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Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: March 2017

Leadership-life Fit:

Try this simple breathing practice to build your resiliency and reduce stress and anxiety.

Managing Professional Capital — Hiring the Best

Be prepared for your best hiring season yet! We share several resources to help you maximize your hiring process, and don’t forget resources shared at our January Statewide Mentoring Meeting!

The 20-minute Hiring Assessment - Getting the right fit in terms of personality is equally as important, if not more so, than finding the candidate with rich content knowledge and quality teaching skills. This article summarizes 3 key dispositions critical to effective and successful teaching:

  1. Disposition toward self - These teachers express empathy and are able to connect with students from diverse backgrounds. They have a sense of self-efficacy—an “I can do it” mindset.
  2. Disposition toward students - Teachers strong in this disposition have high expectations for all of their students and believe that all students can achieve at high levels. They care about all of their learners.
  3. Disposition toward teaching - Teachers with a disposition toward teaching see the big picture. They are people focused rather than thing or content focused. They focus on building quality relationships with their students and a have a service orientation.

To gain insight into a candidate’s strength in each of these dispositions, the author offers six interview questions:

  1. How would your students describe you to others? 
  2. Tell about a situation in which you helped a person or taught a significant lesson.
  3. Describe your perfect day. 
  4. What kinds of problems do people bring to you? 
  5. If your life works out the best you can imagine, what will you be doing in five years?
  6. How do you maintain balance in your life? What do you do for fun?

Access the full article to understand how to read between the lines of potential answers to each of these questions.

Hiring the Best – Author Mary Clement offers suggestions for gathering objective data through the hiring process starting with how to post your open position/s to how to structure the interview using behavior-based questions. She notes that clarifying what skills and dispositions are critical to the position will facilitate your decision-making. 

Still looking for more information about behavior-based interviewing? Additional resources from Mary Clement are available here.

Share your best hiring resources via Twitter using the hashtag #saihirebest

Leading Learning—Leading High Expectations Teaching

What is the principal’s role in motivating teachers to reach the most challenging of students and the most struggling of learners? John Saphier’s article in this month’s Principal magazine articulates leadership behaviors to cultivate a growth mindset in teachers.

Saphier discusses the history of a fixed mindset in American education and notes the recent emphasis on growth mindset as a point of leverage for successful principals. Principals who have adapted their language, behavior and instructional decision-making to reflect a growth mindset and who have supported teachers in doing the same have been able to narrow the achievement gap. These language and behavior changes are anchored in three key messages:

  • What we’re doing is important;
  • You can do it; and
  • I’m not going to give up on you.

Helping teachers cultivate a growth mindset is only part of the equation; principals have a role in supporting teachers in changing the mindset of students as well. Teachers need to help students believe that smart is something they can get. This can be especially challenging when certain sub-groups of students may have spent their lives believing they have low ability and low potential. All members of the learning organization will need to come face to face with their own belief systems, their own doubts. Focusing on communicating high expectations for all learners and then creating an environment that is relentless in its emphasis on the above three messages will support this shift.

Specifically, principals should consider learning alongside their staff as they…

  1. Review the history of beliefs about I.Q. that have led us to where we are today;
  2. Study recent evidence refuting the notion of I.Q. as fixed;
  3. Examine how our language communicates messages about our beliefs in students’ abilities to learn (for example, how we respond to student requests for help sends powerful messages about our beliefs);
  4. Create student agency through frequent formative assessment that helps students see their progress, affirms their responsibility in doing well, and enforces the message that they can do well;
  5. Help clarify what success looks like so all students understand what they need to do to be proficient;
  6. Design lessons that explicitly teach study skills; and
  7. Develop opportunities for student choice and voice.

Resource: 50 Ways to Get Students to Believe in Themselves 

Learn more about high expectations teaching:

The Principal's Role in High Expectations Teaching – subscription required 

High Expectations Teaching: How We Persuade Students to Believe and Act on "Smart Is Something You Can Get"

Leading Learning—Social Emotional Learning and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Learn your own ACE score and what students’ ACE score means for your leadership. Apply the Trauma-Sensitive School Checklist to your building to assess the degree to which your building is trauma-sensitive.

This month’s Kappan magazine delves into social emotional learning, highlighting the impact of adverse childhood experiences on our students. More than half of students enrolled in public schools across our country have faced traumatic or adverse experiences. Examples include divorce, a parent or sibling with mental health issues, a relative incarcerated, parents with substance abuse issues, domestic violence, gang violence, and a multitude of others which influence a student’s school day. The greater the number of adverse experiences (see ACE Questionnaire), the greater the likelihood and severity of health problems as adults.

Children who face trauma and/or adverse experiences generally fight, flee, or freeze – the typical response to stress. This chronic stress under which they live actually changes their brains in a negative way resulting in poor health and poor cognitive function. The implications for learning are vast. These students can be too stressed or scared to learn. They struggle to trust which leads to inability to develop secure relationships. Because they don’t feel safe, they often either lash out with inappropriate behavior or withdraw. Their defiance or inattention can be perceived by teachers as intentional. Often, the outward manifestation of traumatic and/or adverse experiences can be misunderstood by educators.

The good news is that though learning is impeded by trauma, learning can also heal. The first step is in establishing a safe and secure environment. Simultaneously, we need to continue to hold high expectations for these and all students. Once students feel safe, they can develop the habits to succeed academically as well as cultivate positive relationships. Teachers will need help and support in filtering a student’s misbehavior or subdued attitude through the lens of trauma. Teaching specific social-emotional skills and self-regulation can be effective strategies to support students who have experienced trauma. A number of programs to support the implementation of social and emotional learning and trauma-sensitive schools are available—the challenge is in finding a time and place for this professional learning amidst the many other demands on administrators’ and teachers’ time.

You might find some places to start at the Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity site. They provide a number of linked articles and tools to spark your thinking and move you toward a deeper understanding of students with adverse childhood experiences.

The full article is available here - subscription required

ACE Questionnaire

Trauma-Sensitive School Checklist

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!