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Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary 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—Growing Grit

What do teachers need to do to cultivate perseverance and stick-to-itiveness—i.e., GRIT? And what does this mean for principals? This month’s Principal Leadership tells us!

Four key practice of teachers and related behaviors of principals lead to increased grit in students:

Teacher Practices:

  1. High Expectations—Developing grit begins with establishing high expectations. If the mark is too low, students won’t have the opportunity to understand how commitment of time and effort result in achievement. By setting high expectations and communicating the belief that these expectations are important, all students can attain them through effort over time, and the teacher will be there to help and support, teachers lay the foundation upon which grit is built.
  2. Growth Mindset—Attributing success to students’ effort rather than intelligence sends the message that by persevering, all students can achieve. The obstacles and frustrations students experience can be overcome with effort over time.
  3. Passion—When teachers share their passion for their subject, they help to elicit passion in students. When we feel passionate about our work, we are more likely to persist in the face of difficulty.
  4. Class Mission—Creating a class mission provides a purpose and destination for the work during the course of the semester or trimester or year. Teachers can tell the success stories of those who have overcome frustration and obstacles to master the challenges not only in their learning but in their lives.

Principal Practices:

Principals should establish a high-expectations learning culture and model a growth mindset themselves. They will need to be prepared for initial resistance from students and parents when students feel the expectations are too high or the learning too difficult. The role of the principal will be to reassure the students and parents that yes, the demands are high, the learning is important, the student can do it, and we have a system in place to help. This is a great opportunity for leaders to model their own grit!

Principals may also want to consider developing an alumni network whose members can serve as role models and examples of those whose grit might inspire current students.

Read the full article by Jim Fornaciari in Principal Leadership (subscription required).

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!