A position in education near and dear to my heart is that of a Principal - the building leader! After several years as a teacher, I was approached by my school board about moving to the administrative side of things. I was excited about the prospect of a new challenge, and we worked together to create a plan for me to move to a new role. You might consider me an original "Grown Your Own" principal.
I spent several years as a Principal at South Gray schools prior to working at Southwest Plains. I believe there were several key pieces to my learning that really helped me those first few years. As someone who works in multiple districts with a variety of Administrators, I have seen many factors that help new principals succeed.
Seek Internal Support
Every new principal can benefit from forming strong relationships within their own districts. Getting to know your staff, other administrators in the district, and seeking out mentors can vastly affect the success of a new principal. My mentor was George Smirl, and he played a key role in my journey to become a principal. He was patient, deliberate in his training, and set up careful scaffolding of my duties. He modeled them, released them to me in intervals, and was always available to me for support. Every new principal will benefit from a stronger network of support and mentorship, and for more extended periods of time than I often see in the field.
Build Your Network
A new building leader will benefit from joining a principal association and attending local councils as often as possible. It's important to form bonds with colleagues in the field. Being able to reach out to ask questions (large and small) is powerful. The collective pool of knowledge & experience is priceless. I would also recommend getting to know various department leads at the state level - they have a wealth of knowledge about every aspect of public schools and are always eager to help and share information.
Professional Learning is a MUST
While you may still be finishing up collegiate level work, it's important NOT to neglect personal development training as well. Leadership training is an investment in yourself, and one that will pay dividends throughout the years. As a principal, you are also expected to be an instructional leader. It is wise to be knowledgeable about the interventions and strategies teachers are expected to use in their classrooms - sit in on their trainings and in-services whenever possible. Be aware of the most current research and best practice.
I want to hear from you - what advice would you share with new principals/building leaders? What might have helped you on your personal journey? What do you wish you'd known that first year?
My path to to become a certified Adaptive Schools™ Seminar Trainer has NOT been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been deeply fulfilling and is changing the way I teach, learn, and conduct meetings as CEO of my organization.
I was intrigued with the content from the very beginning. As someone who’s “been in the business” of learning for close to 20 years, I have both been a learner and advocate for the work of Rick & Becky DuFour on Professional Learning Communities. In fact, my doctoral dissertation was based on this very topic.
Adaptive Schools + PLCs/PCLs
Within my first experience as a participant of an Adaptive Schools Seminar, I began to see a clear correlation between the work of Thinking Collaborative™ and my knowledge on professional learning communities. I view PLCs as the “Why” and Adaptive Schools as the “How”....to move groups toward shared learning and collaborative growth . Adaptive Schools is a capacity building system for teams….to increase their capacity to collaborate, to share varying ideas of groups, and to support one another - even in the face of conflict.
One strategy I’ve really empowered my team to use is designating whether a meeting’s purpose is to Dialogue or Discuss. To Dialogue with one another is to gain a shared understanding of a topic. If the purpose is to Discuss an agenda item, then we work collaboratively to make a decision. Defining the outcome/purpose of an agenda item has truly transformed how meetings are conducted at Southwest Plains.
Let’s discuss how powerful (and at times - difficult) working as teams can be! As I continue to grow & learn - I want to know: How might teams you work with (PLCs, administrative groups, local councils and chambers, etc.) benefit from a more collaborative agenda? What are your struggles and strategies for working in groups? Comment below & let’s ALL benefit from our shared experience!
Summer break is a time for relaxing, recharging your batteries, and preparing for a successful new school year. Whether you prefer to stay cool indoors, lounge by the pool, or hangout at the ball field, you might find yourself with a little time to read. These books are my recommendations for your summer reading list!
My first recommendation is Lead Like a Pirate, by keynote & author Dave Burgess. On several occasions, Southwest Plains has had the opportunity to host conferences with the enthusiastic Dave Burgess as keynote. His passion for education, teaching, and leadership make him an engaging keynote. Dave is also an accomplished author. He is a fantastic example of continued engagement with his audience, as he is extremely active on Twitter where I’ve come to enjoy his frequent and informational posts.
I read this book a few months ago, after seeing it make the rounds on Twitter, and can personally attest to it’s value. The book provides readers with practiced strategies that are easy to understand, implement, and will have a direct effect in your professional life,. I recommend this to anyone - I firmly believe that leadership is not a position or job title, it’s a mindset!
Summer break is a perfect time to reflect on the year behind us in an effort to put our best foot forward for the coming school year. My favorite strategy showcased in this book and found on Dave’s blog is called Dropping ANCHORS. ANCHOR is an acronym for Appreciation, Notice the Impact, Collaborative Conversation, Honor Voice & Choice, Offer Support, and Reflect.
My second recommendation has to be Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning by Jenni Anne Marie Donohoo. Over the course of the last year or so, a large portion of my professional development workshops and consulting days have centered around the concept of Collective Efficacy. Leading educator & researcher John Hattie details in his book, Visible Learning, how collective efficacy of educators in a school has the largest effect size on student learning of any other variable.
All educators should be working toward the shared goal of increasing collective efficacy within their schools. This book will give you structures & protocols to put in place in the coming year to build this vision. Consider starting a book club or PLC with your fellow educators and begin with this excellent resource!
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own book, #eWalkThrough: Digital System for Instructional Leadership. It’s timely for current eWalkThrough® users, as you can revisit the foundational tenets surrounding your system, reflect on goals and changes needed for the new school year, and recalibrate your thinking.
For readers without a digital classroom observation system in place, it’s never been a better time to learn about our process and how it can change your district, buildings, classrooms, and culture. The format of the book makes a great reference, and you’ll be armed with information to share with colleagues about the power of classroom observation.
Now I want to know...What is on YOUR reading list this summer? I’m always looking to learn, and would love a new book recommendations! Comment below with your suggestions & let’s get this conversation started!
Kelly's insights on classroom observation, education, leadership, teaching, and mentoring.