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Mentoring Matters for Superintendents: 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!

System Leader – Supporting the System in Navigating Challenging Student Behaviors

When staff members are overwhelmed by difficult student behaviors or get caught up in the “mess of the moment,” they may struggle to respond in a productive way. How can trauma-informed care support your system in productively navigating challenging behaviors?

This month’s Educational Leadership offers free access to this article about the impact of childhood adversity on students’ behavior and academic performance. Following is a brief summary if you don’t have time to read the full article:

Students who have experienced adversity in childhood tend to operate from a state of stress. This stress results in what the author calls dysregulation, evidenced by inappropriate behaviors and inability to focus on the learning. (The ACEs assessment provides data regarding the impact of trauma on a student’s life and is freely available. There's also a resilience assessment at the end of the ACEs assessment post. The primary source of information for the ACEs study is the CDC.)

Prior to such melt-down moments, we are encouraged to take a moment to reflect on the bigger picture:

1. What goals do we have for this particularly challenging student?
2. What outcomes do we want?
3. What trust does the student have in me/our system?
4. Does the student share the same goals we have?

We are also reminded that belaboring the lack of resources can keep us focused on problems rather than solutions. We are not islands and have others who can come to the table to help us consider how we can best serve these students.

By recommitting to our greater purpose in working with a particular student, we can set ourselves up to engage more effectively in moments of conflict and difficulty. Six strategies to support our work with students who have experienced adversity and/or trauma:

1. What need is underlying the presenting behavior?
2. Know your students’ strengths, passions, interests, goals, etc.
3. Ensure kids feel safe—what can your district do to make kids feel welcomed and wanted? (one building engaged in a welcome/exit ritual and saw a change in behavior and culture within two weeks).
4. Operate as a team—these are OUR students, not yours, mine or theirs.
5. Question whether basic needs are being met. (We may need to HALT - hungry, anxious, lonely, or tired – to determine the cause of the behavior disruption and remedy that basic need.
6. Extend grace.

Culture Driver—Positive Accountability Breeds Happiness

What shared purpose and clearly articulated goal is driving you and your administrative team? What goal do you principals share with their staff?

This article from Inc. reveals three strategies that leverage accountability to contribute to a positive culture.

Vision Keeper—Living the Vision Daily to Align the Work

With sugar plums and cocoa at hand, you might consider taking time to revisit your vision during winter break—what do you want your district to become? Where are you in your journey? Why are you committed to this vision? A Forbes article this month reminds us of the daily responsibility of the leader in keeping the vision.

As you approach the half-way point in the school year, you may find value in setting aside time to reflect on your vision—how has it shifted? What goals toward it have you accomplished? How have you celebrated? What’s the next step? How do you live and model your vision daily?

Why does this vision motivate you? How do you know it’s shared by others in your district? Can each member of your administrative team describe the vision?

The Forbes article offers additional insight and detail to the value of stewarding the vision.

Monthly calendar and 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!