Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: 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.

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