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Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: December 2017

Leadership-life Fit: Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Research shows that an “attitude of gratitude” can measurably improve your overall well-being and therefore improve your leadership-life fit. Watch this two-minute video to discover the science of gratitude and simple ways you can practice it!

Leading Learning—The Principal’s Role in Leading Schools to College and Career Readiness

Are you successfully preparing students for college and careers—are you engaged in “ambitious instructional leadership”? See what a recent study indicates principals need to know and do to lead higher academic standards and what factors enable or hinder principals in leading to these standards. Get concrete suggestions to support you in moving through three stages of development toward implementation of high-impact instructional changes.

Identified in the study are critical knowledge, critical conditions, and six key instructional leadership practices that have been shown to significantly impact students’ college and career readiness.

Critical Knowledge

1. Demands of CCR standards and aligned assessments – By studying the CCR standards and having familiarity with the state assessment, principals gain knowledge necessary to identify any potential gaps between the enacted curriculum in the building and what is being asked of students on the state assessment. The principal can see what adult learning needs to occur to address these gaps, and together, the leader and the staff can deepen their understanding of the standards and standards-aligned curriculum and instruction.

2. Ambitious instruction – Through understanding the “fundamentals of effective teaching, such as strong lesson and unit sequences; effective direct instruction, such as modeling and communication of complex ideas; appropriate balancing of direct instruction with academic discussion; and task rigor,” principals are able to respond with appropriate professional learning, coaching and feedback for staff.

3. Effective instructional leadership—Principals who understand how to build teacher capacity (build structures and schedules that support observation and collaboration, design data systems that facilitate teacher data analysis) and how to engage in goal-setting and how to lead and navigate change, have been successful in building a culture of learning.

Examples of these three types of knowledge.

Six Key Instructional Leadership Practices (See the chart on p. 5 of the Executive Summary for a comparison of standard instructional leadership and ambitious instructional leadership as aligned to each of the key practices. What distinguishes the two leaders is the intensity, quality and intentionality of implementation of these practices):

1.     Setting a vision for ambitious instruction
2.     Upgrading curriculum and instructional models
3.     Creating systems to support data-driven instruction
4.     Creating opportunities for individualization and intervention
5.     Creating systems for ongoing professional learning and collaboration
6.     Providing consistent coaching and feedback to teachers

Critical Conditions

Not directly related to CCR, but influential in ensuring students are college and career ready are three critical conditions:

1.     Effective talent management
2.     Maximized learning time
3.     High-quality professional learning culture.

Where to start?

Depending upon what practices and to what degree of intensity they already exist in your building will determine what you prioritize (see the chart on p. 5 of the Executive Summary).

If you’re just getting started, build knowledge about the standards and create a vision for instruction informed by the standards. Create a plan to move toward this vision and engage the appropriate stakeholders. Make any necessary changes to structures and schedules to maximize learning time.

In stage one of the three stages of development, you’ll want to grow your knowledge of the standards through repeated study—perhaps as part of the curriculum review processes. Engage staff in creating a CCR standards-aligned curriculum map. Stage one also includes building capacity for instructional leadership among teachers (TLC gives us a head start on this one!), and target a particular instructional focus for study.

By stage two, you’re defining and clarifying what rigor looks like in your school and you’re supporting rigorous instruction. You’re focusing on curriculum development and monitoring as well as sharpening the focus and frequency of your coaching and feedback.

In the final developmental stage, you’re releasing responsibility to staff to own their collective learning, engaging in cycles of inquiry to continue to study and improve curriculum as you move toward your vision, and you’re collaborating with teachers as they develop their individualized professional development plans—encouraging and supporting leadership development.

Delve more deeply into leading college and career readiness, by reading the Executive Summary or Full Report linked below!

Access the Executive Summary (5 p).

Access the Full Report (44 p).

Leading Learning—Student Motivation

A motivated student is a successful student, but as principal, how do you contribute to student motivation? What influence can you have? Read on to discover the single best place to start.

December’s Principal Leadership magazine introduces the Search Institute and their work specific to student motivation. They have designed the REACH Framework—Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition, and Heart – as the foundation to their student motivation program. Though they provide resources and professional learning support at a cost, they have made a publication, Relationships First: Creating Connections That Help Young People Thrive, available for free.

The single most powerful strategy we have for engaging our students and piquing their motivation is cultivating quality student-teacher and student-student relationships in our schools. The Search Institute defines a specific type of relationship – a developmental relationship—that has the most powerful impact. They explain that a relationship is developmental if it supports our students in discovering who they are, in developing abilities to shape their own lives, and in learning how to engage with and contribute to the world.  Five critical elements together influence students’ learning, growth, and thriving and form the foundation for a quality developmental relationship: Expressing Care, Challenging Growth, Providing Support, Sharing Power, and Expanding Possibilities. Please refer to the chart on p. 4 of the report for full explanation and details.

Two of the lowest scoring areas in student survey data regarding their perception of teachers who often or very often express care or help them expand their possibilities.

One study shows that middle school students who reported high levels of developmental relationships with their teachers were eight times more likely to stick with challenging tasks, enjoy working hard, and feel comfortable making mistakes in comparison with students who reported low levels of student-teacher relationships. They have found that when organizations are intentional about building relationships, student learning and outcomes are enhanced significantly.

Leading Like Santa

In this reflection of Santa as leader, the author discusses the CEO of Southwest Airlines and other leaders who exemplify the “Santa Style” amid significantly changing times. This commentary encourages us to think about “all that is good about being in charge.”

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!