Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: November/December 2014

Leadership-life Fit:

Give gratitude, diminish stress. Numerous studies demonstrate the health benefits of practicing gratitude. This Slideshare explains why and how.

Top Ten Learning Needs of Teacher Leaders:

This month’s JSD includes a timely article by Gordon, Jacobs, and Solis (2014) regarding the learning needs of teacher leaders.  As you organize to support the professional learning and development of teacher leaders in your system, consider targeting these areas:

  1. Interpersonal skill development –particularly listening and collaboration skills.
  2. Time management and organizational skills.
  3. Curriculum and innovation—teacher leaders need to understand innovations and how they integrate into the current curriculum.
  4. Mentoring knowledge and skills to support both beginning teachers and experienced teachers who are still developing.
  5. Effective group facilitation from how to organize group work to how to deal with dysfunctional group members.
  6. Technology—as an instructional tool and as a tool for managing data and providing support to teachers.
  7. Facilitation of change.
  8. Adult learning coupled with coaching strategies and skills.
  9. Leading Reflective Inquiry (and engaging in their own action research if they are not skilled in this process).
  10. Addressing diversity.

The authors also make recommendation regarding the structure and design of professional learning for teacher leaders. Though they support site-based learning, they advocate for district-level coordination that results in teacher leaders from different schools coming together to learn common content and to practice a common set of skills. Additionally, they agree that the unique learning needs of teacher leaders can be best met, perhaps, at the school level. The implications for administrators include the need to deepen their understanding of the concept of distributed leadership and to know and support the learning needs of teacher leaders.

Read the full article (subscription required): Gordon, S. P., Jacobs, J., & Solis, R. (2014). Top ten learning needs for teacher leaders. JSD 35(6): 48-52.

Increasing Student Engagement:

Research indicates that students with low engagement are more likely to drop out of school, and students’ engagement in content-area reading results in increased student achievement. How do you support your teachers in engaging students and sustaining their motivation? ReLeah Cossett Lent offers insight and advice in her recent article “The Secret to Sustainable Learning.”

Is it engagement or entertainment? The answer rests in sustainability. If students remain motivated after the entertainment ends, have a sense of pride in the activity, find it relevant and authentic, lose time while engrossed in the activity, feel challenged, and believe they have autonomy to complete the activity, they are engaged.

Indicators of engagement/motivation:

Teachers …

  1. Create opportunities for active rather than passive learning.
  2. Give students choice to encourage autonomy and independence.
  3. Ensure relevancy and authenticity in assignments and topics.
  4. Utilize collaborative processes – group work, think/pair/share, literacy
  5. Leverage technology to support students in higher order thinking – evaluating, assessing, and applying.
  6. Incorporate a variety of delivery approaches.
  7. Create opportunities for both challenge and success.
  8. Differentiate and scaffold.
  9. Give timely feedback.
  10. Establish a culture of inquiry.

The Principal …

  1. Knows and understands the components of engagement.
  2. Facilitates faculty in conversation about engagement and motivation levels in the building.
  3. Supports and encourages risk-taking and innovation among teachers experimenting with new practices.

Read the entire article: Lent, R.C. (2014). The secret to sustainable learning. Principal Leadership, 15(4): 22-25. 

Address a Problem or Conflict in 60 Seconds

Have you struggled to approach someone’s challenging behavior? Not sure how to navigate a difficult conversation? Try the 60-second conversation format from Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations and address those nagging issues.

From Fierce Conversations:

Basic steps to a fierce conversation with a hypothetical example:

Opening Statement: According to Susan Scott, you will want to take the time to write your script and rehearse it. Follow these seven components to create your opening statement. This statement usually takes a minute: 60 seconds. It is to the point but powerful. Keep focused and avoid rambling. Following is an example of an assistant principal visiting with a staff member whom you supervise (Mark) regarding his impact on the building’s culture:

Name the Issue: Label the issue clearly and succinctly. Clarity and focus will facilitate the resolution process. Example: “Mark, I want to talk with you about your influence on our building’s culture.”

Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change: Identify a recent incident or behavior that exemplifies the concern without rambling on, which is distracting. Example: “At our last faculty meeting, I noticed you rolled your eyes and whisper to Mary sitting beside you when the principal mentioned increasing student engagement and recording the variety of strategies you use to accomplish that this week. Then, last week at your PLC meeting, I observed you grading papers while your colleagues were discussing the impact of their implementation of several strategies.”

Describe your emotions about this issue: You need to let people know how you feel; you can’t assume they already know. Most often, they don’t! Make a clear declaration about how you feel. This can be disarming because it’s unexpected. Example: “Mark, when you roll your eyes and whisper when the principal is talking, especially in a faculty meeting, and attend to other tasks when your PLC is working on the building’s goal, I get frustrated and disappointed.”

Clarify what’s at stake—for the person you’re talking to, for you, and for the school/district: Example: “Several important things are at stake here: First, our students’ learning. Students benefit when teachers collaborate. Second, you are respected in our organization, but I am worried that you are coming to be perceived as resistant to doing what’s best, as unwilling to be part of the team. Finally, our culture is built on a spirit of collaboration, and I am concerned that your behavior is undermining that.

Identify your contribution to this problem: What have you done to contribute to this situation? In short, how are you to blame for the situation. Example: “Mark, I know I have contributed to this situation by failing speak up sooner. I guess I thought that eventually you would engage in our professional learning and be an active member of your PLC, but that has not happened.”

Indicate your wish to resolve the issue: Be sure to use the word “resolve.” This is about win-win. Example: “Mark, I want to resolve this in a way that honors your expertise and experience as well as our culture of collaboration and improvement.”

Invite your colleague to comment: Now that you’ve identified the problem/issue (in less than a minute), you need to invite the other person to join the conversation…time to listen. Example: “I want to understand what’s happening from your perspective. What can you tell me about what I’ve shared?”

When all is said and done, this part of the conversation is only 1 minute-- keep it focused and brief!!

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!