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Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: 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. 


A Team Approach to Master Scheduling

A recent NASSP blog post encourages principals to take a team approach when constructing the master schedule with the intent of aligning student needs to teacher strengths. Check out Principal Smithberger’s advice.


  1. Get teacher input about what they want to teach and why and what they don’t want to teach and why. (Google Forms works well here).

  2. Know your teachers’ strengths and weaknesses by building relationships with them. Plan to put them in positions that leverage their strengths.

  3. Make decisions on what's best for students and your building as a whole—i.e., seniority doesn’t necessarily rule in terms of who teaches the upper level courses.

  4. Build the capacity of the team—look toward the horizon.

  5. Have the tough conversations when you need to make an unanticipated change in a teacher’s schedule.


Read the full blog.


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! 



  1. Create and disseminate community standards for social media use on the school’s accounts

  2. Report misuse.

  3. Listen and Watch – Notice what stakeholders and students are saying that may have social media implications. Monitor postings that use your hashtag and mentions.

  4. Make a connection with the social media perpetrator—often this person/group wants to be heard.

  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.


Firing with Compassion

How do you navigate the termination process with integrity and fairness? Joel Peterson (Stanford University Graduate School of Business, chairman of JetBlue) offers this straightforward list of Do’s and Don’ts in a recent article in Harvard Business Review.


Check out Kim Marshall’s succinct summary, or read the full article.

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!