Leading Learning

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Finding Your Why Before Your Way: Setting Vision and Creating Missions

Hey there, remember me? Honestly, I don’t fully recognize myself right now either. What a marathon we’ve been through. From flipping how we teach and lead, to navigating conversations and learning around racial equity and social justice, there has been a lot to do, a lot to reflect on—and truthfully, more to come. This summer, I really needed a reboot on my leadership. (more…)

Communication and Planning in the Time of School Closure

In March of 2020, schools all over the country were physically closed. However, teaching and learning continued. In Saluda County Schools (SCS), we made clear and consistent communication one of our top priorities. Here are four things we believe we did well that may help other school leaders communicate and plan for what may be an uncertain fall. (more…)

Supporting Students This Fall

When I reflect on what the school year might look like this fall, like all administrators I am filled with a certain amount of uncertainty maneuvering through the COVID-19 pandemic as well as our commitment to focus on equity and diversity. Most of us are spending our time this summer planning for the education of our students. While we make plans for the fall, we also need to be prepared for the trauma our kids have experienced, the behaviors we may encounter, the need for students to hear their voice and express themselves, and develop a plan to be able to respond to a new normal and the increasing needs of all of our students. (more…)

Fostering Collective Teacher Efficacy

Change is hard. Organizational change is harder still.

How might leaders take action to make engaging with change less difficult? The key may lie in developing efficacy. (more…)

Together, We Can: Six Steps to Prepare to Lead This Fall

Brian McCann found guidance for leading during the upcoming school year in, of all places, a young adult novel he picked up in his school library. “It began with this preface that says nothing goes back to exactly how it was—which was what I was trying to do,” McCann, a 2018 Digital Principal of the Year, said during NASSP’s Principals Power-Up Virtual Symposium earlier this month. (more…)

Engaging All Students in Civic Learning

As principals, one area that can get lost among our responsibilities is placing an emphasis and value on civic learning. Civics is not a government-mandated assessment, but rather a measurement of how we create an educated citizenry to progress the ideals of democracy and sustain and mold America for future generations. Creating a community, state, and country while preserving democracy is the ultimate test for which we are preparing students. (more…)