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 β€œShout Outs” to staff members. We did a virtual β€œShout 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. 


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. 


Priority: Hiring Season

One of the most important things you do as the principal or assistant principal is to keep things calm. When others are beginning to panic, the seasoned leader keeps her head and in doing so helps others to relax, think more clearly, and act more effectively.

The most effective principals make things better by slowing things down, getting emotions under control, and keeping their work from being a frenzied rush.

That’s a great way to approach your work… except when it’s “Hiring Season.”

When it’s hiring season, you need to be working with urgency. There are only so many candidates for the positions you may need, and you need to prioritize this work. It’s complicated by the timing: hiring season comes when you’re registering students and families for the next school year, preparing your school for end-of-the-year testing, and doing the daily, busy work of the school. Maybe that’s why some leaders don’t get hiring season right— the other priorities are too much and you aren’t able to immerse into hiring because of those other tasks at hand.

If that’s you, here’s something for you to consider: what you do during hiring season is a gift that keeps on giving. If you do well, it’s a treasure; if you do poorly, it’s a gag gift. You can put in the time and energy needed to do well in hiring, or you are at risk for spending much more time correcting your hiring mistakes and cleaning things up. It’s SO much better to take time and hire effectively than to suffer through poor choices in hiring. Those poor choices can hurt your students, your teachers, and others’ perception of your judgment.

So, if you have people to hire, put other things down, read resumes, call references, host visits to your school. Either get busy hiring, or you’ll be busy next fall wishing you’d done better on the front end.

In the chart above, you’ll see a number of things to consider during the hiring process. First and foremost, make sure that you are connected at the hip to whomever works with you on Human Resources. Each system has their own nuances about the hiring process and you need to follow the policies and protocols that your system has in place. Beyond that, those who invest more time into a task are more likely to be effective in completing it. Don’t rest until you get your people in place, begin their transitional phase, and start to engage them in the culture of your school.

In 2020, school leaders should expect to spend more time than ever in developing the talent in your building to grow effective teachers and a top-notch faculty. You make that job harder than it might have to be if you do poorly in hiring. All of the time you spend now is time invested into getting the teachers and staff that will make a positive impact at your school.

Β© 2020. Dr. Mark Wilson principal-matters.com


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.


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.


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?

Β© 2020. Mark Wilson.


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.

Β© 2020. Dr. Mark D. Wilson

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