, resourceful, and capable of amazing things.

I continue to marvel at how in a matter of hours we flipped to a digitally-delivered learning environment AND, added in preparing, distributing and delivering meals to boot!

As we approach week two of this learning and leading opportunity, please take a moment to see some exemplary work from some of your colleagues. Maybe these examples will give you ideas, encourage you in what you’re doing, or inspire you in your work.

THANK YOU for your service, and thanks to all of your people for what they’re doing for your students and your community.

Get some well-deserved rest this weekend, please!


Leslie Dooley is the school counselor at Russell Middle School in Barrow County. She and the staff there are preparing for a “You Matter” Spirit Week next week!

Billy Kirk (Principal) connects with his students every day at Lumpkin County High School. He brings them that consistency every day now as well as he sends out his daily announcements to all students and the faculty.
Jennifer Abercrombie is the Principal at Crisp County Middle School. She shared this example, and writes, “We usually have our monthly gatherings to recognize accomplishments and “Shout Outs” to staff members. We did a virtual “Shout Out” board and shared through Google Drive to offer encouragement and highlight the positives during this school closure time. It has grown daily.”

Pretty confident that you know about this, but still worth noting that State Superintendent Richard Woods announced that “educators, parents, and students can expect that no state testing will be administered in Georgia this year.” This development will lead all of us to examine what our academic goals will be in the coming days and weeks.
Jennifer Westbrook is the Principal at Mt. Vernon Elementary School in Hall County, where the fourth grade is meeting daily via Zoom.

So important to point out the monumental effort that is happening at schools and systems everywhere to feed our communities. This morning at Pepperell High School (Floyd County Schools), Principal Jamey Alcorn welcomed his colleagues to join in an effort to “operate the drive thru” for the Pepperell community. We ALL are gaining a greater appreciation for what our cafeteria heroes do every day!
Dr. Robbie Hooker, Superintendent of Social Circle Schools is reading Pete the Cat to his students. This unique season gives us an opportunity to promote reading and time to do things that we otherwise might not find time to do.

If you and your teachers aren’t using FlipGrid, you ought to give it a look. It’s perfect for the work that we’re doing now, and gives the teacher an opportunity for assessment of learning, as Central High School in Carroll County is using. Jared Griffis, is the principal of Central HS.
Liz Raeburn, Principal of Bryan County Middle School, is an idea fountain every day of the year, every year. She is someone you should watch as creativity becomes an even more valued commodity. She contacted the author Gordon Korman and now is bringing a great audiobook to her students.

Kierra Rojas is an instructional coach for Griffin-Spalding Schools. She is lifting up Moore Elementary School first grade teacher Jasmine Gipson as she continues teaching literacy skills remotely.
Something that we can keep going in our remote school universe? Physical Education. It’s important to keep our students (and teachers?) moving during these days, and here’s a simple but potentially impactful idea from Spalding High School (Griffin-Spalding Schools). Here’s another great idea from SHS– a practical idea of how students and parents might structure learning days at home.

Dr. Mark Wilson principal-matters.com

March 20, 2020 @MarkWilsonGA

Remote Learning Examples: Volume 2


What are others doing? What can I be doing?

We ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! Here are twelve terrific ideas from your colleagues from today. You may already be doing some or all of them, but maybe they’ll remind you of someone who needs your attention, or inspire you in your work. THANKS to all of our colleagues for their work today and to these colleagues for sharing a portion of theirs.

THANK YOU for the leadership you are providing for your school and for your community. If I can be of any help to you please contact me at mark.wilson.ga@gmail.com .

Keep doing well and keep doing good! MW

principal-matters.com @MarkWilsonGA March 18, 2020

The “Seven Cs” of Remote Leadership

Remote learning has been around for some time and nearly everyone has some experience with it. Remote leadership is a bit of a different story. While full-time, all-the-time, digital learning leaders have experience in this, for most everyone else, this is new ground (and especially at such a large scale).

