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Mentoring Matters for Assistant/Associate Principals and Deans: March 2019

Leadership-life Fit—Meditative Moment

Try this 1-minute meditation to calm racing thoughts and return your focus to the present.


The Ever-Evolving Role of the Assistant Principal

In this article from NASSP, former National Assistant Principals of the Year discuss how the role of the AP has evolved over the last several years and highlight several key strategies to maximize your impact.

Impactful Practices of the Successful AP:

1. Learn the various elements of the system: curriculum, instruction, school safety, student supports, discipline, evaluation, data analysis, professional learning, and other areas that you will navigate in your leadership role.

2. Be clear about your principal’s vision, mission, values, and goals so you can carry them out.

3. Build your partnership and relationship with your principal so he/she knows and understands your strengths and areas where you can take the primary lead such that your strengths complement each other. Let your principal know your goals so he/she can create opportunities to help you achieve them.

4. Ask questions; keep learning.

5. Grow your relationship with your students, your guidance counselors, your teachers, your support staff, your superintendent and central office staff, parents, community support people,  and other stakeholders so that you have information and understanding to problem-solve and make decisions most effectively.

Read the full article (NASSP membership required)

Leading Learning—How well are you measuring learning?

Has your building determined what really matters in a contemporary education? Have you decided how to assess those things that matter? Have you considered how your assessments might enhance learning that matters, not just measure it?

Jay McTighe’s article in Educational Leadership explores these three essential questions. You can catch the summary below or read the full text.

Question 1: What matters in contemporary education?

McTighe offers four key educational goals of contemporary education and the type of teaching/assessment that best aligns to each:

Educational Goal:



#1 Knowledge:

What factual information and basic concepts should a student know?

Multiplication tables


Main characters from a story

Objective test or quiz

Teacher Questioning

#2 Basic Skills:

What skills should students be able to do to build competency and mastery?





Rubrics or other tool that measures along a continuum of proficiency from novice to expert

#3 Understanding:

What abstract or “big ideas” should students be able to understand?



Problem – solving


Assessment and instruction that requires students explain, justify, and defend with evidence. (generally, not multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank type assessments)

#4 Long-term Transfer:

What should students be able to do with their learning in new contexts or when facing new challenges down the road? What should they be able to transfer?

Cross-curricular units/goals

Habits of Mind

Critical Thinking

Authentic, performance-based tasks, with well-developed rubrics for evaluation


As McTighe notes, many transfer skills and abilities are those that are valued in the current work environment and sought on resumes as indicated in the following table from Job Outlook 2018. Interestingly, this report reflects a 10 percent increase from 2016 in both Problem-solving skills and Written communication skills. Leadership dropped from highest ranked to 4th in this same two-year span.



Problem-solving skills


Ability to work in a team


Communication skills (written)




Strong work ethic


Analytical/quantitative skills


Communication skills (verbal)








Technical skills


Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)


Computer skills


Organizational ability


Strategic planning skills




Friendly/outgoing personality




Entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker


Fluency in a foreign language


Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers 

Question 2: How should we assess the things that matter?

We need varied and multiple measures of assessment that reflect and align to the four different types of learning goals as previously identified. McTighe references a single photograph as being informative, but not as complete or thorough as an entire album. Different cameras, different lenses, and different contexts may produce different images of the same subject—how well are we incorporating a variety of “photos” as evidence of student learning across these four goals to get a complete picture? Or, are we overly dependent upon standardized and objective types of tests? Although these tests have a place in our album, have we included other assessments that show how students think, problem-solve, and transfer their learning to new contexts?

Question 3: How might assessments enhance learning rather than just measure it?

Authentic tasks and projects integrate learning and measurement. Rubrics guide performance and provide feedback from the start; tasks derive from a realistic setting and require transfer and application of skill and knowledge; and collaboration and problem-solving are expectations. These are just a few of the assessment practices that serve to enhance learning. 

What we monitor and what we measure communicate what we value. A shift in assessment practices necessitates a shift in instructional practices, both of which will require time and support for teachers. Still, the current demands of the workplace behoove us to create a systemic plan for redesigning how we determine what’s important and how we measure what’s important.

Leadership 101—10 Skills Great Principals Have That You’ll Never See on a Resume

The amalgamation of 1 percent—it’s the little things done consistently over time that have great impact. This list compiles those “little things” that affect your culture, climate, and leadership influence. Processing these reflective questions in your mentoring partnership can provide additional insight to the “little things” and offer an opportunity for growth. 

1. How do you grow professionally and how do you model and communicate your love of, and passion for, learning? What daily routine supports your personal/professional growth?

2. How do you navigate conflict between and among staff? Do you have a conversation template you follow?

3. What little things do you do that you’ve noticed contribute to a more positive culture?

4. Do you have any go-to lines or key questions you use to engage staff in conversation?

5. How do you collaborate and engage with your principal in order to create and present a ‘unified’ front?

6. What’s your “convenience store” story (your quick 2-3 sentences that celebrate a recent teaching and learning accomplishment in your building)? How do you decide on your story? What do you look for through your observations – both formal and informal?

Trust Is Foundational to Effecting Change—These Three Elements Will Help you Build It

These three elements will help you build the trust that is foundational to effecting change.

Trust underlies quality relationships and is fundamental to building collective efficacy (Remember—effect size of 1.57! This is like 4+ years of growth in a single year). Not surprisingly, higher levels of trust have been correlated to higher levels of student achievement (see the Byrk & Schneider study).

Trust is also a critical function of impactful leadership. A recent study by Zenger and Folkman identified variability in trust ratings attributable to three key elements. They note that by understanding these elements, leaders can elevate the trust others feel for them.

Element #1: Positive Relationships—trust is based on the leader’s ability to cultivate positive relationships.      

Leadership Behaviors and Practices that Influence Trust –Building in Relationships:

· Increase your awareness – know what the issues are and the concerns of your staff.

· Balance the push toward meeting school improvement goals with a concern and understanding for the well-being of your staff.

· Foster collaboration among staff – create a community of practice.

· Resolve conflict with others.

· Give honest, descriptive feedback that is actionable.

Element #2: Good Judgment and Expertise (Competence) - trust is also based on how well-informed and knowledgeable the leader is.

Leadership Behaviors and Practices that Influence Trust as Related to Competence:

· Use good judgment when making decisions.

· Build your knowledge and understanding of the multiple elements of your system such that you can make an informed contribution to decisions and problem-solving.

· Be situationally aware and present such that you can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.

Element #3: Walk the Talk (Be Consistent) - trust is based on consistency—your staff, parents, and students can depend upon you to behave and respond consistently.

Leadership Behaviors and Practices that Influence Trust as Related to Competence:

· Be a role model—do as you would have others do.

· Honor your commitments – beware how many commitments you make so that you can honor them without losing sight of your leadership-life fit.

· Follow through—on evaluations, promises, action plans, and whatever commitments you make.

Applying a trust score scale as a part of their study, the researchers found that being just above average in these three elements of trust can have a “profound positive effect,” and being just below average can destroy trust. They observed that “level of trust is highly correlated with a leader’s overall leadership effectiveness.” Although all three elements are important, the researchers found that relationships have the most substantial impact on trust. Since the bar is slightly above average for significant positive impact, they suggest identifying your potentially low one of the three and employing practices to get that one up to, at a minimum, just above average. 

Read the full article from Harvard Business Review

Bonus Trust article: A Matter of Trust

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!