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Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: December 2017

Leadership-life Fit: Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Research shows that an “attitude of gratitude” can measurably improve your overall well-being and therefore improve your leadership-life fit. Watch this two-minute video to discover the science of gratitude and simple ways you can practice it!

Leading Learning—4 Attributes of a Great Assistant Principal:

George Couros reflects on his role as an AP and his work as a principal with his assistants—he shares the qualities and behaviors of his most successful assistants.

Couros notes that in addition to caring more about what’s right than being right, the most successful APs demonstrate the following four attributes:

1. Self-starters – Being able to recognize work that needs completed or issues that need addressed and to take action is invaluable to the overall effective functioning of the building.

2. Determined- Acknowledging failures as steps toward success and persevering rather than accepting the defeat helps transform practice. Always be open to learning.

3. Own what goes wrong; give credit to what goes right- Keeping the focus on the team/staff contributes to a positive, collaborative culture.

4. Challenge authority – Being focused on what’s right and challenging ideas/actions that aren’t congruent with what’s right position the school for success. Raising questions and offering other possible courses of actions increases the probability of better outcomes for students and staff alike.

By developing these four attributes and always being mindful of the importance of cultivating relationships with the school community, Couros observes that an AP will contribute to an environment where all learners (staff and students) excel.

Leadership 101—Build Resilience and Handle Tough Conversations

Develop your facility with these six strategies to increase your capacity for emotional composure and resilience in the midst of high-stakes, emotionally charged situations.

We are not born with an innate ability to navigate difficult conversations—those where emotions run high. However, we can develop practices and incorporate strategies to increase our emotional health and well being such that we are better prepared when faced with angry faces, tears, screaming, silence, and other outward signs of emotional turmoil!

Inc. columnist provides six ways in which to build emotional resilience:

1.     Identify your stress response.
2.     Get out of your head.
3.     Fuel your body – eat healthy, sleep, and exercise.
4.     Be clear about your purpose, your why.
5.     Be empathetic.
6.     Be intentional – know your impact.

Delve more deeply into the six.

Take an even deeper dive with this Harvard Business Review article “How to Control Your Emotions During a Difficult Conversation” by workplace dynamics expert, Amy Gallo. 

Leading Learning—An Instructional Leader's Role in Leading Schools to College and Career Readiness

Are you successfully preparing students for college and careers—are you engaged in “ambitious instructional leadership”? See what a recent study indicates principals need to know and do to lead higher academic standards and what factors enable or hinder principals in leading to these standards. Get concrete suggestions to support you in moving through three stages of development toward implementation of high-impact instructional changes.

Identified in the study are critical knowledge, critical conditions, and six key instructional leadership practices that have been shown to significantly impact students’ college and career readiness.

Critical Knowledge

1. Demands of CCR standards and aligned assessments – By studying the CCR standards and having familiarity with the state assessment, principals gain knowledge necessary to identify any potential gaps between the enacted curriculum in the building and what is being asked of students on the state assessment. The principal can see what adult learning needs to occur to address these gaps, and together, the leader and the staff can deepen their understanding of the standards and standards-aligned curriculum and instruction.

2. Ambitious instruction – Through understanding the “fundamentals of effective teaching, such as strong lesson and unit sequences; effective direct instruction, such as modeling and communication of complex ideas; appropriate balancing of direct instruction with academic discussion; and task rigor,” principals are able to respond with appropriate professional learning, coaching and feedback for staff.

3. Effective instructional leadership—Principals who understand how to build teacher capacity (build structures and schedules that support observation and collaboration, design data systems that facilitate teacher data analysis) and how to engage in goal-setting and how to lead and navigate change, have been successful in building a culture of learning.

Examples of these three types of knowledge.

Six Key Instructional Leadership Practices (See the chart on p. 5 of the Executive Summary for a comparison of standard instructional leadership and ambitious instructional leadership as aligned to each of the key practices. What distinguishes the two leaders is the intensity, quality and intentionality of implementation of these practices):

1.     Setting a vision for ambitious instruction
2.     Upgrading curriculum and instructional models
3.     Creating systems to support data-driven instruction
4.     Creating opportunities for individualization and intervention
5.     Creating systems for ongoing professional learning and collaboration
6.     Providing consistent coaching and feedback to teachers

Critical Conditions

Not directly related to CCR, but influential in ensuring students are college and career ready are three critical conditions:

1.     Effective talent management
2.     Maximized learning time
3.     High-quality professional learning culture.

Where to start?

Depending upon what practices and to what degree of intensity they already exist in your building will determine what you prioritize (see the chart on p. 5 of the Executive Summary).

If you’re just getting started, build knowledge about the standards and create a vision for instruction informed by the standards. Create a plan to move toward this vision and engage the appropriate stakeholders. Make any necessary changes to structures and schedules to maximize learning time.

In stage one of the three stages of development, you’ll want to grow your knowledge of the standards through repeated study—perhaps as part of the curriculum review processes. Engage staff in creating a CCR standards-aligned curriculum map. Stage one also includes building capacity for instructional leadership among teachers (TLC gives us a head start on this one!), and target a particular instructional focus for study.

By stage two, you’re defining and clarifying what rigor looks like in your school and you’re supporting rigorous instruction. You’re focusing on curriculum development and monitoring as well as sharpening the focus and frequency of your coaching and feedback.

In the final developmental stage, you’re releasing responsibility to staff to own their collective learning, engaging in cycles of inquiry to continue to study and improve curriculum as you move toward your vision, and you’re collaborating with teachers as they develop their individualized professional development plans—encouraging and supporting leadership development.

Delve more deeply into leading college and career readiness, by reading the Executive Summary or Full Report linked below!

Access the Executive Summary (5 p).

Access the Full Report (44 p).

Leading Learning—Resources to Support Digital Citizenship

Can your students recognize fake news? What tools and strategies can help support them in identifying misleading information? Be sure to check out the list of linked resources to support digital citizenship at the end of the article.

Monthly Checklist:

These lists are intended as a guide

- elementary
- middle level and secondary

We encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!