Leading Learning

Four Questions to Ask Teachers on Creativity

How do you lead and model creativity? That’s a question many school leaders ask themselves. Many of us can get our arms around collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, but why is it that creativity is one area where we frequently struggle and sputter? I think it’s because we fear creativity—it doesn’t fall into a nice box that is neatly packaged with structure and details. You see, creativity is often messy, frequently busting the seams of our comfort zones and almost always requiring us to stretch and grow. (more…)

A Roadmap for Implementing Standards-Based Grading

Fair, standards-referenced grading systems that communicate what a student knows and can do are often difficult to design. Developing grading systems that are fair and consistent across an entire school district can seem like an impossible task. However, it is a task that is necessary and worthwhile. (more…)

Three Principles for Improving Practice

My school, long rated as top-performing, was this year given a rating of “targeted” for underperformance among student subgroups—including African-American, free and reduced-price lunch, and special education students. Though this is understandably not an ideal rating, I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We now have a very clear mandate to look at the performance of these subgroups and make immediate improvements. To me, this gives us an opportunity that will ultimately benefit all students, depending on the measures we put in place and the kinds of practices we implement. As an instructional leader, I am reminded that this work starts with me. (more…)

Making Difficult Decisions In Students’ Best Interest

Like my colleagues across the globe, my daily battle revolves around how to make decisions through the lens of what is in the best interests of my students. This seems particularly trying in my current nontraditional school situation that is focused on dropout prevention, content mastery, and personalized learning—all still within the confines and with remnants of our traditional mindset. I often feel my opinion on what is in the “best interests” for our students can change several times within the same day. (more…)

Teacher Evaluation to Create a Culture of Learning

The teacher evaluation process has been at the forefront of many policy conversations over the past decade, and the underlying assumption resonates just as much today as it did ten years ago: the quality of the classroom teacher is the most important school-level factor that impacts student achievement. As school leaders, we must bring this assumption to life by creating a culture of teacher learning in our schools. Below are two important ways school leaders can help the teacher evaluation process become a robust and meaningful conversation that promotes professional growth and continuous improvement of professional practices. (more…)

Pipelines to Stem Principal Turnover

While much attention has been paid to teacher turnover over the past few decades, the amount of principals leaving their schools—or the profession altogether—is equally staggering. (more…)

Better Together: The Power of the Professional Learning Network

One of the biggest shifts I struggled with when transitioning from the classroom to the principalship was moving from the support of a team of teachers to the solitude of a building leader. As leaders, we are entrusted to so much confidential, stressful, and often heart-wrenching information. In my early years in the principal position, I struggled to process it all mentally and emotionally. I hit a wall in the summer of 2014, and I considered leaving the profession. The punitive shift that education had taken, coupled with the loneliness of leadership, had me in a very bad place. Luckily, a co-worker and good friend of mine convinced me to go to a summer leadership conference, and it was just what I needed. (more…)

5 Ways to Jump-Start A New Year

A new year is a time of reflection, goal setting, and new habits and practices. As the new school year begins to take shape, it’s time to get re-energized. Maybe you’re a new school leader who is looking for ideas to start the year off right, or perhaps you are a seasoned administrator who wants to keep the fire alive. Here are five leadership ideas to jump-start your year and lead to your best one yet. (more…)

Supporting Staff is Built With Intention

I recently read a tweet by Dr. Bryan Pearlman detailing eight bad leadership traits. The accompanying graphic spoke to poor communicators and leaders who lack integrity, trust, and other important traits. But what tugged at me the most was the idea that poor leaders were “unsupportive.” How could any leader be unsupportive of their staff or their students? (more…)

‘Kaliopeku’: Cultural Project-Based Learning

Engaging students and making learning relevant is an issue all educators reflect upon. As one of the higher performing high schools in Hawaii, we could have easily rested on our laurels. Over the last five years, the Roosevelt Rough Riders have consistently ranked in the top five public high schools in Hawaii for reading and math achievement scores. This ranking could suggest that all of our students were performing well academically. (more…)