Here’s my December article from NAESP’s Communicator:
During my first year as principal, I got into classrooms as much as possible. In my building, there was no previous practice of a principal presence in the classrooms other than the formal teacher observation on a three-year cycle. I made it a priority to get into classrooms to get to know teaching styles and the students, often just leaving a positive message on a Post-it note.
I started this year with the best intentions of not only getting into classrooms more, but leaving more meaningful feedback for teachers to promote further reflection and dialogue to improve student learning. At the start of the year, I met with each teacher to find out what teaching standard he or she would like me to focus on when I come into the classroom so I can tailor my feedback to each teacher’s goals.
To plan for this, my secretary and I came up with a strategy for her to manage my schedule so that both meeting and classroom time are marked on my calendar. I thought the plan was brilliant. However, I also took on additional duties this year as the district assessment coordinator (part of being in a small district). My plan did not account for how much time my new duties require. I am now ashamed to admit that I’m rarely in classrooms, to the point that a few kindergartners have mistaken the recess monitor as the principal.
I’d like to hear any time-management/organization tips that other principals have to make time for the classrooms and not stay in the office until 10 p.m. with paperwork.
I have not updated this blog in so long that I couldn’t even remember how to login! This new school year has been flying by, with very little extra time for me to get online at night. Why? Because I’m pregnant!! That’s right! I’m now 5 1/2 months pregnant and due in May. It’s quite exciting, but overwhelming at the same time.
Anyhow, I’ve been having a pretty successful year as a 2nd year principal and feel like we are making great progress at our school. It definitely feels better than last year. I was realizing the other day how much I have benefited from other principals I’ve connected with on the net and want to get this blog going again to put my communication out there.
For now, I’m going to copy/paste my articles that have been in the NAESP Communicator. I was excited to be selected as their mentor center principal for the year, because as I’ve read in previous years, many administators offered feedback. Unfortunately this year, the Communicator is now mostly online and you have to login to access it. So there has been very little feedback for me. I’m hoping that by also posting here, I will get more feedback.
Here was my article for October: Building a Culture of Collaboration
Throughout my first year as an elementary principal, I spent much time observing and learning about the school, its culture, and its history, and changing the things I could not live with. I worked hard with staff throughout the year in staff meetings and leadership team meetings to begin change processes to implement this school year. I thought my second year as principal would get easier, but now that I know how much work has to be done, it seems I’m working even harder than before. I still have hope that the third year will get easier.
Some changes at our school this year include: beginning stages of response to intervention and positive behavioral interventions and supports, school celebration assemblies, having the secretary manage my schedule and sort my mail, and meeting with each teacher to discuss his or her professional goals to tailor my classroom walkthrough feedback to individual goals. One other major change is providing biweekly substitute coverage (using ARRA stimulus funds) to allow grade levels to meet for collaboration during the school day. I have provided teachers with a meeting protocol to follow and take notes on that follows Dufour’s guiding questions for a professional learning community. I have found that some grade levels truly collaborate and accomplish great things together; however, other grade levels do not stay student focused or data-driven and revert back to venting or chatting if I’m not there to keep them on track.
I’m hoping administrators can offer some strategies or resources to help build the collaboration among grade levels so they are focused on student learning as a team, even when I’m not there in the meeting to monitor. I appreciate your input and hope that everyone is off to a great new school year!