More than an Instructional Leader?

We are constantly reminded that administrators must be instructional leaders.  We read blogs, articles, job descriptions, and even tweets that insist every leader in every school must be an Instructional Leader.  While I do agree that leadership in instruction is paramount to the success of a school, what do you think this really means?

Does it mean that the Principal of the school has to be the expert in content and pedagogy in every subject and every grade that is taught in his/her school? Does it mean that the Principal must stay abreast of every new educational trend and piece of legislation that may effect his/her school or students or teachers?  OR Does it mean that the Principal must be the “Lead Learner” of his/her building and always focus on getting and being better?

While the first two are interesting, they are certainly not completely attainable.  As an Elementary Principal, I could never be an expert in music class (I am completely tone def and sing like a stuck pig) OR could never keep abreast of every new trend (our field changes daily with many conflicting views), but I certainly can and will try!  However, I do feel it is my duty as a Principal to be a Lead Learner: to be open and willing to learn DAILY (if not hourly), seek out professional development for my self and those around me, take LOTS of risks and encourage others to do the same.

To be a true “Lead Learner” one must never settle for the status quo and truly work to make school the best it can be for every child!  You do not have to know everything or be the expert, but you must be able to listen, learn, and apply what you have heard and know to be better.

I have been home a week after attending and presenting at  the National Council for Supervisors of Mathematics Conference (NCSM) in Boston.  Wow!  What a chance to become a better Lead Learner.  The content knowledge that I obtained from hearing Deborah Ball speak about Explicit Teaching in Mathematics and chatting with Greg Tang (@gregtang) during a Hot Topics session, the camaraderie that I built with a team of teachers from my school by presenting with them, and the pure information and even change in thinking that happened just by having some conversations with some amazing math minds, has empowered me to continue my journey as a lead learner.  I want to differentiate my own PD and to not only focus on leadership opportunities and sessions, but also content.  I need to continue to make sure I am learning about math, language arts, and even music, so I can continue to lead my school to the best of my ability.   I don’t have to be an expert on everything or the knower of all; I just have to keep learning and modeling learning !  As a result, I am even more than an instructional leader…. I am the Lead Learner!!!CCjVTibWEAA7DZI.jpg-large

Have you ever had a staff meeting that fell completely flat?

Dear Principals,

Have you ever had a staff meeting that fell completely flat? I don’t mean just a little boring, but completely disconnected? Yesterday was that day for me and I am still grappling with it!

I didn’t have anyone complain or walk out or even not pay attention, it was the feeling that I had when I was finished: The feeling that I wasted the time of my staff by not trusting them enough to decipher the content in the “flipped staff meeting” and by not making appropriate connections! I focused on the information instead of Professional Development! The bottom line is: I failed! I failed the staff in not being the instructional leader that I know and they know I am.

About the meeting:
I began by “Flipping the Staff Meeting” and posting it on Youtube the Friday prior to the Monday staff meeting. Here is the meeting: http://youtu.be/BOsjl_OPQQ4.

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The content is mostly informational, but with Growth Mindset Professional Development embedded as well. I truly don’t think it is a bad “flip”, but what I did with it was the tough part.

My original plan was to take the five aspects of the Growth Mindset infographic and have groups jigsaw and give example of what that may look like in the classroom. Instead, I simply went over the boring information about lockdowns, SBAC, etc. that was already explained in the video! Instead of trusting my intelligent, wonderful, proactive staff in watching, understanding, and analyzing information, I fed it back to them in the most boring way! UGHHHH! Why did I do that? They already had the facts, they could ask clarifying questions if there was something that they didn’t understand.

Excuses
As for how excuses go: the reason was time and technical difficulties. I know, that’s pretty lame. First, some staff members could not access the video due to some safety features on Youtube at school. Also, we have 45 minutes for our staff and committee meetings. Our Education Association gets 15 minutes as well contractually. Our School Improvement team has decided to have one staff meeting a month instead of the possible three, but to really work hard during that time to cover information and develop professionally. So, I made the wrong choice in what to cut out. I know better than to leave out the PD!

