Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join
Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals
Blog Home All Blogs
Mentoring Matters is a series of posts designed primarily for the use of mentors and mentees in SAI's Mentoring and Induction Program. All SAI members can also benefit from the assorted content.


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: leadership-life fit  AP Week  communications  distance learning  distance learning grading  leadership  mental health  monthly checklists  online instruction 

Leadership-life Fit—Taking Care of Others Starts with Taking Care of You

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, May 11, 2020

Many are depending on you for their frontline mental and emotional support. Be sure you have the energy you need to serve them well by tending to yourself first. These big ideas can help you stay strong. 

Tags:  leadership-life fit 

PermalinkComments (0)

Leadership Impact—Your Leadership Identity, Mission, Purpose, and Vision

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, May 11, 2020

Is your school a better school because you lead it? Baruti Kafele delves into this question by breaking it down into a variety of reflective questions to help you gain clarity and insight into your impact as a leader—a great way to assess this school year and gear up for next! Working through these questions and the article in your mentoring partnership would be a powerful way to collaborate around strategies for increasing your effectiveness. 


In an article in Educational Leadership, Kafele challenges us to think about our leadership identity, mission, purpose and vision (read the full article): 


What is your identity?  

What does your presence mean in the eyes of your students, staff, parents, and the community?  

When your students and staff see or think of you, what comes to mind?  

Does your leadership identity affect the climate, culture, and achievement in your school?  

Is how you see yourself consistent with how others view you? 

What, if any, shifts do you want to make in your identity as a principal moving into the 2020-21 school year? What will that mean in terms of your leadership behaviors? 

How have the recent weeks shifted how you see yourself? How your students, staff, and parents see you? 


What is your mission (your what—what is your work about)? 

With all that is on your plate, what's the one thing you feel you must absolutely accomplish?  

What drives you above all else and keeps you up at night?  

What is your leadership mission? 


What is your purpose (your why—why do you do it)? 

Why specifically do you do this work?  

Why did you make the decision to lead a school? 


What do you value and are you living in alignment with your values? (Your response to these questions helps surface values) 

What brings you joy? 

How do you spend your time? 

With whom do you spend your time? 

How do you spend your money?


What is your vision for leadership and for your school?

As a leader, how will your skills evolve? 

How will you improve and become more effective as a leader one year from today? 

What will this improvement look like? 

Where will your school be in five years as a result of your direction?

To what heights will it rise because you are at the helm? 

In what way will it distinguish itself from other schools?


Are you having the impact you want to have? How do you know? 

Tags:  leadership 


Leading Teachers through the Shift to Online Instruction

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, May 11, 2020

Do I focus on their attitudes and beliefs about online instruction? The practices that best support online learning? Student results? Which comes first in the change process?  

Thomas Guskey notes that most professional learning follows this order: 

  1. Change teachers’ attitudes/beliefs about a practice or approach.

  2. Then, implement the new practice.

  3. Then, get results.

However, little success derives from trying to change peoples’ attitudes and beliefs. The key is in changing the experience. Leaders need to identify which practices, adapted to their context, will be most successful in increasing learning for their students as evidenced by research or other success stories. Using evidence or research-based practices significantly increases the likelihood of success in each context, which contributes to teacher efficacy. When teachers see their work has resulted in positive change in student learning, they believe more strongly that their efforts matter. They grow in their confidence to try additional new strategies and practices. 


Change produces anxiety—the fear of the unknown, and it feels threatening. Taking a risk means I might fail, which runs counter to teachers’ commitment that every student learn. Consequently, they hold fast to what they believe has worked in spite of evidence that shows another approach would likely work better. 


This is why it's so important to avoid implementing new practices that are not correlated to success and impact. Unproven practices increase the possibility that teachers will see their efforts as disconnected from student learning. Such practices contribute to low self-efficacy—teachers’ belief that their work doesn’t make a difference. This does not mean that schools should not innovate. It means that leaders should be aware of their teachers’ sense of self-efficacy and collective efficacy. The stronger the teachers’ beliefs that they make an impact for their students, the greater flexibility in being able to choose among promising practices.


In our current context, many teachers who have not experience online or distance learning are feeling anxious, threatened, and uncertain—some to a greater degree than others. More experienced teachers have spent years teaching in ways that they believe has resulted in success. For them this new context is even more unsettling. The leader can help in several ways: 

  1. Identify evidenced based instructional practices to support online learning—the higher the rate of success with a particular approach, the likelier the teacher will experience success sooner and begin to grow his/her confidence. For exampleasynchronous online discussion boards are an effective tool for developing and enhancing critical thinking skills and writing in online. They also improve results in face-to-face classes.

  2. Discuss what adaptations might be needed in your particular context. Be aware of the teacher’s workload and the demands of the new practice. What key components of the approach are necessary to maintain the fidelity of implementation in order to get the expected results? For example, several key elements of successful use of the online discussion include clear expectations for posting, opportunities for interaction, use of highlighting and commenting functions, and rating of posts. What adaptations of these elements, while still maintaining the intent, may be needed in your context?

  3. Provide the teacher regular feedback. Help him/her to notice and celebrate successes. For example, with the teacher’s permission, participate in a discussion forum with students. Note what goes well and celebrate that with the teacher. Invite the teacher to discuss the challenges in dealing with an online discussion board and prompt his/her brainstorming of solutions.


