Principal Expert of the Week

It’s Not About You! Keeping Perspective During Difficult Conversations

A day in the life of a principal can be fraught with difficult discussions that require a careful approach. You have likely found yourself in a conversation which caused you to feel anxious, stressed, or even angry. Although these emotions are natural, they can limit your ability to see problems clearly and prevent your openness to different solutions. After experiencing numerous challenging interactions, I have realized that I need to find ways to focus on these conversations and remove any emotional response so that problems can be solved effectively. (more…)

Become the School’s Head Coach by Fostering Teacher Leadership

As a former coach, the value of team and usage of each person’s strengths has always been etched in the forefront of my thinking and planning. Now as a school leader, this same concept has been a driving force in my thought process. My field is my school, and my team is my teachers. Instead of winning a game or a title, our victories are measured by student success. Though my title says principal, to me I am nothing more than the school’s head coach. (more…)

Creating a School for All Students: Our Story of Inclusion

There are no restaurants, banks, grocery stores, or other everyday establishments or public places specifically for people with special needs, different education levels, or specific skin tones. Thankfully those places are there for everyone’s use. Shouldn’t students be educated the same way, with all their peers, as much as possible? That would be a great start to teaching and learning acceptance, care, empathy, and respect for others while creating a foundation to help students navigate life. (more…)

Lessons Learned from a Decade of RTI/MTSS Implementation

At Centennial Middle School (CtMS), incoming students arrive typically two to three levels behind on academic standards. Every year, 60 percent of the population in math and 55 percent of the population in English/language arts (ELA) need additional academic support. In a building of 600 students, with a 50 percent free and reduced rate, it’s a clear focus of ours to provide that extra support in math and ELA in an effort to help close that gap without taking away from core instruction. (more…)

Supporting Students through PBIS: A School Community Endeavor

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, is a system with long-standing results. PBIS aims to teach core skills as they pertain to behavioral expectations, similar to how schools teach core curriculum expectations. Whaley School, a separate day school for students with acute behavior needs, has been using the PBIS model for five years in the Anchorage School District. We believe that much of our PBIS success is due to the work we have done in four key groups: students, staff, families, and community.  (more…)

You’ve Found Your “Why?” But What’s Your “How?”

If you’re reading this, my guess is that you and your school have crystallized a vision for why you do what you do—student learning outcomes, career pathway discovery, etc. In the case of Elk Grove High School (EGHS), our vision is to solidify America’s middle class by educating a generation of highly ethical, civic-minded, economically successful citizens who create a better future for all of us. (more…)

Standards-Based Grading in High School: Where Grades Matter the Most

How can you assure that all students in your building have met a minimum proficiency on all of your priority standards, regardless of the teacher? As Lander Valley High School began to answer this question, it became apparent that we needed to have a different grading system to ensure that when I sign a diploma, I can verify that the student has met the standards. (more…)

Character Education: It’s Not Something Added to The Plate. It Is the Plate

It was my first year teaching, and I was tidying up my classroom. I picked up trash under a desk and threw it away. The next day I noticed more trash under a desk. I watched for several days as the culprit would place trash under his desk and then leave it.  The next day, when my classroom offender got up to leave, once again leaving trash on the floor, I stopped him and asked him why he would leave his trash, he stated, “Oh, that’s the janitor’s job.” (more…)

The Learning Commons: A 21st Century Research and Technology Center

I can admit it now; I was probably the wrong man for the job.

As building principal, I knew that we needed to redesign and reinvent the space we called our library media center. We had a pretty obvious problem in there—students and teachers were not really using it. This large space situated in the center of our school had been remodeled several times—it used to be the library and before that it was actually the cafeteria. I added some fresh paint, new carpeting, new furniture, and bought some new books—popular young adult fiction and non-fiction. There were a handful of desktop computers and a SMART Board. Despite these superficial upgrades to the learning environment, it was still essentially a warehouse for a mostly-dated print collection and still largely unused. (more…)

Principals, you are not alone! There is strength in numbers.

E pluribus unum.Out of many, one.

It sounds cliché, I understand. Yet, as I reflect on the past few months after being recognized as the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals 2018 Principal of the Year, and after participating in the NASSP Principals Institute in Washington, D.C., I find this to be a remarkably simple and accurate summary of principals around our state and nation. (more…)