Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: February/March
On our paths to a better fit, we occasionally need a quick fix. Find 6 one-minute tips to de-stress in the moment.
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”:
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:
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.
In particular, she speaks to the principal’s role in actively engaging in instructional walks by…
How are you both a learner and a teacher during your instructional walks?
Managing Time: (For new principals)
Managing Time (adapted from Robbins, P., & Alvy, H. (2004). The new principal’s fieldbook: Strategies for Success):
The typical day of the principal might be described as brief, fragmented, and unpredictable! Although many school leaders thrive on the newness each day brings from the excitement to the interruptions to the meetings, without a proactive approach to scheduling, these unplanned events and unpredictable events will fill the leader’s day. According to Robbins and Alvy (2004), principals communicate what is important by where and how they spend their time, so being mindful of your schedule will help you to cultivate a learning organization. The spring season with harried activity schedules, hiring season, budget season, evaluation cycles, and the potential for legislated changes, makes managing time particularly challenging. Taking a few moments to reflect and recalibrate may help you to meet more readily the demands on your time.
Where should a principal spend his/her time?
Be purposeful in how you walk your building so that you can “witness student and teacher success and verbally affirm the important work of the school” (p. 152). Intentionally schedule yourself in different areas of the school at different times so that you can get a deeper sense of the culture at work in your building. Where do students congregate at different times in the day? Which students tend to hang around at the end of the day? Who hangs out where? Where are your teachers at certain points in the day? What has changed since the start of the year? Why?
How should a principal spend his/her time?
Building quality relationships by talking to people, both students and staff. Observe the behaviors between and among the adults and the students in your building. Note what is working and what is not. Affirm the successes of your students and staff. As social beings, we thrive on support from and connection to others!
Strategies for Managing your Time:
1. Conduct a time audit.
a. Using a digital voice recorder, record a description of what you were doing during the past 30 minutes. Document your time for one week. Analyze the results. Or…
b. Be sure your calendar is accurate, and analyze it to see how you have been spending your time. Note that interruptions and unexpected events are typically not on your calendar!
c. Does the way in which you are spending your time align to your values?
i. How much time are you spending in classrooms?
ii. How much time did you spend in conversations with students? Staff? Parents?
iii. How much time did you spend visiting different parts of your building?
iv. How much time did you spend intentionally building relationships?
v. What seems to be missing? Where haven’t you visited or whom haven’t you observed?
2. Time audit your mentor.
a. Take a day or two to shadow your mentor and note how he/she is spending his time.
b. Schedule time at the conclusion of the two days to process with your mentor how he/she has used his/her time.
3. Block your schedule to ensure you address your priorities. Let your secretary know when you will be available and under what circumstance (if any—should be VERY limited) you should be interrupted. Set your phone to voice mail!!
Note: SAI offers the School Administration Manager (SAMs) project that looks at principals' use of time and identifies ways that they can focus more on being instructional leaders. Learn more here.
February/March Monthly Secondary Principal Checklist: