Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: October 2015

Leadership-life Fit:

Six limit-setting strategies to support your pursuit of a better leadership life fit!

Leading Learning—Having Hard Conversations:

Add this process and these tools to your repertoire to support you in engaging in the hard conversations you need to have.

The slide share complements the following resources and tools created from Jennifer Abrams’s book Having Hard Conversations.

Culture and Climate—The Daily Difference:

These 14 principles of school leadership from “Creating a Leadership Style” by Charles A. Bonnici in Principal Leadership remind us how important principals’ and assistant principals’ daily actions are in setting a positive tone for their schools.

1. Be a role model. 

  • Be visible.
  • Engage in professional conversations.
  • Teach a demonstration lesson for a teacher.
  • Show rather than tell what it is you want to see.
  • Remember actions speak louder than words.

2. Don’t exacerbate, defuse. 

  • Maintain composure amidst chaos.
  • Allow others to vent.
  • Model peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Show how to work toward consensus.

3. Speak a little, but listen a lot. 

  • Listen
  • Take notes on what others say and then address their.
  • Seek first to understand.

4. Give the credit, take the blame. 

  • Be ready with a solution.
  • Say “I’m sorry.”

5. Remember that people are more important than paper. 

  • Make people, not paper, the priority at all times.
  • Put systems in place complete paperwork efficiently to create time to build relationships with staff members, students, and parents.

6. Empower and delegate both. 

  • Train others to complete tasks appropriately, accept competency rather than perfection, and know which tasks should be personally handled and which can be safely delegated.

7. Be aware of workplace issues. 

  • Remember what it was like to be in the classroom.
  • Advocate when policies and guidelines fail to account for the reality of the classroom experience.

8. Get all your ducks in a row. 

  • Have private conversations with those who will be most affected by a decision before taking the issue to committee.
  • Identify a strategy for succession in hiring leadership positions in the building.

9. Maximize the positives; minimize the negatives. 

  • Train new staff members, discover and exploit their talents, and address their weaknesses to minimize their impact on teaching and learning.
  • Develop skill in fostering strengths and improving weaknesses.

10. Monitor communication. 

  • Review the most important documents and train key staff members to check other material and refer any possible problems back to them.
  • Know the law as it relates to student publications and electronic and social media.
  • Use care and discretion when dealing with the news media.

11. Remember the support staff. 

  • Supervise, and acknowledge the work of nonteaching staff members.

12. Mind the details. 

  • Pay attention to the details of running a school.
  • Ensure that students who are in emotional distress are quickly referred for help, that teachers can easily access instructional materials, and that students who need a program change receive one in a timely fashion.

13. Stay inside the box. 

  • Follow federal, state, and district rules and regulations as well as the provisions of staff members’ contracts.
  • Maneuver inside the box and stretch its sides.
  • Monitor research and trends to prepare for changes.

14. Remember what’s important. 

  • Serve the needs of students and their parents. 

Leading Learning—Leading and Teaching with a Sense of Urgency:

Phi Delta Kappan author and assistant principal, Joanne Kelleher, challenges us this month to create a sense of urgency to spark learning. She’s not talking about moving so fast we leave learners behind or racing to the top. She is talking about igniting the “spark of energy students need to engage in the difficult tasks” before them and then maximizing instructional time. Check out a list of look-fors in classrooms where urgency is valued by both students and teachers and see why the idea of urgency is gaining momentum.


What it is… What it isn’t…
A mindset of high expectations A race
Highly positive and focused energy Moving so quickly some learners are left behind
Practices that convey high expectations Skipping topics in order to move ahead
A set of characteristics that motivate and inspire learning An abstract focus on standardized tests and educational reform
Passion, enthusiasm, and energy     emanating from the teacher A faster is better proposition
Created and recreated Practicing for high-stakes tests

Establishing a sense of urgency

Look-fors when a classroom has a sense of urgency present:

  • Efficient classroom routines
    • Students know what supplies and materials they need and what to do once seated (anticipatory set).
    • Students know how much time they have to complete designated tasks.
    • Transitions are seamless—students know when and how to move from one activity to the next.
  • Every minute of instructional time is used.
  • Pacing – the teacher varies activities around the same topic to give the “illusion of speed.” Students like to feel they are doing something new and as though they are making progress. Effective pacing means students don’t feel rushed nor do they feel time is dragging.
  • Teacher feedback to students indicates the teacher values students’ efficient use of time.
  • Purposeful planning – attributes of lessons that create urgency
    • Student-generated short- and long-term goals.
    • Opportunities for students to collaborate with an expert in the field.
    • Student choice –studies show that providing choice is a quick way to increase student urgency.
    • Authentic, important tasks with opportunities for application beyond the classroom.
    • An audience for the work.

Citing John Hattie, Kelleher notes that teachers need to be “active, passionate, and engaged” in the act of teaching and learning. She contends that creating a sense of urgency engages students, helps them to focus, and energizes the learning.

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Questions for Reflection:

  1. What routines do your teachers use to maximize instructional time?
  2. How do teachers help students understand why the learning is valuable?
  3. How do you as leader of learning utilize routines to maximize professional learning time?
  4. How do you help staff understand the value of their professional learning?
  5. Do your staff know you are passionate about leading and learning?
  6. Is the spark in your eye shining brightly?
  7. What is the level of energy in your building?
  8. Where is that energy focused?
  9. Have your students identified goals for themselves? Have your teachers?
  10. What opportunities do your students have to collaborate with experts in the field?
  11. When do you collaborate with experts in the field?
  12. What is the sense of urgency among your staff? In your own leadership?

November Monthly Checklist: 

These lists—elementary and secondary—are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!