Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join
Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: November 2019

Leadership-life Fit – Gratitude Is your Superpower 


Looking to level-up your energy and improve your leadership-life fit? Develop the habit of giving gratitude. Follow these steps to find more energy, more joy, more life:

  1. Start simply. Write down the basics for which you are grateful. Today, my gratitude list included my comfortable bed, my comforter, a steaming cup of coffee, warm socks, and a bowl of oatmeal. These essentials form the building blocks upon which a practice of gratitude is built. Even on those days when everything is coming at me, and nothing is going as I had planned, I can be grateful for a bed to sleep in and coffee to drink.
  2.  Try saying your list out loud. Writing and speaking create a mental shift that helps reduce cortisol levels and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which slows the stress response and mediates anxiety and anger. The research benefits of a practice of gratitude are grounded in science.
  3. Whether handwritten in a journal or electronically, make giving gratitude part of your daily routine. Notice what shifts for you as a result of being grateful.  


Learn more about the health benefits of gratitude from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. 


Coaching Teachers 


The impact of a highly effective teacher on student growth and learning is well documented in research. How can you coach for greatest success? This four-minute video offers insight regarding the value of a focused weekly observation coupled with targeted coaching and feedback around a single action step. 


Leading a Community of Care and Support for Students—Dealing with Student Anxiety


Add these six helpful insights to your anxiety toolkit in order to support more effectively students who struggle with anxiety.  


NPR offers Life Kits, podcasts that address a variety of life’s issues. This summary comes from an excerpt of one of the NPR articles. 


  1. Know the what of anxiety: Anxiety is fear of the unknown and a perception of danger about the unpredictability of the future. All of us have some degree of worry – we're human. Anxiety disorders stem from an amplification of this worry to where we can’t shut it off and it becomes exhausting to be always on the lookout for danger.

    According to research, 11 is the average age at which anxiety disorders present. Although up to one half of the risk of acquiring an anxiety disorder is genetic, environmental factors like poverty, tumultuous home life, and violence, for example, can lead to anxiety disorders. 

    What should you watch for in students? Worries that last beyond a month or two, and the inability of the student to do what they want or need to do.

  2. Recognize the physical signs: Headache, stomachache, and vomiting can all be signs of worry. You might also see tears and a panicked expression as the source of the anxiety nears. The flight, fight, or freeze stress response might also be an indicator of anxiety—a student might run away, or stand frozen in fear. The student might lash out.

  3. Help the student calm down: Engage the student in deep breathing—this is the most highly recommended strategy to reduce the panic. Alongside the student, model how to take a deep breath—count to 5 on the inhale and 7 on the exhale. 

  4. Validate the student’s fear: Though you may be tempted to tell the student that their fear is unfounded and ridiculous, it’s important to let them know you hear them and respect their fear. You might say, "I know that you're feeling uncomfortable right now. I know these are scary feelings. You know what, we know that this is our worry brain."

  5. Help the student face the fear: Let the student know that some things in life are difficult, and we do them anyway. It’s okay to be worried or scared as we engage in whatever the situation is. Offer support and encouragement AND know when not to push further. It’s a delicate tension between pushing through and pausing so they don’t fall apart.

  6. Create a “baby steps” plan: If the student is anxious about taking tests, perhaps create different aspects of test-taking situations for them to experience before taking actual tests. Celebrate and reward progress. 

Access the full text 
here where you will also find a list of additional resources. 


On the road or hitting the trail? You can listen to more detailed information here: 

Leading A Community of Care and Support for Students—Support Teachers in using Strategies for SEL

School Leaders NOW offers five email templates you can send to support schoolwide SEL, and they don’t involve implementing an entire program! 


Access the templates along with a link to a practical guide for building relationships. 


Leading for Equity and Cultural Responsiveness


Leading professional learning across three dimensions—beliefs, actions, and systems—can advance equity in our schools. Learning Forward’s The Learning Professional provides starting points for inquiry and direction for leading equity-focused efforts. 


Learning simultaneously across three dimensions creates the greatest potential for lasting change. Beliefs and assumptions serve to keep us psychologically safe, so we resist pushes to change them. However, we must surface mental models we hold and confront those beliefs and assumptions that have most likely unintentionally contributed to inequities. At the same time, we must take action—we must align our actions to our evolving beliefs. This may mean changing long-held patterns of behavior and routines to ensure they are equitable. Finally, we need to recognize widespread or systemic practices that create inequities. By inquiring into our beliefs, our practices, and our policies and procedures, we may very well become aware of ways in which some populations are prevented from accessing and experiencing all that our educational system can offer. Addressing only one at a time creates frustrations and limitations in the other two dimensions, so simultaneity is key. 


Where does a leader start and how? For each dimension, the authors provide strategies for the individual educator, the learning team (e.g. PLC), and the school as a whole. This chart summarizes the three dimensions and includes an example or two – for more information access the full article.


  Beliefs    Actions Systems 

Engage in activities to surface beliefs.

Learn about students’ families and cultures.

Reflect on how classroom practices and strategies influence students’ sense of self-efficacy—implications for homework, calling upon students, group projects, etc.

Become a leader in professional learning that advances equity.

Call out inequitable practices and routines.



Set high expectations for learning and behavior.

Get connected—build quality relationships with ALL students.

Review curriculum materials for bias. 

Identify and build upon students’ strengths.

Examine grading and assessment practices for potential bias and inequitable impact.  
 School Review school practices and policies and note how they promote or inhibit equity. Use learning walks to increase awareness of school-wide practices that inhibit equity. Collaborate to make changes.   Discuss opportunities in your building and whether all students have access? After school learning opportunities? Homework and project expectations?  

Find additional resources including free downloads


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!