Being named the school principal is the greatest accomplishment for aspiring school leaders, as they now get the opportunity to live out their vision for creating an amazing school environment for staff and students. With their new title comes a new office, a new desk, and possibly even a secretary. Their name now appears on all school letterhead, as well as above the “Principal” name plate on their office door. They are officially the leader of their new school, and the demands of the job begin on day one. There are a thousand decisions that need to be made before the first day of school. It begins with scheduling, hiring, purchase orders, class lists, retentions, etc. And, let us not forget, that time needs to be made to talk with all teachers, build trusting relationships, and create a shared vision with staff and community. Staff surveys need to be created and the data analyzed so that they can begin planning professional development for the upcoming school year. They need to schedule meetings over the summer with all their different teams to plan out how they will proceed in the upcoming year. Staff and parent handbooks need to be updated and modified to reflect their thoughts and beliefs. Community meetings need to be planned out, and summer meetings with PTA and other key community stakeholders must be held. While all this is going on, they need to learn everything they can about the culture of their school, beliefs and traditions, and what the school data says to inform their decision making. Sounds easy right? Did I mention that this happens every summer, whether you are a seasoned veteran, or new to the position?
The role of the principal is not easy, and it is not for everyone, but it is the most rewarding leadership position you can have. You are able to work side by side with amazingly talented teachers; positively influence every student in your school; and create partnerships with families to ensure their child's educational journey is a successful one. To accomplish this, it requires you to be present and involved in your school.
It starts with an understanding that there is a fundamental difference in thinking between a leader and a manager, and by leading outside the four walls of your office. You have to make a promise to yourself to get out and be an active leader. A leader who is willing to engage every stakeholder in their school, both inside and outside of the school building. It requires you to make a commitment to yourself to not get bogged down by all the paperwork and daily issues. Move beyond the desk to work side by side with teachers so you can ensure that you are building a culture that includes an “all-in” mindset.
Here are my suggestions to help all school leaders move beyond the desk:
Every school leader gets caught up in the daily grind of management, as I know I have been guilty of it myself. This is why we must be intentional with our desire to lead from beyond the desk to ensure the success of our schools.
I would love to hear your thoughts about the idea of leading beyond the desk. Please share them in the comment section below or reach out to me on Twitter at @rbreyer51.
Last night, I had the opportunity to participate in the #edchatph Twitter chat where we discussed the topic of homework: pros, cons, kinds, less homework, no homework, re-imagined homework. As with any conversation around homework, you found educators on both sides of the topic. This blog post is intended to highlight some of the great ideas that were shared during our chat. Our first question focused around why there is a debate around homework, and @teacherasleader posted this great list.
I think too many educators struggle with the idea of getting rid of homework, because it has been so ingrained for too long in the educational world, that it is hard for them to let go. In my opinion, it is also directly influenced by "we have always done it that way" mentality. Pran Patel made a great point that many teachers assign homework due to policy, and because of pedagogical gain.
Research has proven that homework in primary school has an effect of ZERO when it comes to student achievement according to John Hattie. (Read More Here) He goes on to say that we should not get rid of it all together, even if it is not making much of a difference, but rather find ways to improve on it.
Ryan Persaud mentioned that he got rid of homework in elementary school, and asked that students take time to play and read for 20 minutes at night. In fact, this was a common theme throughout the chat.
Tonya Gilchrist says that the only homework she assigns is for her students to read books that they love. And, Mark Levine sees reading as the "essential homework". In my mind, they are both building a "Culture of Readers".
If homework is going to be assigned, then it should be a tool to assess mastery of a concept. After reviewing the homework, if that mastery has not occurred, then educators must use it as a review during small group interventions to help students better understand and develop the skills need to master the concept.
Ideally, we need to ensure that homework is meaningful and purposeful for our students. Alfonso Mangubat posted that "homework should help students reflect on their learning, take stock of ideas gained, and connect it to new ones."
What about grading homework? Grading homework is not an equitable process in schools, as so many kids today go home to empty houses, and have little to no support with their doing their homework. Tyler Arnold made a truly powerful point, that if a kid doesn't do their homework for any reason, we penalize them. How is this spurring a love of learning in our students?
If we are going to continue the practice of assigning homework, we need to find some new and creative ways to engage students in the learning process. Teachers As Leaders mentioned ideas from Kathleen Cushman's book 'Fires In The Mind' that give some great alternatives to traditional homework.
If homework must be assigned, then I am all for homework that gets parents and children talking about what they have learned. Homework could simply require a child to spend 5 to 10 minutes a night talking to their parents about what they learned that day in school. Better yet, we could ask students to go home and read a specific book, or article, and then discuss it with their parents. Linda Edwards goes even further as she uses technology to allow students to record what they learned for their parents, and then the parents are able to respond via Flipgrid.
