Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: March 2015
Transform your habits. Learn how to reverse those behaviors that inhibit your ideal leadership-life fit and stick to those habits that benefit you both personally and professionally.
Entrepreneur, weightlifter, author, and travel photographer James Clear offers a brief, easy-to-access guide that teaches us 10 transformative tools:
Get the guide here.
Overcome Obstacles and Stay Focused on Improving Teaching and Learning:
Four barriers impede successful leadership. Recognize these obstacles, practice the skills to help overcome them, and transform your leadership!
John D’Auria’s article in February’s Kappan magazine sheds light on four leadership hurdles that can be readily avoided by cultivating and practicing specific skill sets.
Obstacles and Corresponding Skills that Can Help Overcome:
1. Undervaluing the importance of culture.
By learning and practicing the skill sets associated with building trust, strengthening a growth mindset*, and cultivating the art of feedback, school leaders can most positively shape school culture.
2. Being distracted from improvement strategies by day-to-day demands/problems.
When administrators communicate a clear, shared vision; adhere to a set of core values; align resources to that vision; and hold members of the organization accountable, they keep the focus of their leadership grounded in a cycle of improvement.
3. Balancing our focus on what we are doing with the effect of what we are doing.
Administrators need to develop habits and routines for assessing their effectiveness and assist their teachers in doing the same. They need to learn what works and for whom and then to adjust their practice accordingly. A number of protocols can be learned and practiced to support administrators in this endeavor.
4. Underestimating the importance of skillful practice.
D’Auria notes that three competencies comprise skillful practice:
By recognizing these obstacles and practicing the skills that can help avoid them, school leaders can improve the learning for all members of the organization.
Access the full article here.
D’Auria, J. (2015). Learn to avoid or overcome leadership obstacles. Kappan, 96(5): 52-54.
*You can read more about a growth mindset by accessing Carol Dweck’s article here.
Contributing to a Growth Culture via Feedback:
Feedback is the most robust instructional activity in which we can engage. ~Hattie
When we share feedback with teachers about their work, we model how they can use feedback with students.
Begin by asking your teacher/s how they want to receive feedback. Know your outcome—be crystal clear about what you want to have happen. Know your teachers; read their body language; and be aware of how your message is being received.
Nothing happens at the behavioral level--you need to get to the values/beliefs level. So, sending someone to observe another teacher who is doing something well won’t change the behavior of the teacher who needs help unless you address values and beliefs.
How do your beliefs about student learning/growth drive your grading practice?
How do your beliefs about student learning/growth drive your evaluation practice?
Giving Feedback Requires
Read and discuss this scenario-based activity below to gain insight into effective approaches in providing feedback and fitting applications for each.
What approach (stance) would you take as the administrator in each of these scenarios:
Strategies for Next-level Literacy:
Does vocabulary development in your building still include too much focus on “Remember and Understand” strategies like defining terms, pronouncing words, identifying synonyms, using the dictionary to look up unknown words, and writing a sentence using the word? Support your teachers in replacing “what they have always done” with these research-based methodologies that require students to think beyond the text and prepare them to be better readers and learners.
In an article in this month’s Principal Leadership, Judy Brunner explains the changes necessary for students to master content vocabulary. She notes that instruction needs to move beyond memorization to application, analysis, and evaluation of terms as related to the overall objective. “Those with the richest vocabularies will probably be the ones to achieve the most academic and professional success,” argues Brunner. Therefore, we cannot afford to wait!
Brunner offers a series of questions to help determine which evidence-based vocabulary strategy would be most effective. Below is a sampling:
Brunner follows these questions with six strategies grounded in evidence-based practice and reflective of the type of variety, differentiation, and engagement that best meets the needs of learners. An overview of the suggested strategies appears below, and the detailed steps in the process involved in using each strategy can be found by accessing the full article (link following). Brenner also aligns each step to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Access the complete article here.
Vocabulary Strategies for Next-Level Literacy
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!