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Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: December 2019

Leadership-life Fit: Maximize your Morning

Morning routines set the stage for you to get more of what you want out of your day. This one-minute video adapted from the work of Benjamin Hardy promotes eight things before 8 a.m. to propel you toward your goals.



Growing in the AP Role – Leadership Lessons

A new AP reflects on her expectations for her role and the reality of the day-to-day. She explains how focusing on four key leadership behaviors has set her up for success.


As a teacher, now Assistant Principal Kalisa Wing recalls being dissatisfied with the highly negative culture and ineffective leadership in her building. That experience sparked her thinking about what school could and should be like. Shortly thereafter, she accepted her current position as AP. She discusses her first two months on the job in this blog post and what she has learned about the power of being present, communicating transparently, showing compassion, and maintaining composure. Read her blog post.


Questions for Consideration:

  • What from this AP’s experience resonates?

  • What did you expect the role to be like and what has been the reality? 

  • What have you learned about leadership that will serve you well moving forward?

Tending to Compassion Fatigue


Once a term associated with first responders, compassion fatigue has become a concern among all those on the front line serving the needs of traumatized individuals—teachers and principals included. What is compassion fatigue? How do I recognize it, and what do I do in response? 


What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is the negative impact over time on caregivers (teachers and principals) who serve the needs of traumatized students (and staff). School staff hear many heart-wrenching stories of student experiences—oftentimes from the same student who has had multiple traumatic experiences. 


How do I recognize it?

Symptoms can include a shift to a negative attitude, attributable to the feelings of frustration and hopelessness at the plight of some of these students of trauma; over-identification with those for whom one is caring; forsaking self-care in favor of care of others; and other symptoms of chronic stress like exhaustion, sleeplessness, low energy, and frequent colds and illness. Additionally, educators may be “burned out” and emotionally unavailable, not present. They may have a lower tolerance for frustration and an aversion to working with certain students, all of which pose a risk to their personal well-being and their job performance. (See NAESP’s Principal magazine this month – subscription required).


What do I do about it?

As with many problems, the first step toward addressing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the stress and its impact. Once you recognize you or your teachers and other staff may be suffering compassion fatigue, you can take strides to heal. This recognition may result from conversations you have with staff about how they are doing about how they’re handling the emotion associated with a particular student’s or students’ situation/s. Awareness is the key. You can still care for your students and your staff while re-directing some of your energy back toward yourself


Strategies that help heal compassion fatigue include…

  • regular exercise and/or movement

  • healthy eating habits

  • sufficient and restful sleep

  • social activities with family and friends

  • journaling

  • getting out and experiencing nature (not always ideal in Iowa in the winter)

  • healthy escapes and hobbies

  • reflecting on purpose – what renews you and gives you hope 


As leaders, we attend to the well-being of all those whom we serve; and to show up our best, we must first take care of ourselves. When we are healthy, resilient, and present, we are better able to see what our staff needs and help them to take care of themselves so that they can be healthy, resilient, and present for their students. 


For discussion in your mentoring partnership:

  • What indicators, if any, have you seen of compassion fatigue in your building?

  • How have you responded to concerns about “burnout”?

  • How do you promote self-care in your building?

  • In general, how do you support the health and well-being of staff? 


Having Difficult Conversations

Jennifer Abrams discusses techniques for engaging younger teachers in difficult conversations in both this video and blog. Also, access several “bonus” resources!


Get a brief summary of the book Difficult Conversations co-authored by one of our 2019 conference speakers, Sheila Heen.


Use this succinct checklist with support for reflecting on your intentions for the conversation, engaging in the conversation, and starting the conversation (questions and sentence starters). The author is an Aikido master and believes presence and energy significantly impact how we show up and the conversations we have—sound familiar? This aligns with the energy work of Anese Cavanaugh, which has been part of our leadership-life fit development!


Monthly Checklist:

These lists are intended as a guide

- elementary
- middle level and secondary

We encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!