What does it take to be effective in remote leadership? Here are seven “Cs” that describe the remote school leader:

Cool, Calm, …. these are stressful times, and, as always, the leader sets the tone for the others. You are bound to get frustrated. (We DID shift our method of delivery across thousands of schools in a matter of hours, days as the most!) There are some things that aren’t going to fit neatly into our new norms. But as always, the leader who stays calm under stress helps reduce it for others. To finish off that phrase, you want to be cool, calm, and…

Connected. As different as things are for everyone, you have a unique opportunity to connect with your people. You have more opportunity to schedule your time than you usually do. In doing so, you may want to consider keeping an ongoing list of who you’re in contact with, to make sure that you don’t inadvertently leave anyone out. You can connect with your folks in one of the many, many platforms that we all are going to get very proficient on! Stay connected.

Confident. The person who thinks they can and the one who thinks they can’t are both right. (Revised from a Henry Ford quote) This is a time for leadership, and leadership requires confidence. So, you’ve never done what we’re doing now. That puts you even with everyone else. You have done things in your previous experience that should give you the courage to know that you’ll take on these new challenges and succeed. Believe in yourself, especially as things get more challenging. I can’t help but think about my mother and father who grew up and lived during the Great Depression and World War II. As challenging as what we’re working through now may be, we can stand tall on the work of those who have come before us, especially when it comes to summoning up the courage and confidence needed to move forward each day.

Creative. What a great time to be a creative leader, and what an opportunity we have to do things we normally haven’t been able to do! You can meet with your people in small groups, 1:1, large groups. You can create digital games and challenges. You can use your creativity to keep the energy and excitement going. And, if you’re one of those people who often say “I’m not creative,” guess what? You can see what others are doing and creatively copy what they’re doing! Keep it interesting for your folks. Have some games and giveaways. Create the space for joyful work amongst your people.

Consistent. Jerry Bavero, principal of Union County Elementary School has a “pep rally” for his entire school every single day of the year to start the day. He’s working to provide consistency and normalcy for his students and teachers by continuing to do it… digitally each day. Whatever you usually do at school… shout outs for birthdays, the pledge, things of that sort… consider doing it virtually to help everyone in your school fam have a little bit of anchor to connect to.

Caring. Bibb County Schools has started a hashtag, #BibbAthleticsShoutOut to share profiles about their Senior Athletes, particularly those who are currently missing their spring sports season. This is a huge loss for those kids and their parents, and this small, but caring touch helps them know their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. As the leader, we naturally look around and notice… we notice who needs a little extra and we work to get it for them. Now’s a great time to be an observant noticer, and to show that you care. It’s really the little things that make the most difference in challenging times. This is what you’re great at on a regular day, and now you’re called to do it in another way, at another level.

Chances are, you’re thinking by now, “those seven Cs aren’t any different just because we’re leading remotely.” You’re right. You’ll need to adjust your approach and change your platforms, but yes, these are the same things that you do 247/366 already. Which means, you should stand tall and know that you’re ready for this work. In times like these, you don’t have to help anyone “find their why?” Now is your time to lead them, to support them, to nurture them and to do what’s needed, because that’s what you always do.

Thank you for your service.

Exemplary Work in Remote Leadership


Thank you!

The work that you, your teachers, your custodians, your nutrition teams, your technology people, your staff have been doing is nothing short of amazing, inspirational, and powerful.

Thank you all for what you are doing to bring learning, caring, calm, and a sense of normalcy in a time that is anything but.

Working through obstacles is what we’re good at.  Leading people through tough times is what you’re good at as a leader.  That’s what is needed right now, and that’s exactly what you do, what is needed.

THANK YOU for what you’re doing.  Like every other day you spend as an educator, never undervalue the importance of what you are doing for others and for your community. 

Again, THANK YOU.


Great Examples to Share from Around Georgia

You know what’s awesome?  Spirit week.  Guess what?  You can have it remotely.  That’s what John Rhodarmer, Principal at Armuchee High in Floyd County has rolled out for his faculty and students. 

Karen Carsten, the principal at Tritt Elementary in Cobb County, held a leadership team meeting yesterday.  The opportunities for connection and leadership are plentiful! 

Remembering to show gratitude and support, and to celebrate it publicly is a great way to keep the fuel going for our hard-working teachers.  Dr. Olga Glymph is an assistant principal at Milton HS in Fulton County. 

