AP Expert of the Week

Four Ways That Student Leaders Can Improve Schoolwide Attendance

Each year, our student leaders at Westwood Middle School focus on one goal within the area of school culture and climate to improve. During the 2017–18 school year, they chose to address improving school-wide attendance. So how does a group of eight middle-level student leaders take on chronic absenteeism within their school and within the families in their community? (more…)

Promoting an Inclusive School Environment

For students with disabilities or unique challenges, finding a source of understanding at the school level makes a profound difference. For Aubrey Bridges, a student with an intellectual and developmental disability, having a teacher who saw her ability made all the difference for her; however, the impact she had on me forever changed my capacity as an educator. Aubrey grew up with multiple disabilities that include autism, verbal apraxia, auditory processing disorder, and a Vein of Galen Malformation that required surgery at age three. Because it was difficult for her to talk, she learned sign language and uses communication devices. (more…)

Facing Professional Disappointments and Finding Peace in the “No”

“Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough; it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.” —Mark Amend

How do you handle “no”?

You’re getting ready for dismissal. You have just survived yet another final interview for a principalship. You feel you have highlighted some of the qualities a principal should have and your plan to help the students and teachers move forward at the school. You have a clear vision, and you clearly outlined how to continue the mission already in place. When the phone call comes, you get a lump in your throat and chills. Once again, you hear not only that they have chosen another candidate who was a “better fit,” but you are being moved to another school. (more…)

How to Keep Staff Motivated Throughout the School Year

I always love the first few of days of each year when the anticipation for school is palpable. The students are eager to get their schedules, see their friends, and make their Friday night game plans. While their excitement for school makes me remember my teenage dreams, it’s the staff who really inspires me. Restored from the summer, the staff is even more eager than the students to get their classrooms organized, collaborate with colleagues on lesson plans, and fulfill the promise of the new school year. (more…)

Four Ways to Fine-Tune Your Leadership Skills

After 18 years of being an assistant principal in various schools, I still love my job. But whether you are a new administrator or a seasoned veteran, it is always a challenge to stay current in the ever-changing educational landscape. How do you master the varied roles you are expected to fulfill?  Here are four ways that I have honed my leadership skills in my time as a school administrator: (more…)

Are You the “Connector in Chief” at Your School?

When I was awarded the honor of being named the Assistant Principal of the Year in the state of Illinois, my local newspaper did a story on me. When they asked my principal about what made me a worthy recipient of this award, he responded, “[Tim] has a great ability to make connections with people, to relate to people.” His words caused me to reflect.  Making connections with others always seemed natural to me, and I never really gave it much thought.  But then the teacher in me kicked in and I started to wonder, can people learn to be better at making connections? How would we teach it? (more…)

How to Help Students Make the “Right” Choices for Their Future

The students at Graham High School in St. Paris, OH, participate in our Career Gears program. As I shared in a previous post, Career Gears aims to create relevant experiences that help students identify career interests and build professional skills and relationships for the future. (more…)

New School Year, New Energy: Setting Realistic Goals

New Beginnings

Once upon a time, I had the greatest summer job ever: working at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation in east central Ohio. We were a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings who got to exercise almost total creative control for the camp and its programming. Before the campers or full staff arrived on the reservation, leadership would sit down in front of a whiteboard and simply list all the needs, wants, and dreams for the year—and then go make it happen. (more…)

When Going to the Principal’s Office is a Good Thing

As a child of the 1980s, I cheered on Ferris Bueller as he played hooky to hang out with his pals on his day off and rooted for John Bender as he snuck out of detention with the Breakfast Club. In both of these films, the school administrator served as the villain. Both Dean Edward Rooney and Assistant Principal Richard Vernon had the same goal: Take down the problem student and make his life miserable.

While I have to admit that these preposterous characterizations are often hilarious, they perpetuate a damaging stereotype that school administrators are ruthless disciplinarians who are out of touch with students. (more…)

How to Provide Meaningful Teacher Feedback by Observing the “Unobservables”

One of the ways I like to provide meaningful feedback to teachers is by observing the “unobservables” outside of the classroom. A classroom observation is just a glimmer of the real work that teachers do behind the scenes to prepare for each daily lesson. In order to obtain valuable insights into how a teacher approaches lesson planning, evaluates student performance, and collaborates with colleagues, I routinely conduct observations during professional learning team (PLT) meetings. In this environment, I am able to truly understand how a teacher plans a lesson, supports the achievement goals necessary for each student, and contributes to the school’s overall success. (more…)