Monday, June 28, 2010

What are your Vital Signs? (#23)

In my first year as a principal, I was given some advice that I am now going to share with you all. 

The set up to this advice giving goes something like this (apologies to Lyle for getting most of the facts wrong and not attributing him as my source): the CEO of Putnum or Fidelity Investments walks in each morning to a stack of charts and graphs about the previous day's business. This data covers all of the essential areas of the company. The CEO can spend a short amount of time each day and get a good sense of what is going on. He takes the pulse of the company each morning. If there is something that catches his attention among the piles of charts, his focus for the day will be in that area.

The advice I got was to find the way to get the pulse of my school. What about the heart rate and respiration? Pupils dilated (or just learning - pun intended)?

So, I set out to gather the vital signs of my school. I took a two prong approach (apologies to all of those judges who include prongs in their decisions): first hand vital signs and information reported to me.

First hand vital signs come mostly through increasing the number of walkthroughs I do. I came up with a system that really started to work to get me out of my office and into classes (see a future post about walkthroughs). I listen to the teaching, talk to the students, and read the walls. Fantastic (and usually rather vital) signs gathered. I also check the pupils by stepping outside during recess or wandering through the cafeteria during lunch.

I learn an amazing amount about the health of the school from a series of regular meetings that I have scheduled. First (and most often trumped) is a weekly meeting with the office staff. We found an assistant that we could pull for 45 minutes to cover the phones and door buzzer. Just listening to the secretaries tell me what they know is worth twenty investment charts.

I also meet with the leadership team consisting of the Special Education Coordinator, ELA Curriculum Specialist, and Math Curriculum Specialist. We talk about kids and whole school issues.

Other regular meetings include the Technology Coordinator, the head Custodian, the Director of Curriculum, the Director of Special Eduction, the Nurse, the Facilities Director, and the Counselors. My weekly counseling session my be one of my most favorite. I sit every Friday with the Guidance Counselor and School Psychologist. We review issues, look at issues that students or staff have brought up, and, most important, talk about how the staff is dealing with the latest "issue." While not explicit, I am certain that with two mental health professionals in the room, I must be benefiting in other, more personal ways.

Of course there is some hard data that helps to round out the vital signs of the school: daily attendance, discipline referrals, assessment results, monthly health office stats, and more.

Unlike the Fidelity CEO, I to gather the vital signs myself. After all, I don't have a staff of hundreds and multi-million dollar budget solely for the purpose of informing the leader.

As principal, I don't like surprises. Working each day to gather my school's vital signs helps reduce the surprises. I like vital signs.

What are the Vital Signs of your school?

Day 23 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 7 remaining.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Pleasure Reading List (#22)

A while back, I published a list of the professional reading I am planning for this summer. I mentioned that I would soon publish a list of pleasure reading planned for the summer.

Before any of you think that you are going to see a list of the summer bestsellers or of the classics, I need to warn you. I read mostly young adult fantasy and science fiction when I am reading for pleasure. I guess that I get enough intellectual stimulation from all of the principal reading or from talking with my 15 month old son.

Anyway, here are some of the pleasure books that I am hoping to read this summer (in no particular order):

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (free through Kindle)
Syren by Angie Sage (another Septimus Heap book)
The Atlantis Complex by Eion Colfer (Artemis Fowl book 7)
The Seventh Dwarf by Eion Colfer (Artemis Fowl again)
Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

This is just to get me started. If I get through these, I have a "Books to Read" list that is rather huge. Always more to read.

What are you planning to read for pleasure this summer?

Day 22 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 8 remaining.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What are you going to do? (# 21)

Last year, the art teacher made this sign for me to hang in the office at school. I've been thinking of writing about it for a while now. Fortunately, weblogg-ed writer Will Richardson beat me to it the other day when he published this:

The idea is the same: when someone presents me with a problem such as "Billy will just not stop talking in class. He is always blurting." I answer with something like: "Oh, that can be difficult for the class. What are you thinking about doing?"