The New Principal Show! Support for First-Year Principals; Debuts Tuesday 7/18

Schools need great leaders; great leaders need to get off to the right start.  That’s why we’re launching The New Principal Show!, beginning Tuesday, July 18, accessible anywhere at gotomeet.me/principal-matters .

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Not a new effort, but a new design to reach more people.  This will be the sixth year that we’ve been supporting principals, particularly supporting new principals and we’re excited to make the support accessible to everyone, wherever you may be! 

Over the past few summers, it’s been a privilege to work with first-year principals in advance of the launch of their administrations.  Literally hundreds of principals have come to one of the many events we’ve hosted across Georgia.  While we still have some of those events scheduled this summer (“Successful Beginnings” at Pioneer RESA on 7/19; First District RESA on 8/11 and West Georgia RESA on 8/18) it’s exciting to add this twelve-episode series that can be accessed by principals not only in particular areas, but anywhere you have a device and connectivity.

How will the show work?  We’ll cover a small number of topics that are pertinent for first-year principals during each episode.  The first episode (Tuesday, July 18, 8:00 PM EDT) features discussions about the following:  Be Yourself; Listen; Take Notes; and Find Out Why.  

We’ll be joined on each episode by guest hosts who are experts in the field, practitioners, or thought leaders who can support your work.  Episode One features Dr. Torian White, the Principal of Southeast Bulloch Middle School and Debra Murdock, 2014 Georgia High School Principal of the Year, and currently Executive Director for Administrative Leadership, Cherokee County Schools.

The other stars of these shows will be you.  Each show will have a chat platform where you can make comments, ask questions, share info, and be an interactive participant in the learning.

If you ARE a new principal, please join us; if you know one, please let them know this resource is available, free, and waiting for them!

 

Are You An Innovative Leader?

Innovate.  Innovation.  Innovative.

Schools and school systems everywhere include those words in their mission and vision work.  When interviewing for an assistant principal or principal position, you can most likely expect to be asked about your ability to innovate.  Evidence that you’re innovative.

Innovation is an important part of any organization’s success.  Like many concepts, it’s possible that we’ve used (and misused) it to such a degree that its meaning has been blurred.

As defined, innovation is “a new idea, device or method.”  It’s also considered to be the act or process of introducing those new ideas, devices, or methods.

Teachers, assistant principals, and principals are innovators for, if no other purpose, reasons of survival!  To teach students on 180 different days, you’d best be developing some new ideas and methods.  If you’re a principal or assistant principal, you are regularly introducing new ideas to your faculty.  In its purest sense, innovation is a great descriptor for school people.

That said, there is some discrepancy about what we mean we talk about innovation in education.  To prove it, let’s play a little bit of word association.  What’s the first thing that pops in your mind when, as a teacher and in a school context, you hear innovative?

What did you see? Maybe technology?  We often think of those two together.  Technology is an amazing tool for instruction and for instructors.  It can be a difference-maker when used to its potential.

All technology is not, however, innovative.  And, all innovations are not technology.

Don’t let me lead you in the wrong direction; if you aren’t using technology as a part of your instruction, you’re missing a great resource.  It’s just this:  merely using technology doesn’t make you an innovator.  It’s really about the manner you use it and the reason you use it.  The how and the why.

innovation is a state of mind.png

Being an innovative leader may include your leadership in using and encouraging the use of technology, but that’s only a part of what it means to be an innovative school leader.  What does it take to be an innovative principal?  Here’s a list of some of the characteristics:

  • The innovative administrator sees possibilities where others see problems;
  • The innovative administrator gives others the resources they need to innovate;
  • The innovative administrator lives in a non-binary world; there is always another way!;
  • The innovative administrator works harder to get to ‘yes’ than to get to ‘no.’
  • The innovative administrator starts with questions, not with answers;
  • Innovative administrators challenge the people around them to dream, create, explore, and innovate;
  • Innovative administrators operate out of hope, not fear.

As a school administrator, you have the responsibility of leading your faculty and staff, and one of your greatest ways to do so is by setting the pace and driving the climate of your school.  If you aren’t leading a school with an innovative mindsetquite frankly, it doesn’t matter HOW MANY computers or devices you have.  If you don’t think in an innovative fashion, those computers won’t really change things much.

