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Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: March 2020

Self-Care Strategies to Up-level Your Leadership-life Fit 

Adopt these eight practices for improved well-being and a better leadership-life fit.


Ever-Evolving Role of the Assistant Principal

Former National Assistant Principal of the Year, Holly Ripley, discusses the wide range of responsibilities she has (including her efforts to address mental health) and the three day-to-day goals that guide her leadership and give her work focus.


Ripley comments on how student deaths, two to suicide, prompted her to pursue QPR training (Question/Persuade/Refer) in an effort to support teachers in identifying troubled students.


In the midst of her many responsibilities, Ripley has three daily goals:

  1. Ensure all students are learning.
  2. Provide appropriate structures so all teachers and students can be their best selves.
  3. Walk alongside students as they develop their own life plans, and guide them through that process.

Read the full (brief!) blog


Reflective Questions:

  1. How do you organize your priorities?
  2. What anchors/grounds the conversations, interactions, and modeling you engage in daily?
  3. What does your support of teachers look like? How do you encourage them in showing up their best each day? 
  4. How do you develop relationships with students? How do you know each student feels connected to an adult in your building? How do you partner with your principal in this work?

Tips for Moving from and AP or Dean to a Principal

This early-career principal reflects on her time as an AP and identifies six things from her work as an AP that best prepared her for the principalship (and maximized her effectiveness as an AP).


The full blog is definitely worth reading as the stories and examples shine a bright light on the difference between the role of AP/dean and principal and detail how you can maximize your role.Plus, it’s entertaining!

  1. Be the best #2 you can be.
  2. Define, model, and stick to your core values. (What values do you communicate daily (intentionally or unintentionally) by decisions you make and behaviors you exhibit?)
  3. Identify and own one data point.
  4. Build champions of your leadership.
  5. Know your fit! Don’t accept just any principal position. (Great list of questions in the full blog to help you reflect on this one—would be great to process in your mentoring partnership).
  6. Be patient.

A Guide to Courageous Conversations 

Know what to do and say in these five brief scenarios that present the opportunity for a courageous conversation. Bonus Content: Dress Code Simulation Activity


In a We Are Teachers post, Kimmie Fink discusses five scenarios principals often face and possible responses:


Scenario 1: You need to talk to someone about a behavior reported by a third party (e.g. Parent calls reporting a teacher was upset/crying in front of students).

Say: “I wanted to let you know I heard what happened. I want to make sure I understand, so let’s plan to meet later today.”


Scenario 2: You have conflicting reports and need to learn the truth (e.g. A teacher reports another teacher is falsifying data, but a third teacher says she hasn’t noticed any anomalies).

Say: “Tell me what happened.” (and listen objectively)


Scenario 3: You’re in the middle of emails and evaluations, and you’re interrupted with a crisis (e.g. a student comes in with a mental health concern).

Say: First – close your laptop, put your phone on silent, and give your undivided attention to the student. Then, listen and paraphrase. “What I think I’m hearing... Is this what you mean...?


Scenario 4: Someone did something that really angered you (e.g. a teacher failed to put in a sub request and didn’t show up).

Say: I’m concerned about you. Do you need help?


Scenario 5: You have to address an issue that’s uncomfortable for you (e.g. a student’s personal hygiene is causing problems).

Say: This conversation is hard for me, and I think it’s important to address.


Bonus Content: As the weather turns warmer, staff can sometimes need clarity regarding professional attire. Work through this simulation in your mentoring partnership. It includes opportunities to discussdifferent options and provides examples of effective and ineffective responses to questionable dress.


Dealing with Social Media Disasters

Add these seven strategies to your repertoire! 


From We Are Teachers: The Principal’s Guide to Handling Social Media Disasters.

  1. Make a connection with the social media perpetrator—often this person/group wants to be heard.
  2. Listen and Watch – Notice what stakeholders and students are saying that may have social media implications. Monitor postings that use your hashtag and mentions.
  3. Report misuse.
  4. Create and disseminate community standards for social media use on the school’s accounts
  5. Don’t ignore social media negativity on your district/school-owned accounts. Communicate you’ll follow up via a call or email as appropriate.
  6. Choose your platforms wisely. What should be directly communicated and what can travel through social media channels (i.e. “comment friendly” post).
  7. Be willing to shut down your social media channels if a situation calls for a single message coming from a single source.

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!