Some teachers love this response because they were only looking for a sympathetic ear or someone to listen to an idea. Others, of course, seem to want to transfer the problem as quickly as possible.

Anyway, we put the sign in the main office where staff could see it, but not parents. One of the secretaries has come to love the saying and has found subtle ways to use it when folks come complain to her.

Day 21 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 9 remaining.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zero in on the Hedgehog (# 20)

More from the summary by Kim Marshall of an article about leadership:

Marshall Memo 338, May 31, 2010 ( 
A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education 

In this helpful IBM Center for the Business of Government monograph, Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Robert Behn presents a set of “better practices”, which apply seamlessly to K-12 school leadership. The practices answer three questions:

What would it mean to do a better job? 

Identify the most important performance deficit. Leadership needs to zero in on a key problem that is getting in the way of achieving the mission. It might be in the area of people, strategies, materials, or fuzziness on the overall direction. “Every organization – no matter whether public or private, no matter how well it is performing – has multiple performance deficits,” says Behn. “It has a variety of things that, if it did them better, would enhance its output, and thus the outcomes to which it contributes. Someone has to choose. This is a leadership requirement.” ...

“Performance Leadership: 11 Better Practices That Can Ratchet Up Performance” (Second Edition) by Robert Behn in the Managing for Performance and Results Series, IBM Center for the Business of Government, 2006, no e-link available; Behn can be reached

Sounds like an important precursor to the hedgehog that Jim Collins describes in Good to Great. The hedgehog analogy is that once we decide what our goal is, we have to be relentless in reaching for the goal much like a hedgehog rolls into a ball and doesn't stop rolling until it is safely out of harm's way. The Behn article would argue that the main goal (the hedgehog's destination) needs to address one "a key problem that is getting in the way of achieving the mission."
My job is to figure out how to zero in on the hedgehog...decide what is the top roadblock in the way of our goal and then be relentless in trying to overcome it.

Day 20 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 10 remaining.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Articulate the Mission (# 19)

I recently read a summary by Kim Marshall of an article about leadership:

Marshall Memo 338, May 31, 2010 ( 
A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education 

In this helpful IBM Center for the Business of Government monograph, Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Robert Behn presents a set of “better practices”, which apply seamlessly to K-12 school leadership. The practices answer three questions:

What would it mean to do a better job? 

• Articulate the mission. The danger is that the mission statement is “a long, awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly” (Scott Adams) – or is not known and acted on by the troops. This is why the leadership team needs to proclaim, clearly and frequently, what the organization is trying to accomplish so that everyone understands the big picture.  ...

“Performance Leadership: 11 Better Practices That Can Ratchet Up Performance” (Second Edition) by Robert Behn in the Managing for Performance and Results Series, IBM Center for the Business of Government, 2006, no e-link available; Behn can be reached

Clearly, this is a great way to start thinking about leadership. I first learned about this when Ralph Watson, then principal at Andrews Middle School, led our teaching teams through a team building process outlined in the Turning Points 2000 support materials. My four-teacher team spent an hour creating a statement of purpose. Purpose and mission are really the exact same thing. While we started off skeptically, we gradually warmed to the idea. Over the next two years, my teammates and I frequently pulled out our purpose statement during debates.

As I have formed groups in my current role as principal, I have used the purpose setting activity to get things going. Like most worthwhile activities, the small investment of time upfront pays dividends throughout the life of the group.

So, articulate the mission. I think I will write my own mission statement one of these days.

Day 19 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 11 remaining.

School's Out for Summer (# 18)

Cue the Alice Cooper song...

Now that school is over for the summer, my annual roller coaster of emotions is underway (yes, I am a man, and I admit to having emotions).

During the last few days of school I am too busy to notice any emotions other than stress (is stress an emotion?). Once the staff banquet/luncheon ends, I am so exhausted that all I feel is relief that it is over. I made it to the end!