That’s a part of your role as a school leader.  You aren’t going to have innovative teachers by purchasing them or their students devices; it requires an mindset for innovation.  This can be led by you, the person who establishes the way that your school approaches things.

Technology can be very good, but it’s not a magic bean.  The magic has always been and will always be the teacher, and the teacher is led by the school leader.  Teach them to be innovative by showing them how, telling them how, and helping them as they try.

More on innovation over the next few days!

#Leadership365

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Awards Ceremonies Are More Than Certificates and Handshakes

Congratulations! You’ve made it nearly to the end of the school year. It’s been a good one, and you’re already planning to have an even better one next year.

Before this year is in the books, there are still some things left to do. Among the most important that remain are your year-end events, ceremonies, and celebrations.  Awards night. Honors ceremonies. The academy awards of your school!
Never underestimate the importance of these commemorations.  Here are a few reasons why.
1.  Year-end events reveal the culture of your school.   What you take time to recognize, you must really value. So, the content and structure of these events display for everyone to see what you really believe is important.  Have you focused on positive behaviors this year? Now is the time to reflect that with your year-end award presentation.  If it’s citizenship that you want, make it a part of what you honor at years-end. Be intentional with your award ceremonies  to highlight the work of those who have focused on what you had hoped they would.
2.  Year-end events demonstrate the level of your expectations of excellence. Every event answers the question “who are we?” It is a reflection of you as the leader and the level of pride your school has in what it does. The intentional leader makes clear the expectations of what of it will look like at her school, and helps teachers and staff in shaping their events to meet those expectations. While it is not your role as principal to be the event planner or master of ceremonies for everything that happens at your school, you ARE responsible for setting the tone of what others will do.  Without some direction, results may vary. What do you want these events to say about your school? You certainly want them to demonstrate a high level of professionalism. You want them to run smoothly, to be advertised well in advance, to be quality events.  Don’t expect everyone to read your mind on what you are after; clarify your expectations and make sure that those who organize these events know that you want them to speak well of your school.
red carpet
3.  This is a great opportunity to show the world the good things that are happening at your school.  Take pictures. Publish in your local newspaper. Use your school’s  media sources like Facebook and Twitter to share your event. You can be posting pictures of award winners well into the summer if you want to! Again, this is an opportunity to share the work of individuals but also the beliefs of your school. Plan it in advance. Always have someone in charge of photography. Plan your follow up and coverage before the event begins.
4.  Don’t Underestimate The Value of An Award .  As a high school principal who believed in recognizing the works of our people, I can tell you story after story of appreciative parents and students who were excited beyond words to be recognized.  These things matter. This is an opportunity for us to bring families, students, and our school together in this moment of celebration. This is one of your most important acts of the entire year. Smile broadly in every picture. These are the events that you should stay late for. Don’t be in a hurry to get everyone dismissed and move onto the next thing. Let them savor it, while you savor it yourself. This is the fruit of all your labor; don’t be quick to let it go. Bask in the glow and let the positive energy fuel your next quest.
5.  This is a personal reflection on you, your beliefs, and your leadership.  Everything that happened at your school should demonstrate a subtle sense of excellence. Make sure that there are ferns on the front of the stage. Have a tablecloth with your school’s insignia drape the table where the awards await the recipients. Print and distribute programs of the event for everyone’s scrapbooks, their drawers of awesome things, and other places where such important things go. Make sure that the sound system works and that you have a back up if it doesn’t. If you don’t have a great sound system, now is a good time to find someone in your community to volunteer to bring their sound system for your award ceremony. Use all of your resources to make this a moment that will be a great memory for all those who attend. Like a lot of things, if it goes well there are lots of people to thank and to give the credit to. If it doesn’t go well, well, you know who gets the blame. There’s no substitute for the planning that you can do right now to make sure that these events meet their potential and do all of the good that they can do. Enjoy planning these events to be the wonderful once in a lifetime thing they are intended to be.
#Leadership365
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Three Things Every Principal and AP Need to Plan (Now) To Do This Summer

Hello!  It’s March and you have reached the “sprint” portion of the marathon that we call the school year.  While you’re there in the midst of the sprint, please consider what’s coming soon and what you need to do to make the most of it.