Encouraging and expecting teachers to take small steps and then celebrating their victories builds their confidence and subsequently their willingness to take another step into the unknown. Behavior precedes change in attitude and belief. 


Discussion questions for mentoring partnership: 

  1. What do your teachers currently believe about online learning or learning through multiple mediums?

  2. How do you currently lead change? 

  3. What expectations do you have for teachers to engage their students in learning face-to-face? Online?

  4. How are you supporting them?

  5. What does your feedback look like? Sound like?

  6. What have you celebrated?

Tags:  online instruction 


Leading with Mental Health in Mind

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, May 11, 2020

Connect with any of these resources to better understand anxiety and how to support your students and teachers who suffer from it, particularly in our current context. 


No one-size-fits-all treatment will address all those who suffer anxiety. This makes it especially challenging to serve their needs; however, these practical resources can pave the way to better understanding anxiety and strategies to support both students and staff. 

  1. Teachers Are Anxious and Overwhelmed. They Need SEL Now More Than Ever.

  2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America - … “a leader in education, training, and research for anxiety, depression and related disorders.”

  3. National Alliance on Mental Health - Learn about anxiety disorders and options for treatments as well as strategies for caring for those who have the disorder.

  4. Apple Podcast: Panic Attack Recovery - This series of podcasts includes contributions from those who have suffered anxiety and how they have navigated their disorder.

  5. NPR Podcast: Helping kids with anxiety.

  6. What to Say (and Not to Say) to Someone with Anxiety

  7. Mental Health First Aid – How to Help Someone with Anxiety.

  8. Classroom Interventions for Children with Anxiety Disorders (medically reviewed article)

  9. State of Iowa Mental and Behavioral Health Resources

Tags:  mental health 


Monthly Checklist

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, May 11, 2020
Updated: Monday, May 11, 2020

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!  

Tags:  monthly checklists 


Leadership-life Fit—Stability in Tumultuous Times

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, April 6, 2020

Build your resiliency and stay grounded in the midst of chaos with these impactful practices.

Tags:  leadership-life fit 


Celebrating Your Assistant Principal/s

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, April 6, 2020

National Assistant Principals Week begins April 6. NASSP offers a variety of activities for honoring your AP. 

  • Send an e-card 

  • Send a handwritten note/card 

  • Acknowledge your AP on your school’s social media platforms 

  • Engage student group/s in celebrating the work of your AP—they might write notes of appreciation or send a video message 

  • Prior to your next virtual administrative team meeting, ask each of your colleagues to reflect on what they appreciate about your AP. Start the meeting with a surprise appreciation shower. 

  • Host a celebratory reception—virtually at the present time. Schedule a 15 minute ZOOM where the only purpose is to recognize your AP.  


Check out NASSP’s recognition page for additional resources to recognize your AP! Process additional ideas in your mentoring partnership. 

Tags:  AP Week 


Grading Students During the Coronavirus

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, April 6, 2020

This EdWeek article discusses the complexities of assigning grades and how grading might be approached during this time of distance learning. 


It poses the question of how to assign grades amid so much variability—from access to the internet to student access to teachers. Yet, if grades are not awarded, then do schools unintentionally communicate that the rest of the school year doesn’t really matterThe author claims it comes down to the questions: What is the point of grading, anyway? And how might it need to evolve in the age of the coronavirus? 


The article goes on to discuss examples of approaches to grading: 

  • Performance-Focused Feedback – Teachers focus on feedback relative to performance of the standards/s. 

  • Grade Maintenance – Students “maintain” their current grade through participation in online learning work. If students want to improve their current grade, they have that opportunity.  

  • Pass/Fail or Pass/No Credit – Many colleges nationwide are supporting this system for grading this quarter or semester, and a number of K-12's are following along. Students who don’t earn credit would have opportunity in the summer to do so. 

  • Freeze grading – only give feedback. 


Tags:  distance learning grading 


What to Say When You’re Put on the Spot​

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, April 6, 2020

Dan Rockwell offers several “go-to” lines that will help you stay authentic and connected when you’re confronted with a spontaneous conversation. Additionally, you can buy yourself some “think time”: 

-   Your concern is important to me. I wish I had an easy answer. 

-   Wow, that’s an important issue. That’s on my to-do list. 

-   Great suggestion. I’m going to need some time to think about it. 

-   Thanks for bringing that up. What are your thoughts? 

-   This issue affects lots of people. I can’t shoot from the hip. What are your thoughts? 

In your mentoring partnership, add to this list!!  

Tags:  communications 


Schooling or Learning?​

Posted By Dana Schon, Monday, April 6, 2020

Technology can potentially exacerbate inequities. How do we shift systemically to support all students in learning during this crisis? Greg Sommers at Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership offers five considerations for transforming the student experience.

  1. Relationships! Relationships! Relationships! Re-establish connections for every out-of-school student in this country with a caring adult from their school.  

  2. Brainstorm ways to engage students in learning. Rather than “move through” the curriculum, innovate to bring students “into the curriculum.”

  3. Develop better ways to scaffold student skills for reflection and metacognition. The 1:1 or 1:few agility that technology offers can be advantageous for accomplishing this.

  4. Create online spaces that support students in growing their self-efficacy by providing them opportunities to refine and revise as opposed to simply complete. 

  5. Ensure effective communication. As students rely on technology for a greater share of their communication, they’ll need feedback on the best ways to communicate with different audiences and purposes. 

Tags:  distance learning