School of Thought

Leading During Times of Uncertainty

During times of uncertainty, staff, students, parents, and even members of our local communities turn to school leaders for guidance and reassurance. It is normal for leaders not to have all of the answers during a crisis, but they can build a much-needed sense of community. Amid the pandemic, politics, and the nation’s reckoning with racial inequity, it has been an extraordinary summer. And now comes the start of one of the most unsettling school years in history, with COVID-19 still looming and uncertainty lingering. No matter the model of learning—in person, remote, or hybrid—everyone is trying their best to settle in, knowing there is no guarantee that it will last. (more…)

Getting Students Engaged Through Voter Registration

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and it is critical that we as principals support voter registration efforts in the school as we are preparing the next generation of the workforce and electorate. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” (more…)

Shadowing Visits: Bringing the Realities of the Principalship to Light

For real change to happen in public education, policymakers need real information. And yet, simply telling them doesn’t seem to be enough—we have to show them. But how? The answer is simple.

Shadowing visits. (more…)

Lead Like a Ninja: How a ‘Fringe’ Virtual Program Anchored A District’s COVID-19 Response

A key job of every school leader is to establish and nurture strong relationships with key stakeholders—not the least of which is the faculty. When you have the opportunity to open a school, those relationships are the foundation on which your school rests, and the ways of work you cultivate become the traditions that guide your school’s future. And while it was always my goal to open a high-performing, innovative virtual school for our community, COVID-19 required my school to step up in a big way. Our stealthy school mascot, Neo the Ninja, came to represent the strategic deployment of the skills, strategies, and curriculum our virtual school refined as we stepped out of the shadows to lead our district through distance learning to close the 2019–20 school year. (more…)

Making Time for ‘Time-Ins’

Over the past ten years of being an assistant principal at the middle school level, I’ve come to realize how every meeting in my office—even the timeouts for disruptive behavior—have become “time-ins.” (more…)

Class Disrupted: Lessons From a Pandemic Podcast

When the coronavirus upended school earlier this year, parents had lots of questions. We launched the “Class Disrupted” podcast to address some of the challenges families faced with the switch to remote learning and explore how this experience might lead to long-term changes in our schools. (more…)

Reconsidering Ability Grouping Through an Equity Lens

I have worked in public education for 20 years. I entered the profession because a freshman sociology class in college introduced me to the idea that there were two institutions that impacted socioeconomic mobility—the military and education. The end of segregation in America’s public schools in 1954 is considered a landmark case. But given the critical disparities in graduation rates between Black and white students, how far have we really come? (more…)

Leading Majority-White Schools as a Black Administrator

As educators prepare for the start of the 2020–21 school year, we are facing unprecedented challenges as we seek opportunities to innovate, collaborate, and implement necessary changes to do what is best for our students. Here’s something you need to know. The combined effects of the murders of Amaud Abrey in Georgia and George Floyd in Minnesota, the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, the recession, massive job loss, and overall feelings of isolation have forced people to become more aware of race, equity, inclusion, or a lack thereof. It’s been interesting to witness history repeat. I also wonder, why now? And now what? As we grapple with the coronavirus and racial unrest, I have been reflecting on my experience as a Black administrator who has led three majority-white schools. (more…)

Financial Education: The Proof is in the Pandemic

In tough times, I frequently find myself turning to this quote from Ovid, “Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.” As principals, you undoubtedly are facing some of the greatest professional challenges of your careers. In the midst of this global pandemic, you are working fervently to deliver the best education you possibly can while doing your best to protect the health and well-being of your faculty, staff, students, and families. (more…)

Sea Glass and Hope: Reflections for the Year to Come

There’s always that one teacher—the one whose content they taught pales compared to the lessons you learned from them. One of my favorite teachers growing up was the art teacher in my hometown. I say “the” art teacher because, as with many small midwestern towns, the teacher is there the entire time we are in school and even beyond. And as we entered a summer unlike any other we’ve faced as educators, Mr. Holdren’s approach to life offered a personal lesson that helped me reflect on the school year to come. (more…)