It’s summer.

OK, so this is actually about the coldest few days we’ve had in Georgia all winter long, but, yes, it’s time for you to think about summer.  More than think about it, you need to plan it.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.  It won’t be enough later to say, “but I was busy…”  If you want next year to be as effective and efficient as it can possibly be, you need to make that happen this summer.

 

And, if you are going to have a productive summer, NOW is the time to design and develop your plans.  Don’t worry; we are here to remind you, and to direct you in your planning.  As a matter of fact, there are three big things you need to do this summer.  Ready?

 

  1.  Complete the necessary tasks to end this year/prepare for next year.  Yes, you need to get things done.  Facility work; hiring; duty rosters, scheduling; student handbooks; orienting new faculty and staff; record-keeping; data analysis; planning for student achievement.  Here’s a hint:  FOCUS
    on whatever it is that needs to be done.  Don’t get off track.  Delegate to others on your team.  Find an “undisclosed location” to get work completed.  Don’t try to be the summer office manager and do the work of the principal as well.  Don’t be lulled by a false sense of plenty of time.  Keep going at a rapid pace and get things done as well as you can as soon as you can.  No dawdling, people!  Let’s get that list of things to do made, schedule a realistic plan for accomplishing them (that you put on your calendar) and then get it done!
  2. Professional Growth.  You need to reflect on your work from this year.  What did you IMG_3493.JPGdo well?  What did you do poorly?  What do your people need from you that you aren’t supplying?  What is around the corner that you need to learn about? (STEM? STEAM? Instructional Technology?) Reflect, develop a needs assessment, and then prioritize.  Try to get better at one, two, or three things this summer.  Connect your summer professional reading to your profes
    sional growth priority.  It’s all about consolidating your resources, using your time, and staying on focus.  Don’t try to learn and get better in 15 different areas this summer.  Focus.  Focus.  Focus.
  3. Rest, Relax, Regroup, Recharge, Refresh, Recover, Renew.  Plan for your time away and take it.  If your system is working four ten-hour days in the summer, don’t come in on the fifth day “just to get a few things done.”  You NEED to process yourself this summer.  It means that you ne
    ed to sleep.  You need to rest.  You need to let that brain take a break.  Read a Danielle Steel novel or watch all five “Die Hard” movies.  Do nothing.  Go on vacation. You need to plan your time off, but you really really really need to take time off.  Let your mind have time to refresh.  With some time away, you’ll be ready to come back and do well.  Sometimes you need to be thinking about nothing to be able to get the great ideas (all those ideas that have come to people in the shower?  That’s not an accident… it’s brainspace that we don’t often allow).  Put some vaca on the calendar.  It’s equally important as the first two items mentioned here.  You need all three to be ready for next year.

So, why mention this now?  Because if you’re not careful your time will go by this summer and you’ll do a smattering of each of these but not get all (or any) done as well as you’d wanted.  It’s easy to get wound up into things other than these three things.  People who mean well but have all the time in the world drop by your office in their bermuda shorts and flip flops and hang out.  Doing work that really isn’t yours to do, often because you didn’t get other people to do it before they went to summer break.  That’s why you need to get planning now.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, and you don’t want to get an ‘F’ in Summer.  It would be a bad start to next school year.

 

~MW

#Leadership365

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Stop Thinking About School All The Time

WELCOME BACK TO SLOW-DOWN SUNDAY, WHERE PRINCIPAL-MATTERS! ENCOURAGES SCHOOL LEADERS EVERYWHERE TO BE THEIR MOST EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT BY USING RESEARCH-BASED, TIME-PROVEN STRATEGIES TO SLOW IT DOWN.  HERE’S THIS WEEK’S INSTALLMENT!

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Dear School Leader,

I was like you before.  For fifteen years as a principal and assistant principal, I was just like you. I was committed to doing a good job and was going to make sure that if things weren’t great, it wasn’t because I didn’t give it my all.  I was willing to be up early and go to bed late as need be.