Today was the first day of summer at my school. I went to work in casual clothes. While some teachers were around to work in their rooms, the place was quiet. By 10 am, I was feeling nostalgia for all of the good times we had during the school year.

I know from experience that by lunchtime on the second day of summer, I will be looking around for teachers and students to talk to. I will already miss he school year that I was so ready to end. Of course, the next day, I actually begin to get excited about the start of school.


Day 18 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 12 remaining.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A day late and dollar short (Day 17)

Yesterday should have been Day 17 of the Challenge. I never got past thinking that I should write a blog post. Oh well. I am still going to end up with 30 posts in 30 days.

Today, Friday, is the second to last day of school. It was chaotic day with plays and parties, movies and moving. Lots going on. The end of the school year is always like the last mile of a long hike. It goes on and on feeling like much more than one mile. Today felt much longer than 7 hours. Monday will feel like 12 hours even though it is an early release. That just seems to be the nature of these last days before summer.

I dedicate this day-late blog post to my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Rogers. He often told us, when we were late with our work, that we were, "A day late and dollar short." As tough as that sounds, I loved Mr. Rogers.

Here's hoping that I can manage to stay on top of things enough that I will not be a day late again.

 Day 17 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 13 remaining.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You can please some of the people... (Day 16)

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

There are many times when a principal just can’t make everyone happy. The thing is, I would really rather make everyone happy. Throughout the school year, the principal has to make hundreds of decisions someone doesn’t like.

I use a simple process to make decisions - I consider what I believe to be best for the kids. Often, I have many other factors to weigh also. In fact, there are usually dozens of ideas to consider. With all of that comes the obligation to return to my core value of making decisions that are best for the students.

I know that every principal goes through this process. It sounds easy, but it is never easy to make a decision that I know will make someone upset.

At this point, it may be best for the reader if I stop writing. Thanks for reading.

Day 16 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 14 remaining.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Simple Note, Happy People (Day 15)

Monday  I received two emails that had a big impact on my day.

The first email was from a stranger. You see, on Sunday, he attended the Pawtucket Red Sox game and saw my school’s band play a pre-game concert and the National Anthem. He was impressed enough with our band (which is rather amazing!), that he took the time to email me. If I thought my day was made by this email, the Band Director was totally thrilled.

The second email was more personal. A parent saw me at a festival on Sunday, but did not come speak with me while I was with my family. On Monday, she wrote to thank me for a good school year. Nice.

These two emails reminded me of the power of a simple note. How powerful for a principal to write simple thank you notes to the staff for all sorts of actions. Over the last few years, I have written dozens of short notes to staff for an amazing array of reasons. I expect no reply and almost never get one. I write them just because it is the right thing to do. I write these short notes just to let someone know that I think highly of them.

Now, please excuse me as I go off to write a few notes; there are plenty of people around me who deserve my thanks.

Day 15 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 15 remaining.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Organization: Google Docs (Day 14)

One organizational tool that I have shared with some of the staff at school is Google docs. I make the most use of it with the administrative office staff. We mostly share spreadsheets that are simple databases. Right now, we are tracking new registrations on a Google doc, and it is really easy for me to know the status of all of the new students.

I have also set up a form that adds discipline events into a spreadsheet. It is very simple to use and gives me an easy way to track discipline data.

There are many features of Google docs that we don’t use, but we are hooked.

For a great set of tutorials about using Google services in education, check out Free Technology for Teachers

Day 14 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 16 remaining.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Organization: Dropbox Rocks (Day 13)

Earlier today, @colonelb (part of my Twitter PLN) posted this simple idea “I love @Dropbox! So useful (and free too).“

Of course, this got me thinking about my effort to tell you all about the various ways that I stay organized as a principal.

