Guest Blogs

Principals: What Are You Bringing to 2015–16 that’s “New”?

Guest post by Daisy Dyer Duerr, a 2014 NASSP Digital Principal and Ignite ’16 Speaker

I hear a gentle rumbling…it’s the sound of school buses starting and retailers unpacking school supplies. It’s back-to-school time! Most of our country’s schools will be in session within the next month.

Students will enter our schools for 2015–16 with many “new” ideas, perspectives, dreams, clothes, friends, and supplies. As principals and assistant principals you, too, should bring something “new” to your schools this year.

What’s the newest addition to your leadership toolkit this year? Maybe it’s a new digital tool you have mastered or a new way of communicating with parents. It could be something as simple as a concept from a great book or article you read over the summer. Or maybe you have changed your leadership structure and mantra completely. As a leader, you need to be evolving each year. Great principals want to continuously get better! (more…)

How Are You Recharging This Summer?

Guest post by Dr. Bill Ziegler, a 2015 NASSP Digital Principal who presented at the Ignite ’15 conference and will attend Ignite ’16.

Summer is a great time for principals to reflect on the past year and prepare for the upcoming school year. Consider grouping your summer break so that you can take advantage of opportunities to vacate, relate, innovate, and invigorate.

Vacate—as in vacation. Summer is the perfect time to refresh and reenergize for the new school year. When you go on vacation, be sure to leave the school cell phone and laptop in the hotel room or, even better yet, at home. Taking a break from school will make you stronger in the long run.

Relate—I use the summer to build my relationships with principals, teachers, friends, and most importantly, my family. I really enjoy having lunch with different principals to learn what other school leaders are doing and how they are working to improve their school. (more…)

How School “Brand” Determines Student Outcomes

Guest post by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning educator, internationally renowned speaker, and best-selling author, who will lead two sessions at Ignite ’15, February 19–21.

The brand of any school tells a story. It reveals to everyone—students, staff, parents, and the community—who you are as a school. Your school’s brand can be defined intentionally, or it can evolve organically; but a brand that evolves organically may not be the one you most desire. Your school’s brand matters—it determines student outcomes.

Here’s a brief illustration that I share in discussions with educators about school brand: There’s a popular Southern-based restaurant chain, and whenever I enter these restaurants, a very unique experience consistently occurs. Someone behind the counter yells out, “Welcome to [our restaurant]!” The consistency of their greeting speaks volumes about their brand. (more…)

Empowering Leaders: Just Do It

Guest post by Aimee Rainey, principal, Florence Middle School, Florence, AL, who will present “Empowering Teachers: Developing Talent and Growing Leaders in Your Building” at Ignite ’15.

How do you empower teacher leaders in a school and let go of micromanagement tendencies? Consider one simple phrase: “Just do it!”

This may be an oversimplification, but it can be very powerful when implemented strategically. Empowerment of others produces ownership where micromanagement can harm the organization. It is essential to activate motivation in others. At the heart of motivation lies the desire for freedom to express one’s creative potential. (more…)

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Today’s Principalship

Guest post by Frederick Brown, director of strategy and development for Learning Forward, and a former senior program officer for the Wallace Foundation

It has been almost 20 years since I began my principalship, and it’s incredible to me how much has changed in what we expect from our school leaders.

I was trained as a building manager, and my success was often measured by keeping operations and procedures running smoothly. Someone once told me, “Just make sure your school isn’t on the front page of the newspaper because of something negative, and you’ll be seen as a good principal.” Yes, I was expected to know instruction and support teachers, but my main work was focused on things like budgets and making sure the central office received their completed reports on time. Indeed, so much has changed! (more…)

Don’t Think Outside the Box—Make a New Box

Guest post by Janice Case, a consultant, certified trainer, and educator with more than 20 years’ experience in public and private school education.

For school leaders and counselors, implementing the Common Core State Standards is not about thinking outside the box. It is about transforming the box itself (NASSP, NAESP, College Summit, Achieve, 2013). Now, more than ever, we’re charged with ensuring that all students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. So what does it take, exactly, to create a graduating class that is 100 percent college and career ready? The answer: implementing a college-going culture. (more…)

What Connected Educators Do Differently

Guest post by Jimmy Casas, principal, Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, IA, and Jeff Zoul, assistant superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Deerfield Public Schools District 109 in Deerfield, IL.

The jubilation that she had felt during the welcome-back-to-school week had worn off. Gone was the energy of connecting with new faces, interacting with her peers, and preparing for the arrival of students who were eager to get back to school after a long summer. She was now alone, in her classroom, removed from the rest of her peers. She was feeling isolated, less effective, and thirsting for some adult personal and professional interaction. (more…)

A Leader’s Resolution: Professional Fitness in the New Year

Guest post by Jared Wastler, assistant principal, Liberty High School, Eldersburg, MD

It is that time of year again­—time to set resolutions for the New Year. Eating healthier? Using technology less? Exercising more? Those are the popular ones. However, this year I challenge you to consider a different type of resolution. My challenge to each and every one of you is to resolve to become more professionally fit.

Professional fitness does not refer to how many stairs you can climb throughout your building during the day or the number of steps you take during bus and lunch duty. Instead, professional fitness refers to your aptitude as a continual learner. Ignite ’15 Thought Leader Michael Fullan uses a key term in his book The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact: lead learner. (more…)

Student Voice: Beyond the School Walls

Guest post by Archie Weindruch and James Gomez, seniors, Bettendorf High School, Bettendorf, IA. Archie and James are active in Raising Student Voice and Participation, an NASSP student program.

Over the past four years at Bettendorf High School, we have seen the importance of student voice and student leadership within schools and communities. We have seen the student body bring forth refreshing and new ideas for our school, and we have seen these ideas come to fruition right before our eyes. This is one of the most exciting parts about the organization that we have here at Bettendorf High School called RSVP, or Raising Student Voice and Participation. (more…)

Transforming At-Risk Schools: It’s All About Attitude

Baruti Kafele’s students will never forget him. He was the guy standing at the front door every morning to greet students as they entered. Why? He was the principal. And as far as he’s concerned, that was one of the most important things he could do in his role.

A principal for 14 years, Kafele led four New Jersey schools with at-risk student populations to success. Now an internationally renowned speaker, author, and consultant, he has quite a bit of insight on the topic of improving schools with at-risk students—which he will share at Ignite ’15 this February during his session, “School Leadership Practices for Transforming the Attitudes of At-Risk Student Populations.” (more…)