As technology evolved, just as you have done, I became more and more able to keep up with everything, all the time, from anywhere. (note; I love technology so please don’t think I’m headed on an anti-technology rant) That allowed me to physically be away from school and still be in touch with anyone who needed me to solve their problems, answer their questions, or dispense permission, wisdom, or knowledge.  I thought that would be great; I could be connected all of the time and still be with my family, friends, or away from school.

Here’s what I didn’t know, or if I did I failed to recognize or understand:  just because you are physically away from school doesn’t mean that you are mentally and emotionally away.

When you are preoccupied with the school that you are leading (or any job you are doing for that matter) you aren’t leaving space for anything else.  We know from cognitive and neuroscience research that you need time and space so your brain can process.  If you are preoccupied, you aren’t providing that time and space.  No matter how rockin’ you think you are (and may actually be!), it will eventually catch up with you.  If you practice moderation, you can manage it on your own.  If you don’t, someone else will have to do it for you.

If you’re a school leader, I know you’d rather just have it straight, so that’s about as straight as it comes.  Check yourself before your wreck yourself.

img_3718In short, you can’t think about school all the time.  It’s not just for your health (that should be enough) but it’s also about your performance.  The quickest way to get blind spots is to lose your perspective.  You do so when you go in too deep.  Yes, you need to do a good job and this is going to take a LOT of your time; if it takes all of your energy, thoughts, and time it’ll catch up to you at some point.  Your performance will falter, your perspective will dim, and if severe enough, it’ll affect your health.

It’s not too late to fix it though!  You need a hobby; you need time away; you need to put your phone/tablet/computer down for blocks of time.  Practice the 7-1-1 that I preach to folks like you (7 hours of sleep a night, 1 day each week go home when normal people do, maybe 4-4:30, and 1 weekend day when you shut. it. down.

Take care of yourself.  We need you.  Your school needs you.  Your family and friends need you.   Give your mind the rest it needs to be the leader and person you were meant to be.

Signed,

A Friend.

#Leadership365  /29

 

Giving Your Teachers What They Need

Fewer and fewer students are entering colleges of education and many current teachers are discouraging them from pursuing a career in teaching.  (Read here, please. )   Principals say that many of their teachers report being overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed.

During this era of transformation in education, it is a challenging time to be a teacher;  it is also challenging to be a principal or assistant principal whose task is to support the teachers.

Don’t let the challenge get the best of you!  It’s your guidance and steadiness during challenging times that sets you apart as a leader.  We can continue to have great schools that lead students to success as long as we have effective teachers.  Your mission:  support your teachers (even in tough times) and help them be good at their work.

  Something good for every teacher to focus on?  Purposeful, meaningful work.  The kind of work that will make you proud of your chosen career;  the kind of work that will make you want to go to school every day.  Purpose is the antidote for pressure.

How?  Here are five ways to support your teachers and help them do the things they need to do for students (there are certainly more than five, but this is a start).

  1.  Stability:   Humans aren’t fond of change in general;  teachers, specifically, prefer security to adventure.  Change is hard for many teachers;  provide them with as much stability as you are able.
  2. Listening:   If your teachers are stressed, you need to provide them a chance to vent in a positive, productive way.  Set up focus groups to give them that opportunity.  Be available, be genuine, and be listening.  It matters more than you think!
  3. Appreciation:  Find out how they like to be shown appreciation and then set out to do it regularly.  Michelle Dyal, Principal at Bleckley County Middle School in Cochran, GA used the form at the top of this page to find out what her teachers preferred.
  4. Visibility:  When you are in the halls and in the classrooms, everything is better.  Students who might otherwise make poor choices in behavior are more likely to behave appropriately if you “seem to be everywhere” all at one time.  The good that comes from being in the building and away from your office is hard to overestimate.
  5. Focus:   Principals and APs aren’t really at the school to make teachers’ jobs easier;  we can, however, help them to find more meaning in their work.  One of the best things good administrators do is keep teachers (and the whole staff) focused on the right things.  Something good for every teacher to focus on?  Purposeful, meaningful work.  The kind of work that will make you proud of your chosen career;  the kind of work that will make you want to go to school every day.  Purpose is the antidote for pressure.  Help your teachers focus, and you’ll be giving them what they need to be their best.

