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

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

So, what have you learned so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better Together: The Principal Experience

It’s amazing to hear principal-after-principal, independent of each other, talk about how they once “thought they could do it all” before realizing school leadership is better when done collaboratively.

It’s also a profession, requiring of you sound judgment in unpredictable situations.  You can learn a lot from others who have done, or are doing, the same job as you.

Don’t try do it all alone!

The position of principal can be lonely… but it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be!  Building networks with other colleagues can help inform your practice, keep you going when things are tough, and give you connections that help you better serve your school.

To support you in your work, please find the following episode of The New Principal Show! 

[podbean type=audio-square resource=”episode=7xrau-741f73″ skin=”1″ auto=”0″ height=315 ]

Our guest hosts for episode five are quick to testify about the power of the principal making connections.  Stephanie Johnson is the Deputy Superintendent of the Georgia Department of Education and was the 2017 Georgia High School Principal of the Year (GASSP) and a finalist for National Principal of the Year (NASSP) for the work she led at Maynard H. Jackson High School in Atlanta (Atlanta Public Schools).

Jim Finch is the Principal of Mary Persons High School in Monroe County (Forsyth) and is the Vice-President of the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP).

Along with a live chat-audience, Stephanie, Jim, and Mark take time to talk about how and why the effective principal connects and how it’s beneficial for the progress of the school.

 

 

 

Passion For Learning! A Force To Be Reckoned With

Attitude Check

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

What attitude do you bring to today’s learning? 

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

After Further Review

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

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

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

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

Passion For Learning

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

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

Back to the PLC Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Goes Around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  You’ve Developed Habits of Inefficiency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful Schools Begin When The Adults Believe They Can Lead Success

Science has proven what you probably suspected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional study, check out these links:

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

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

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

Safe and Orderly Schools: Learning Resources

Safe and Orderly School Learning Plan

 

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

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

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

Safe and Orderly Schools: A Folder of Links and Resources

 

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.

Your Job? Helping Teachers Grow.

Becoming a Principal can be a curious thing.

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

Are you with me?  Please let me explain.

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

And.

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

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

Help your teachers grow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Support Your New Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go!

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

 

Thanks for listening!  

More resources for you!

 

Announcer for the New Principal Show!: Alex Johnson 

Music Licensed via Soundstripe:

Track Title: Little Unexpected Surprises

Artist Name(s): Cast Of Characters

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

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

Trust and The Principal.

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

A:   Trust.

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

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

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

Your The New Principal Show! hosts are:

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

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

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

——————–

More resources for you!

Announcer for the New Principal Show!: Alex Johnson

Music Licensed via Soundstripe:

Track Title: Little Unexpected Surprises

Artist Name(s): Cast Of Characters