Growth Mindset
So, yes I failed! But remember my focus is on Growth Mindset and with that you must make mistakes to truly learn. I have reflected, called my supervisor to chat and reflect, written this post and I have come up with this: I can do better! I will do better! My staff deserves better!

Steps to Improve
I am going to trust in my staff to watch and understand the video and ask me questions if they need to.

I am going to start an Edmodo discussion group (most teachers are using Edmodo anyway) for flipped staff meetings so they have an easy way to post questions and/or have a discussion with me or their colleagues.

I am going to remember that I am instructional leader not a manager and focus on Professional Development!

I am going to continue to fail, learn, and grow to be the best possible leader that I can be! The staff and students deserve that!!

The best news is I have a fantastic staff and supervisor, who will forgive me for wasting their time. I am thankful for all of them!

Always Learning,

Jenny Nauman
@PrincipalNauman

*For further information on the flipped staff meeting, please read:
“Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel” by Peter Dewitt.

http://www.corwin.com/books/Book243403

Control–Is that what you want?

What are your thoughts on control?  How do you handle instances that you cannot control and the ones that you can? I have been contemplating this notion for awhile now and needed to write it down.

As a school leader there are many things that I cannot control on a daily basis:

1.  Unforeseen circumstances: brown water, fire alarms, power outages and THE SNOW!!!  

     Uggh..it has been a year of the snow days (today being one)! These types of events can totally discombobulate the school day OR not allow you to come to school for the day. We lose the momentum to learning when we are constantly stopping and starting. There is not much one can do to prevent these things unless there is an “in” with Mother Nature. I would love if learning is NEVER disrupted, but I can’t control that.

2.  What parents say about our schools.  

      This can be good, bad, or indifferent.  Sitting in the movie theater this weekend (saw the Lego Movie–worth the time and money), I heard a dad in front of me telling another patron that his child would be going to a christian school the following year as he didn’t like our school.  I wanted to jump up and down and stop the conversation and give “my side” of the story.  Instead, I sat and said nothing and I simply waved when we exited the theater.  Same thing happened at a birthday party this weekend, when a parent was talking about another child.  I wasn’t there, but quickly heard about the conversation. I want to protect that child and defend the school, but I can’t! (On the other side, I am constantly told how many wonderful things stakeholders say about Shields!)  I would LOVE if the words that spoken by all stakeholders were extremely positive, but I can’t control that!

3. The home life of students

    I wish all students in ALL of our schools had a home life where they have enough to eat, a warm shelter, and encouraging parents or guardians that help them become what they want to be in life.  Having the proper, healthy diet and a consistent schedule is huge in a child’s life. On the flip side, I hope students are not over scheduled in tutoring, sports, and other activities where they are “on the go” every night.   I hope that all students hear “I love you” from an adult in their home and are hugged and/or kissed numerous times a day, but I can’t control that!

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As a school leader, there are many things that I can control on a daily basis:

1.  The Vision and Mission of the School.

     Along with my school improvement team, we have created a solid Vision, Mission, and Theme:

Our Vision: Students enter to learn and leave to achieve!

Our  Mission: Shields Elementary creates an environment of high expectations and mindful learning that empowers students to become life-long learners. 

Our School Theme: Riding the Wave of Excellence

     As a staff we work hard to live by these words and make them real.  Everyday, I talk to students about their choices and how they can become life-long learners…I can control that!

 2.  The positive branding of our school.

       My attitude and how I can greet ALL stakeholders is one the best things that I can do on a regular basis. As @ToddWhitaker says, “treat everyone as if they are good” and I take those words to heart.  I make sure I am upbeat 99% of the time (some time even the perma-smile doesn’t work) while moving around the school.  I say hello to everyone and call them by name. I “brag” about the staff, students, and families as much as I can and to anyone who will listen.  I work hard to get the wonderful things we do into our local paper and we celebrate when we do well!  I love our school and tell everyone…I can control that!

