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Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: November and 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.

December 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!