Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: December 2016

Leadership-life Fit: Meditation Isn’t Just for Monks

A daily practice of focus and awareness can help you give the gift of your best self! Learn some quick and easy strategies to get started or to support you as you continue your meditation practice!

Leading Learning—New Pathways for Parental Involvement:

What exactly constitutes parental involvement? The answer varies greatly among administrators and parents alike. Beyond homework help and volunteerism, recent research has identified a high-leverage opportunity for parents to contribute to their student’s success. Put your parents in the know!

Most mental models of parental involvement have revolved around support for students’ mastery of subject matter knowledge and skill acquisition, which has often translated into holding students accountable for completing homework and practicing math facts, for example. However, as the curriculum grows increasingly more complex and cognitively demanding, parents may feel less confident in their ability to “teach” or explain students’ assignments. In fact, this is why teaching is a profession—it requires a high degree of skill, strategy, and knowledge, not only about content and knowledge/skill acquisition but also about student growth and development.

The good news is that parents don’t have to know and understand the content their students are learning to be of greatest support. What they can give their students that offers much greater leverage in their student’s success is help in developing grit. William Russell, founder of Family Learning Exchange, in a recent article in NAESP’s Principal magazine notes the significance of non-cognitives to a student’s overall health and well-being. He claims, “parents are the best people in the world to foster their children’s growth in curiosity, perseverance, self-control, empathy, and the handful of other non-cognitive factors that are the bedrock of learning—better even than teachers.” These attributes lead to successful learning.

Russell suggests the following strategies for involving parents in cultivating their students’ non-cognitive skills:

Request that PTO/PTA’s devote a segment of their regular meeting to learning more about the power of perseverance, diligence, initiative, for example, and what the studies confirm about these attributes.
Invite teachers to recommend books, stories, videos, or other mediums that communicate the importance of a particular trait. Perhaps focus on a different attribute each month.
Once the rationale has been established for the development of non-cognitives, designate a segment of a monthly newsletter or email communication to the importance of a particular non-cognitive trait and offer parents resources to help develop that.

Resources to support parents and schools in nurturing non-cognitives:

Read Russell’s full article here.

Leading Learning— Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Watch this eight and a half-minute video explaining the Why, What, and How of growth mindset, and then delve into the Growth Mindset Playbook! Process the reflective questions that follow in your mentoring partnership.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. We know that high expectations have a 1.44 effect size on student achievement, and we know that expectations include the belief by both student and teacher that the student can learn whatever standard is being addressed. How do you surface your teachers’ beliefs about students?
  2. When you notice incongruence between teachers’ behaviors and what they say they believe, how do you engage in conversation around that? For example, a teacher says she believes all children can learn at high levels, but then she consistently asks simpler questions of a particular student or settles for lower quality work from a certain student.
  3. Have you examined what you believe about your teachers’ ability to learn? How do you model and communicate a growth mindset with your teachers?
  4. What language shifts need to happen in your school to reinforce a growth mindset? (Example: Joe hasn’t learned that YET. What’s the next skill or content piece he needs to move toward the target? What does this mean for my instruction? OR Mr. Smith hasn’t implemented feedback YET. What does he need to do to begin moving toward our vision for effective feedback? What is my role in that?)
  5. What stories speak to the impact of a growth mindset in your building (or personally)?

Leading Learning: ESSA Toolkit

Just a reminder that this toolkit resource is available to help principals engage in informed conversations around ESSA!

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!