3.  How students feel while they are at school.

    We have our students for over 7 hours a day!  These 7 hours need to be great! Students in our school know me and I know them.  They have awesome teachers and great support staff that know them as well.  I work to know ALL 722 students by name and try to talk to as many kiddos in a day as I can.  I give them a hug, a smile, a finger wave, or a hello to let them know I am there for them.  I have an open door policy where any child can come in if there is an issue or not!  We have a staff that cares about students too and our positioned in the hallway in the morning so every student is greeted. We reward students with “peacemaker” awards and Dolphin Dollars when they are caught being good.  All students have the opportunity be “fabulous” or “outstanding” on our clip charts every day!  Every child in our school is special and I tell them..I can control that!

How do we accept what we can’t control?  I have lost sleep, laughed, cried, had a stomach ache, and lost my temper over things that I cannot control.  Have you?  I want to do better regarding things I can’t control.  To do that, I will focus on the many things that I can control or influence and try to not let the things that aren’t within my control bother me. For most of us as leaders, our Type A personalities lead to wanting to control. BUT the more I let go and accept the uncontrollable, the better administrator I become.  What do you think about control or influence in our schools?

 

The Diverse Learner in an Elementary School

I have been contemplating blogging for a few months now…definitely has been my goal, but nothing has truly inspired me to write more than the 140 characters from my twitter account…well, until Saturday!

Saturday morning I woke up and began my normal Saturday morning routine:

1.  Stagger out of bed about 7:00am while my family is all still sleeping.

2. Head down to the kitchen and brew a huge pot of coffee.

3. Pull up “Tweetdeck” on my laptop and set up my columns to prepare for #satchat.

(For those of you who don’t know: #Satchat is a saturday morning twitter chat for educators from 7:30-8:30am EST moderated by @ScottRRocco, @bcurrie5 and @wkrakower!

This weeks’ topic, guest moderated by @jimmy_casas,  was: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners.  Here is a snapshot of a few of the tweets from the chat:

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 1.12.31 PM

After the chat, there was still so much more that I wanted to say about the diverse learner. The chat felt like the very tip of a huge iceberg that I still wanted to discover.  As a result, I have been thinking a lot about the diverse learners in my school and my diverse learners at home.  ( I also have two daughters with varying abilities.)

So…I know diverse learners.

So…How do I meet the needs of the Nauman girls and the other 728 students at our elementary school as the lead learner?

I am still working on my final answer, but there are some non-negotiables when meeting the needs of diverse learners:

1. Integrated technology is a must for each subject, every day!

~We are working on moving to a 1:1 or a BYOD learning environment.

2. The teachers must be “Pirates”!

~Dave Burgess’s “Teach Like a Pirate” is a must read for all educators. Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze,  Transformation and Enthusiasm are the key ingredients to student engagement.

3. Professional Development based on teacher choice is needed for innovation.

~Educators should become connected. Using Twitter is an awesome way to connect.  Also, give teachers choice in PD. Just recently, our district had a entire PD day set up similar to an EdCamp.  We are working on creating Delaware’s first EdCamp and EdChat.

4. We need the parents as partners.

~We couldn’t do what we do without active, engaged, and supportive parents.

5. Our focus needs to be on teaching students not teaching to a test.

~With high stakes testing tied to teacher evaluation this can be hard, BUT we have to rely on great instruction and know our job is to have our students ready for the next grade level (and the world) not crammed with information to do well on a test.

6. Our students need choice and instruction needs to be student-driven and/or student-centered.

~#Geniushour is a great way for students to explore and expand their own learning. Choice boards and centers work well for differentiation and choice in the elementary school.

I like that I don’t have all the answers. I also like that I am thinking more and more about how to meet the needs of each wonderful, diverse learner at our school. What do you think? How do you meet the needs of diverse learners?

Thanks to #satchat and all of the people in my talented PLN that inspired me to think and to write. Thanks for reading my very first blog post!  ; )