 

What do YOUR Teachers Think About the Profession?

Recently, the Georgia Department of Education conducted a survey answered by over 53,000 of the state’s educators to explore why so many teachers leave the profession.  The report from the survey can be read in its entirety here.

The survey posed these questions:

1.)  If you had a student about to graduate from high school, how likely would you be to encourage teaching as a profession?

2)  In Georgia, 47% of teachers leave the profession within five years.  Rank the following statements often cited as the as the predominant reason a teacher leaves the profession.

(The second question presented eight often-cited reasons for teachers leaving education in Georgia and asked respondents to rank them with 1 being the “most predominant” and 8 being the least. The options were restricted to causes that can be influenced by state policy.)

  • Levels of benefits/compensation;
  • Level of preparation when entering the profession;
  • Level/quality of support, resources, and professional learning;
  • Level of teacher participation in decisions related to profession;
  • Non-teaching school responsibilities/duties;
  • Number and emphasis of mandated tests;
  • School level/District level leadership;
  • Teacher evaluation method.

3)  Please list any additional reasons why you believe 47% of the teachers in Georgia leave the profession within five years.

 

What do your teachers think about the profession?  While you can’t address every concern suggested in the survey at the school level, you can open a dialogue that can lead to conversations that can help you better understand what your faculty is thinking.

Professional conversation is a step towards empowering your teachers, and offers an opportunity for them to identify areas in which you can collaborate.  Consider posing these or similar questions to your teachers as a pulse check and using the data you collect for even deeper conversations.

Our teachers should be proud to serve in their profession.  You can help lift up your teachers through talks about the profession and by doing what you can at the school level to restore honor, dignity, and pride in being a teacher.

 

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The Precarious Life-Work Balance of the Principal

In working with principals, regardless of where it may be, one topic is always sure to stop the conversation and leave a pall over the room.

Balance.

We can pull off some amazing things as school leaders:  juggle student requests, teacher preferences, and bus pickup/drop off times into an elegant, workable schedule.  Teachers are marveled at how we can remember hundreds of student’s names, favorite lunch spots, and cumulative tardies in our head with efficiency IBM’s Watson would turn from blue to green with envy over.

Principals can make it to a tennis match, Spring band concert, retirement reception, and an FFA Banquet all between 5 and 7 PM (and get a haircut during intermission of the band concert).

We have conditioned ourselves to schedule ourselves at a clip that seems like we are at more than one place at time.  However, do we sacrifice being where we most ought to be to do so?

Chantal Panozzo posted a story today entitled “Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture.”  You can read it here.  In it, she gets to the root of our work/life balance issues: our cultural expectations of work.   Principals and APs are products of those expectations, as well as unsuspecting promoters of this lifestyle to others around us.

At some point, your vision of what a principal must do was shaped by those who modeled it for you.  You are doing the same now, for your assistant principal and others who are watching you.

“… if you don’t find a balance between your job and the rest of your life, you are doomed to burn out.”

Please know this isn’t a suggestion that you slack off in your work.  It is, instead, a reminder that one of the puzzles you should always be seeking to solve is that of balance.  And, it’s not just a self-serving quest.  Simply put, if you don’t find a balance between your job and the rest of your life, you are doomed to burn out.  On the road to that, you’ll become decreasingly effective, increasingly grumpy, and you won’t be as good at your work as you have been.  That’s right, if you can’t be convinced to seek balance for your own good, consider your work;  it’ll suffer if you don’t take care of yourself.

At this time of year, principals and assistant principals (and teachers as well) face MORE to do rather than less.  How do you get back in balance at such a critical time?  This is actually the BEST time to do so.  In future columns, we’ll explore specifics on how to get yourself into balance, but for now, focus on a first step and move forward from there.  One day this week, go home 15 minutes earlier than usual (which is still much later than normal people do!); turn texts and email off at 9:00 PM and keep them off until the morning so you can not only sleep but you can rest; and spend time with the people you enjoy, doing something that makes you happy that isn’t school related.

Remember, someone is watching you now to see what principals do.  Give them something to see that will help them be excellent in their work, but in their life away from work as well.  They’ll be the better for it and so will you!

 

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