The Principalship

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…)

Five Simple Ways to Boost Social Capital in Schools

Guest post by Nathan Boyd, director, African American Student and Parent Services for South Bend Community School Corporation

Whether it’s Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, or the app du jour, our kids are digitally connected to one another in more ways than I can count. Despite their virtual connectedness, kids seem to be more isolated and alone these days. Their sense of belonging and esteem is lacking, which has detrimental effects on their personal and academic success. How can school leaders help students connect to one another in the real world? (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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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…)

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…)

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…)

How Can We Best Engage Families?

Guest post by Brad Currie

Transforming the way in which we engage families in our classrooms, schools, and districts is paramount if educators are going to exhaust all options to promote the success of students. A multi-faceted approach must be implemented. Families live busy lives and have unique circumstances pertaining to their availability on a given day. Educators must never discount the opportunities that technology provides to a parent or guardian on an internet enabled device. Grades, learning experiences, event information, feedback, praise, constructive criticism, highlights, and a plethora of other insights can be transmitted to families from educators through a variety of technological methods.  (more…)

7 Strategies to Enhance School Safety

Guest post by Bill Ziegler

Without a doubt, the most pressing issue in schools today is safety. It seems like a week can’t go by without hearing about a school shooting or someone talking about school safety fears. The Washington Post recently reported a startling statistic that indicated more students have died in school shootings in 2018 than U.S. military members killed during deployment this year. Hardly a day goes by in school when I’m not thinking, “What would I do if shots went off here?” How can principals take action to protect our school community? Here are seven strategies to help keep your school safer.  (more…)

Good Leadership Starts With Strong Recruiting

Guest post by Cameron Soester

Principals and assistant principals have a host of responsibilities. We deal with school safety, the learning environment, staffing needs, student discipline, and even lunch duty. In the midst of everything, there is one vital piece that I believe is often overlooked: recruiting the next wave of school leadership. We have a responsibility that extends beyond our own buildings, and that responsibility is to make sure that our entire educational system has strong leaders in the pipeline. How do we make this happen? We need to turn our attention to recruiting and developing individuals to take on leadership roles so that our work to improve schools and student learning continues long after we leave our positions. (more…)