At the end of our chat, Lauren Porosoff share some question that parents can ask students about their school day. This reproducible is from her book 'Empower Your Students: Tools to Inspire a Meaningful School Experience.'
The purpose of this post, was not to get you to stop giving homework, but rather to get you thinking about whether or not it is beneficial for students, and how can we improve on our homework practices.
I would love to hear your thoughts about assigning homework. Please share them in the comment section below.
There were so many great things shared last night, that I highly recommend that you visit #edchatPH on Twitter and explore the entire conversation.
As 2018 is coming to an end, I am reflecting on all the books that I have read this past year. Reading is so very important for personal growth. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” It is also important to keep your brain strong and healthy. I have been in numerous chats this past year with Adam Welcome, and talking about the importance of making time for us, and keeping our bodies healthy. We go to the gym and do cardio to keep our cardiovascular and muscular systems in top shape. Well, reading is the gym for our brains. The more we read, the stronger our brains get.
I know, I know. You are too busy to find time to read daily. I get it, and I understand better than most. I am a father of four munchkins (10 yr old boy, 6 yr old girl, and two 2 yr old girls), a husband to my beautiful wife Jen, proud school principal, little league coach, active Mason in my local community, and active on the board of the HOA for my community. Not to mention, I write my own monthly blog and participate in multiple Twitter chats weekly. I understand “busy” all too well!
You may be asking yourself, “how does he find time?” My car ride is 35 minutes to, and from, work each day and I utilize this time in the car to listen to books on Audible. I get a new book every month and I don’t lose a second of the day with my family. This is by far the best twenty dollars I spend a month, and one of the best investments I could ever suggest to any person. I also take time to read on Kindle, when putting my girls down to bed, or after my wife goes to bed and I have a little time to myself.
Here is a list of books that I read this past year and they are in no particular order. All these books had a positive impact on me, as a professional and as a person, and I recommend all of them for your reading pleasure this coming year.
Books on School Culture:
Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes
by Jimmy Casas
School Culture Rewired: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker
Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff by Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf
The Pepper Effect: Tap into the Magic of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation by Sean Gaillard
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek
The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap: Small Ideas That Lead to Big Impact by Daniel Bauer
17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong: Strategies That Engage Students, Promote Active Learning, and Boost Achievement by John V. Antonetti & James R. Garver
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
The Four O’Clock Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development by Rich Czyz
Origin by Dan Brown
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War by Michael A. Halleran
My Leadership Challenge to you in 2019 is to ask for you to make time to read for 15 or 20 minutes every single day. Allow yourself to read more, learn more, and go further than you ever expected! Wishing you the very best in 2019!
Here are some of the books I am starting in 2019:
Kids Deserve It!: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome
The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It? by Baruti K. Kafele
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
Last month I found out that I had been selected by the Friday Institute to participate in their NC Digital Leaders Coaching Network (NCDLCN). Through this program I will have the opportunity collaborate and learn from some of the best coaches in NC and I will have the opportunity to fine-tune my own coaching skills. This past Monday and Tuesday we had our first two sessions, and they were intense and amazing. I came home with some great strategies and professional development to try with my staff and students. In fact, this Thursday I will be using several of the activities to teach my AIG students.
The expectations for NCDLCN are that every participant will Grow, Connect, and Lead. They made this a very achievable goal, as I was blessed to have been placed on an amazing team, who share my same passion for enhancing the educational experience for students, and helping young leaders grow and develop. I highly recommend that you follow @KyleHamstra, @AlwaysScience1, and @tifftr1 on Twitter.
Some of the different coaching hats a school administrator wears:
When talking to another colleague about my experience this past week, they asked me why I was attending training for coaches. “Are you looking to become an instructional coach?” they asked. Although I knew they were joking, I was still perplexed by their question as they were also a principal. Don't all principals consider themselves coaches? Don’t all administrators want to sharpen their own skills at providing feedback, and helping those they serve reach new levels in their performance? Isn’t every school leader looking for new ways to inspire their staff, and provide them with new ideas that will engage and excite their students about what they are learning? In my opinion, understanding what it is to be a coach and improving your coaching skills, could have a direct impact on your effectiveness as a school leader.
So what makes a coach great? Here are the 4 things that every educational coach should do to have a positive impact on those they serve:
I feel that it is imperative for all school leaders take time to invest in their own growth, so that they can ensure that those they serve will continue to grow and succeed. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow as a coach, and to fill up my toolbox as school administrator.
If you want to know more about the Friday Institute click here.
(Check out the images below to see some of the great stuff we experienced during our two days)