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Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: February/March

Leadership-life Fit:

On our paths to a better fit, we occasionally need a quick fix. Find six one-minute tips to de-stress in the moment.

Effective Leadership:

Take a moment to reflect on your strengths as a leader to ensure the traits identified in the linked article below — “5 Reasons Leaders Fail” — continue to serve you positively.

Bacharach, S. (Feb. 2013). 5 Reasons Leaders Fail. Inc.

Questions for mentor/mentee discussion regarding “5 Reasons Leaders Fail”:

  1. Why would the leader be the one to suffer from a team’s groupthink?
  2. What behaviors would a leader display when his/her vision has become an obsession?
  3. What are some lessons regarding delegation that you have learned?
  4. What if your evidence affirms that you are on the best path toward your vision, but your staff and/or administrative colleagues see you as inflexible?
  5. What other trait/s when taken to an extreme can lead to failed leadership? 

Leading Learning:

How do you support struggling teachers? How do you cultivate highly effective teaching building-wide? Two authors provide insight and concrete, specific strategies for building teacher capacity.

Morris, R. (2009). Improving a struggling teacher. Principal.

In the above linked article, principal Roma Morris describes in detail the process in which she engaged to help a struggling teacher improve. She advises, “If we are to demand effective teachers, we, as principals, must also be effective leaders. We must be strong enough to do what has to be done, but kind enough to recognize when to lead with our hearts.” 

As you reflect on this article and think about providing leadership to a struggling teacher on your staff, take some time to process the following questions. Below the questions, you will find a sample schedule a principal implemented to support her struggling teacher. Note that the resources available to you may not include a mentor who is available to teach the struggling teacher’s course, but would it be feasible to hire a substitute for the mentor? Do you have an instructional coach? Is there another substitute in the building you could use during this time? How might you use video? Again, this is just a sample to give you a sense of the level of support some teachers might need.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What opportunities does your struggling teacher have to observe an exemplary teacher and then process the observation with the teacher and possibly you (see sample schedule below)?
  2. How frequently does your struggling teacher engage in planning, data analysis, and goal-setting with his/her grade level or course-specific teacher team?
  3. What does your observation and feedback schedule look like for this teacher?
  4. Have you set short and long term goals with this teacher?
  5. What other strategies might you use to support a struggling teacher?
  6. At what point do you place the teacher on an assistance plan?  

Routman, R. (2012). Mapping a pathway to schoolwide highly effective teaching. Kappan.

In this article Routman describes the principles she has found to be most critical for highly effective teaching and high achievement to flourish.

  1. Strong principal leadership.
  2. High expectations.
  3. Professional learning communities focused on effective teaching and improving literacy practices.
  4. Shared beliefs.
  5. A common learning model (instructional framework).
  6. Effective coaching experiences.
  7. Strong social capital.

In particular, she speaks to the principal’s role in actively engaging in instructional walks by…

  • Noticing what’s going well in the classroom
  • Taking fact-based notes about what’s going well and what needs attention
  • Commenting verbally on what’s going well to the teacher and/or students
  • Suggesting a strategy or idea on the spot, if appropriate
  • Ensuring the teacher knows what the principal has observed
  • Reviewing walk notes for school-wide patterns of strengths and needs
  • Using observations to determine and share these strengths and needs
  • Leading the staff to determine next steps

 How are you both a learner and a teacher during your instructional walks?

February/March Monthly Checklist: 

  • Re-energize teacher teams! Visit team meetings and offer support and encouragement.
  • Reflect on your teachers’ collaboration—how can your building continue to grow?
  • Work with your district personnel to recruit the best teachers for any openings you may have.
  • Prepare for reporting period and conferences.
  • Continue teacher evaluations.
  • Stay on schedule with observations and walk-throughs.
  • Calibrate evaluation ratings with peers, if possible and applicable.
  • Remind teachers of end of term expectations, if applicable.
  • Review district expectations and deadlines for requisitions for supplies or instructional supports, budget proposals, staffing proposals, etc.
  • Review your district-wide assessment schedule and ensure your building is on target. Review and district/building data and make programming/instructional adjustments as needed.
  • Reflect on progress to date on annual school improvement goals and revise your building professional development plan in light of internal data as necessary.
  • Reflect on your individual career development plan and note indicators of progress and success—share with your mentor!!
  • If these are months for Iowa Assessments, prepare testing announcement, schedule and at-home preparation tips to be mailed/posted on web for parents. Communicate with teachers regarding acceptable preparation activities. Recall that although familiarizing students with the format of the assessment can be valuable, no correlations exists between the use of instructional time to “study” or “review” for standardized tests and increased test scores. In fact, time spent in review or preparation is time lost in learning the Core.
  • Update staff on any necessary district communications.
  • Continue to review lesson plans and monitor the implementation of  district/building programs and professional development. See the Technical Guide to the Iowa Professional Development Model.
  • Plan and schedule events to build your school community.
  • Check off and celebrate your successes!