Leading Learning

What Principals Can Learn From ‘Cobra Kai’

The coronavirus pandemic has taught us all a lot, including a greater appreciation for the little things, like Netflix. With this new appreciation, I came across a TV series I may have skipped over pre-COVID: “Cobra Kai.” It might sound vaguely familiar to any of us old enough to remember the iconic 1984 movie “Karate Kid,” with Danny LaRusso as the New Jersey-born city boy who finds karate and a mentor, Mr. Miyagi, to help him acclimate to life in Los Angeles. Even if you never watched it, don’t remember it, or just were not interested, I believe there are plenty of leadership and life lessons to be gleaned from the series. (more…)

Strengthening Systems of Support to Increase Academic Achievement

Since becoming a house principal, I have worked to establish and promote meaningful relationships among both staff and students. These connections create stronger foundations which encourage social, emotional, and, in turn, academic progressions. (more…)

6 Ways Principals Can Empower Student Voice and Choice

Student voice and choice is often talked about in schools but rarely implemented with a consistent focus on empowering students. For this to take place, principals need to intentionally find ways to place student voice and choice at the foundation of their school. My school’s Virtual Tour will focus on strategies to empower student voice and choice in your school. Here are six ways you can do so: (more…)

Just Pick the Pineapple: Building Trust in Turbulence

At the veggie market on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 216th Street in Queens, NY, my dad showed me how to pick a pineapple. He said, “It just has to smell like a pineapple and feel right, then it’s good to go.” I nodded in agreement, like I wanted him to really believe that I was following him and that I understood this wisdom. (more…)

Self-Care Lessons From My Four-Year-Old

As an assistant principal, teachers come to me for advice about dealing with the difficult situations they face, many directly related to the sudden switch from in-person to virtual learning. The increased number of emails and demands upon teacher time that extend beyond the regular school day have created an additional layer of stress. Administrators need to be cognizant of this and make sure that our faculty are taken care of. However, we cannot take care of others if we are not taking care of ourselves. (more…)

5 Keys to Developing a Future-Driven School

This year has demonstrated in extraordinary ways that we’re preparing students for an unpredictable world. We can’t possibly envision the challenges and opportunities our students will experience in their lives beyond school. But we can know with certainty the world is changing rapidly and continuously, and we must prepare them for the unknown. While there may not be another COVID-19, there will be many surprising developments for the rising generation. We must prepare them to be confident, adaptable learners, no matter what they encounter. We can’t just focus on academic training in isolation and think that’s meeting their needs. It’s critical to have a larger vision that prepares students for the future, a vision that’s bigger than test scores, grades, diplomas, or mastering standards. My school’s Virtual Tour will focus on the keys to creating a future-driven approach to education. (more…)

In 2020, We Are All First-Year Principals

As we celebrate National Principals Month during this unusual school year, there’s one thing all 90,000-plus of us have in common: Given the continuing challenges our schools and communities face, we often feel like first-year principals. And that’s okay! Even the most seasoned among us are learning at an incredible pace about the best ways to support our students and staff through any combination of remote, in-person, and hybrid learning scenarios. (more…)

Four Strategies to Implement Effective PLCs

Richard DuFour’s six characteristics of effective professional learning communities (PLCs) have been around for almost 22 years, and their benefits have been well documented by researchers. So why are some PLCs effective and others not? In a word, implementation. (more…)

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…)