How to RAISE Yourself as a Leader

There are many responsibilities that the principal has throughout the year.  Principals are the instructional leader, motivator, assessment coordinator, many times counselor, behavior specialists among many other roles.

As you continue your growth this year as a principal, we want to offer you some strategies that will assist you to RAISE your leadership.  The topics we will be sharing are around Relationships, Assessments, how to Inspire, Shared Leadership, and how to Elevate.  It is essential to foster your own growth, so in turn you can support the growth of your students and staff.

Relationships

Relationships with students, staff, and parents are critical to a successful learning environment. Take time to be visible, students need to know you are around and that you have a good relationship with staff.

Dorothy once had a student tell her, “I like coming to school because you have fun with the teachers.”  She thought, Yes, I do, but did not think about how students felt a sense of joy in knowing that the adults get along and enjoy each other.

According to Payne (2003), for students from backgrounds of poverty, their primary motivation for success would be in their relationships.  

Tips to build relationships:
  • Staff members like to know in advance of upcoming events at the school and in the district, so remember to provide consistent communication by having a weekly or monthly schedule available and send it to the staff.
  • Try a Friday note, this technique asks for feedback from the staff.  The Friday note had teachers indicate their thoughts for the week, any custodial needs they had, and any positives they would like to share.
  • Be present by pocketing your phone and picking up your head as you walk purposefully through the building.  Take time to notice and acknowledge the people around you.

Assessments

Common assessments are significant in examining data and having consistency around student data and among staff.  Data is the protein in a diet for continuous improvement.  Data by itself doesn’t affect change.  It requires a process of predicting, analyzing, and asking “why?” to get to the root cause and form strategies.

Done in isolation, this can be insightful; but when done collaboratively, the desire and accountability to implement change in practice becomes contagious and real.  Staff working together with data reviews, data carousels or data gallery walks are powerful.  Staff are able to take time to process student data, discuss, review, and plan together.

There are many methods of analyzing data, but as a school/district you want a consistent process that all staff can understand and participate.

We recommend watching:

Inspire

Administrators often feel swamped and have so many irons in the fire, but remember the staff needs you!  You must have the focus and you must be present with staff to show you enjoy your job and are there to support them.  You must inspire staff and provide relevant resources so they can excel in their profession.

If you are not having fun at work…then you are just at work.  Staff, parents, and students know when you have enthusiasm for your work, your motivation is contagious.  Inserting staff positive examples in your week’s schedule and quick motivational quotes and video clips are well received from staff.

If you see success and highly effective instruction happening, share these examples with staff at a staff meeting.  You don’t want to start out your staff meetings with items you can communicate via email.  Start out the meeting with a collaborative activity, get staff moving around so they do not try to plant themselves by the same person each meeting.

You are the lead teacher of the staff, we want to see highly effective teaching and learning!

Shared Leadership

Empowering teacher leaders is critical.  A strategy to achieve this is Classroom Learning Labs.  Being a great principal is more than having a mission focused on all students succeeding.

“Effective leadership means more than knowing what to do—it’s knowing when, how, and why to do it” (Waters, Marzano, McNulty, 2003). 

Through articulating a clear vision, developing and empowering teacher and student leadership structures, collecting and analyzing both student performance and perception data, setting goals in alignment with the vision based on this data, monitoring instruction, being highly visible in classrooms, holding students and staff accountable to school-wide expectations, and through relentless positive affirmation, a school culture develops which supports both student and adult learning.

Through these efforts, trusting relationships are forged. In due time, staff and students claim ownership to the culture they have been a part of forming and students and staff who are new to this culture embrace it as the way of the organization. The principal must be cognizant to consistently model the cultural norms and must also be willing to allow others to have a hand in shaping and leading this effort.

At Kent ISD, we are very fortunate to have implemented Classroom Learning Labs (CLL) in a formalized structure in all of our Kent ISD Secondary Programs over the last two years. Classroom Learning Labs allows peer observation under a guided protocol process that promotes collaborative educator learning.  The impact of Classroom Learning Labs on teacher efficacy, teacher professional growth, instructional quality in our classrooms, and collaboration amongst staff has been nothing short of the most transformational change to the craft of teaching.

The results have been teachers, both new and veteran, who are reflective and speaking a whole new dialogue about student engagement, student learning, academic conversations, looking at data, providing feedback and accepting feedback. Instructors have tied their evaluative goals to this work and are excited to be a part of a learning community.

Sign Up for Classroom Learning Lab Professional Learning:

Elevate

Elevate yourself, then in turn you will elevate others.  Some ideas for you to grow are professional books, online courses, workshops, learning videos, Twitter, and podcasts.   Select your professional development carefully, use recommended resources from colleagues.

Teachers need to stay up to date on instruction and assessment, so do administrators.  Remember, you are the teacher of teachers and need to be current in your learning regarding teaching and learning, special education, policies, among other topics.  Teachers will turn to you for guidance, input and advice, so be prepared to share your learning.  If you do not feel solid on a topic, be honest and tell them you will do some more research and get back to them.

Share with staff grant opportunities, these may be though your local education foundation or through a company such as Office Max or MEEMIC.  Dorothy completed an Office Max application for a staff member and the staff member was awarded $1,000 for her classroom.  It really does not take long to complete the grant applications.  Email angelamorris@kentisd.org to sign up for Kent ISD’s grant newsletter.

As you continue to RAISE yourself, you are raising your staff and that is beneficial for the entire community of learners.  We appreciate our caring dedicated teachers and administrators.  Your love of students and teaching elevates us all to another level.

We are here to provide support and suggestions, please contact us if you have any questions, dorothyvanderjagt@kentisd.org (Twitter @ifireup) or johnkraus@kentisd.org (Twitter @JohnKrausKCTC)

This blog post was written by Dorothy VanderJagt, Educator Evaluation Consultant for Kent ISD and John Kraus, Campus Principal of Kent ISD Secondary Programs and edited by Amanda Walma, Professional Learning Coordinator at Kent ISD.

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