Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: April 2017

Leadership-life Fit: Organize Your Phone, Unhijack Your Mind

Did you know the more your phone buzzes and sends you notifications, the more you’re conditioned to release cortisol and stress?? Reclaim control by reorganizing your phone using these five tips.

Former Google design ethicist and Time Well Spent founder Tristan Harris explains how in this three-minute video: 

You can read more from Tristan here.

Leading Technology Use—Ensure Your School Is Future Ready

Is technology use being leveraged in a way that amplifies instructional best practice? How can you plan systemically for the effective use of technology? These Future Ready Schools resources described in this month’s Principal magazine support you ensuring that local technology and digital learning plans align with effective methods and lead to quality personalized learning experiences for all students.

Future Ready Schools helps districts build capacity to:

  1. Lead with a vision for learning, not technology.
  2. Plan for impact on curriculum, professional learning, and policies before purchasing.
  3. Maximize the Return on Investment in the technology.
  4. Build trust to help principals shift the mindset and pedagogy of teachers.
  5. Develop a culture of innovation that empowers staff to take risks.

The Future Ready Schools Framework is anchored in personalized learning and provides school leaders a support system. The following chart identifies each gear and includes reflective questions that you might consider together in your mentoring partnership.

Framework Gear Reflective Question/s for Principals
Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment What do you want teaching and learning to look like in your school in five years? How are you building on instructional practices to get there?

Personalized Professional Learning

How are you leveraging teacher leaders to facilitate professional learning? How are you building the capacity of all teachers? How are you modeling the type of professional learning you want to see from your staff?

Use of Space and Time

Does your environment (use of space) support the type of teaching and learning in your vision? How does your use of space support 24/7, anytime, anywhere learning?

Robust Infrastructure

What does the systemic updating/refreshing of devices look like in your building? Can students, staff, and visitors connect anywhere in your building? In outside learning spaces?

Data and Privacy            

Are your practices and policies aligned to FERPA?

Budget and Resources


How have you accounted for updates and maintenance of your technology in your short and long term budget planning?

Community Partnerships

How are you engaging the community in your school’s story? What technology tools can advance your vision?

Read the full article here

This month’s full issue of Principal magazine, which is focused on Technology for All, is available for free.

Find out more about Future Ready Schools and take advantage of high-quality resources available at NO CHARGE!

Leading Professional Learning—Measuring Impact

Is your professional learning making a difference in student learning? How do you know? Thomas Guskey dispels the myth that evaluating professional learning requires a special skill set and narrows effective evaluation down to being able to answer three key questions.

In this month’s The Learning Professional Guskey identifies a process for assessing your professional learning. He invites us to begin with these three questions:

  1. What do we want to accomplish?
  2. How will we know it if we do?
  3. What else might happen, good or bad?

Generally, the answer to the first question is tied to student learning, and the second question requires that we determine what evidence we will accept as verification we have achieved our goal. Since no single source of data provides a complete picture, we must ensure that we identify multiple sources. The third question helps us to consider the implications of the change we are looking to make. For example, if we create a common specials schedule so that all grade level teams will have a common plan time, we may need to adjust the times for art, music, or PE. This may be perceived as “bad.” Or, by developing our instruction in non-fiction writing, we  may notice an improvement in reading data, which would be perceived as “good.”

As in any evaluation process, we need to begin with the end in mind. What is our goal? Why is that our goal? We will need to examine our current reality as portrayed by our data. Though standardized assessment data provide a piece of the picture, we will also need to consider our local and classroom assessments to paint the most complete picture. Attendance, behavioral (referral and positive reinforcement) data, and family/community perception data may also guide our planning at this stage. When we analyze these data, we gain clarity regarding our focus, our outcomes, and what we will need to know and be able to do in order to achieve our goals.

Once we have set our goals and determined what evidence will speak to our progress toward and attainment of that goal, we can engage in Guskey’s five essential steps.

5.   Determine impact on student learning outcomes.

4.   Implement new practices (consider John Hattie’s work as a point of conversation to determine highest effect size—remember, 95% of what we do works. We need to ask: What works BEST?

  • How do we know these particular strategies and practices will produce the results we hope to achieve?
  • How good or reliable is that evidence?
  • Was it gathered in contexts similar to ours?
  • Is it the kind of evidence we consider most important?

3.    Gain organizational support and change.

  • What resources will we need?
  • What time (structures/schedules) will support teacher learning?
  • What technology will we need?
  • What coaching/support?
  • What funding?

2.   Develop essential knowledge and skills.

  • What will educators need to know and be able to do to implement new practices?
  • What does effective implementation of these practices look like? feel like? sound like?

1.   Plan targeted professional learning experiences.

  • As a result of understanding the learning needs of the educators, what mediums/platforms will best provide for this learning?
  • When will educators collaborate around planning, implementation, and data analysis?
  • When and how often will they receive feedback and coaching?

When we are clear about our student learning goals and plan backward from there, we set the stage for successful evaluation. Guskey notes: Plan well and evaluation will take care of itself.

Read the full article here (subscription required)

Remember the Iowa Professional Development Guide provides excellent tools and resources to support you engaging in the process Guskey describes.

Hiring the Best—Your Next Assistant Principal

This month’s Principal Leadership magazine includes a timely article on employing behavior-based interviewing techniques to determine which candidate has the strongest skill set and knowledge base to navigate the multi-faceted role of the AP.

Behavior-based interviewing is built on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. Mary Clement offers 18 sample questions and “look fors” when hiring an assistant principal. Questions should be designed to align with the responsibilities and expected behaviors of an AP in the specific context so that interviewers can gain insight as to how the candidate’s past performance might transfer or inform his/her future performance as an AP.

For example, with the understanding that in your school, an AP is expected to have leadership experience; knowledge in the area of curriculum, instruction, and assessment; facility in working with diverse populations; skill in connecting with families and community resources; understanding of budget; and experience in supervision and discipline, questions that surface the candidate’s past experience in these areas will be most helpful in determining how successful he/she will be in your context.

Following is a sampling of the questions proposed by Clement:

  • What have you found to be the most important results from student activities for the students? faculty?

    Look for: “Students feel connected such that they’re motivated to attend school and stay in school. Faculty value the opportunity to engage with students outside of school and to know them better. Knowing more about their students helps them to meet students’ needs more effectively in the classroom.”
  • Tell us about your experiences supporting a new hire or student teacher.

    Look for: “I have mentored a new teacher when I was a teacher. We met regularly. I had
    opportunity to observe him teach, and he also observed me. We also co-planned. I was able to connect him with resources and supports when he needed. I’ve also participated on different hiring committees.”
  • Describe your experiences with facility management.

    Look for: “As a coach, I was responsible for the condition of the gym and ensuring equipment storage areas were organized and maintained. I oversaw open gyms and also worked with our athletic director to make our gym available to our youth programs. As a youth coach of baseball, I had responsibility for ensuring care and maintenance of our youth baseball field."
  • Give an example of how you have communicated with parents, administrators, or community members to tell your “school story” – the good work of you and your students.

    Look for: Comments about a service project, a news article or blog, hosting a parent night, a speech given to a community group, etc.

The power in behavior-based interviewing is to understand clearly the role and responsibility of the position to be hired and then to design questions that will elicit responses that create for the interviewer a picture of how this candidate has handled similar situations in the past such that future behavior can be predicted.

Access the full article here (subscription required)

Other Articles by Clement re: Behavior Based Interviewing (Free)

High Stakes Administrative Hiring

Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-Based Interviewing

Teachers Hiring Teachers

Monthly Checklist: 

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!