School Leadership

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…)

Recalibrate Your School’s Opening During #1st3days

Guest post by Brian McCann

It’s taken me nearly 15 years to get the opening of school “right.”

And in all of the summer planning I did for more than a decade: the refreshing of the building, the supplies ordering, the school’s master schedule, I forgot the most important stakeholder of all: the children.

It wasn’t until I was engaged in a summer Twitter chat a few summer’s back that Craig Vroom, an Ohio middle school principal, introduced me to the #1st3days.

The philosophy of #1st3days has a laser focus on relationship-building and brands from the opening bell that people are the heart of this high school.

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4 Ways to Support Beginning Teachers

Guest post by Abbey Duggins

During an informal conversation with a veteran teacher who was grappling with a problem of practice in her language arts class, I asked her why she didn’t take her problem to her learning community for support. She responded, “We don’t have time. We pretty much know what we need to do from here on out is help the new teachers understand the standards. The sixth-grade team has been very, Help, we’re clueless. Tell us what to do.(more…)

Good Enough is Not Good Enough: Soliciting Feedback for Professional Growth

Guest post by Donald F. Gately, principal, Jericho Middle School, Jericho, NY

I recently prepared introductory remarks for our end-of-the-year concert. Using the same  “concert introductions” document that I’ve used since I became a principal, I cut and pasted the elements that need to be repeated every year: Turn off your cell phone, don’t yell out your kid’s name, stay until the end of the concert, thanks to our dignitaries for attending.

Despite the canned reminders, I always craft different remarks as part of my introductions. At this event, I referenced a study done by the renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks about the positive effects that learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain. My mentor taught me that any time you address a large gathering of people in your role as principal, it is an opportunity to reinforce the vision and mission of the school. (more…)

Three Ways to Inspire Teachers

Guest post by Danny Steele, principal, Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Alabaster, AL

Teachers are hungry for inspiration. They are committed to their work and see the value in it… but it can still be draining. They want leaders who will refill their bucket. In my experience, these three strategies can go a long way toward energizing teachers:

1. Support them.Over the years, it has become clear to me that support is the number one quality that teachers desire in their administrators. (more…)

Prove It: Ensuring Efficacy in Digital Learning, Part Two

Guest post by Eric Sheninger

In my last post, we explored the importance of demonstrating efficacy to build support for, and ensure the success of, your school’s digital transformation. The Rigor/Relevance Framework offers a strong overall framework to reinforce pedagogical foundations while also moving practice from isolated pockets of excellence to systemic elements that are scaled throughout the learning culture. With that context in place, the next challenge is putting in place the right structures and supports to ensure success.

Below are five key areas (essential questions, research, practicality, evidence/accountability, reflection) that can put your classroom, school, district, or organization on a path to digital efficacy.  (more…)

What Can Summer Vacation Teach Us About School?

Guest post by Paul Hermes

Now that the end of the year is upon us and many of us are taking a well-deserved break from our demanding jobs as school administrators, I find myself thinking about summer vacation and the many lessons all of us have learned from the various excursions we have taken throughout our lives. Traveling helps us gain new perspectives and understandings of people, places, and cultures. My travel has included experiences led by tour guides and those arranged by travel agents that were self-guided. Both ways have offered me exciting experiences that expanded my knowledge and broadened my worldview.

As I think ahead to the coming school year, I imagine what it would be like if teachers led students through a year of travel. But which type of travel leader is best: a tour guide or a travel agent? (more…)

Flipped Staff Meetings: Great Advice to Give and Follow

Guest post by Paul Hermes

“You should try to make your classroom more student-centered and interactive. Don’t talk at your students so much.”
“Do you think you could integrate the concepts of the flipped classroom to optimize student learning time?”
“How much input do you give your students in choosing what, where, and how they learn?” 

As a school administrator, have you ever said something like this to a teacher? My guess would be yes, you have. And if that is true, let me ask you why then do you, as a school leader, not practice what you preach when it comes to your own staff meetings and professional learning? Look at the questions above and replace “student” with “teacher.” If your evaluator asked you these same questions, would they apply to you as the teacher of your teachers? Does the idiom “do as I say, not as I do” fit?  (more…)

Schools Could Learn a Thing or Two From Driver Education

Guest post by Brian M. Stack

I have spent more than a decade as the principal of a high school that has gained national recognition as an early adopter of a competency-based learning model. As one who has been a part of this transition and implementation since its beginning, I am always happy to offer practical advice to fellow principals on the topic. The most popular question I am asked is about how to introduce the idea of competency-based learning to parents and other stakeholders who do not work in the education field. To date, I have found no better way to do this than to relate it to a very common assessment experience that most adults have in common: obtaining a driver’s license.  (more…)

Prove It: Ensuring Efficacy in Digital Learning, Part One

Guest post by Eric Sheninger

I’ll never forget the day I presented my digital transformation plan to our superintendent at the time. I had spent days preparing and rehearsing all of my points, explaining the rationale for each new tool and making a strong budget case to secure the necessary resources. At the end of my presentation, the superintendent asked me point blank, “Can you prove it? What evidence do you have to demonstrate that all of this works?” These were fair questions that I had not fully anticipated. But at that moment in time, they provided the grounding that my school and I really needed.  (more…)