While Dropbox isn’t strictly an organizational tool, it is an important part of my workflow. I have my most important files synchronized with Dropbox on my main computer. Of course, that is not all. I also have Dropbox on another computer that I use from time to time and on my iPhone. I can access my files through the web if I want.

Wherever I go, Dropbox has my files available for me. Very cool.

Day 13 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 17 remaining.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Organization: Evernote for notes everywhere (day 12)

I love Evernote. There I said it.

I use Evernote to take notes on a zillion different topics. I store scanned files. I get it from my computer, my iPhone, or any web browser.

Evernote is one of those tools that have become indispensable for my as a principal. There are other programs that do all sorts of things better than Evernote, but I have not found one that does the same combination. For example, I love that way that Microsoft OneNote works - very cool way to organize all sorts of info. However, I could not find a way to have OneNote on my iPhone. Evernote is there. I am eager to see the organizational structure of my notes and important people like I’ve done with PersonalBrain, but again, can’t take it with me.

Anyway, I have used Evernote for a couple of years now and am very pleased. My main notebooks are: !School (exclamation point puts on the top of the list), Archive (general and more that two years old), Clips (temporary storage of emailed items or those sent from web browser), FY09, FY10 (no longer needed items from this year), Personal, Principal Ideas (websites, tidbits, etc about leadership), Receipts (from the web), Staff, Students.

Each notebook is filled with notes of all sorts. Recent updates to the iPhone software allow me to edit on the phone, but with some restrictions.

The bottom line is that Evernote has proven to be a valuable tool in keeping track of large amounts of data.

Day 12 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 18 remaining.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Organization: Gmail for todos (Day 11)

The job of school principal is totally hectic and filled with an enormous list of things to do. There are many articles, books, and websites that give advice on how to stay organized in a job where information and tasks are somewhat like a busted, underwater well head.

Anyway, I’ve decided that it is high time that I share some of my tips and tricks for staying on top of the todos in my principal (and personal) life. Over the next several days, I will share write about some of my most useful tools. Most of what I use, I learned about from someone else, but I can no longer remember who or when. Suffice it to say, that my organizational system would be nothing without the work of several others.

My main tool for tracking tasks has been Google Mail. I don’t use Google Tasks even though it is integrated nicely. Instead, I use a Firefox/Chrome extension called ActiveInbox (nee GTDInbox). Even without ActiveInbox, my system works but with fewer bells and whistles.

Here are the basics of my todo system (I am not attempting to create a detailed, step-by-step guide to gmail).

  1. Using Labs, enable multiple inboxes in gmail.
  2. I set up my multiple inboxes as indicated in the second and third photos (click to enlarge).
  3.  The main idea is that each email that comes in is really an action waiting for me.
  4. For each email, I should decide to do it right away, make it a low or high priority todo, assign it to someone else, or archive it.
  5. I use labels such as “Next” or “Action” or “Follow Up” the most. I assign one of those to each email if I can’t just act on it right away and in just a few minutes.
  6. The multiple inboxes are set up so that the first one (below the normal inbox) shows all of my todos by displaying any email labeled with either Next or Action.
  7. I leave items labeled Todo for as long as it takes to get it done.
  8. Once the task is complete, I can remove the todo label.
  9. Because this is in Gmail, I can access my emails/todos from any computer with an internet connecction.
This system has been working fairly well for me since 2007. In future articles, I will write about more of the details of using gmail; Evernote; and other Google tools to keep this busy principal on top of things.

Day 11 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 19 remaining.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Professional Reading List (Day 10)

Although I am still a couple of weeks away from summer, I have been thinking about what to read once school is out. Of course, some of the other principals who are Spilling Ink this month (Melinda Miller and principalJ) have already started their summer and their summer reading. I am a little jealous.

Anyway, here are some of the books that I am hoping to read before September:

Drive by Daniel Pink. I have already started this and seen a cool video that explains that main points. Lots of twitter buzz about Pink and this book. I look forward to actually getting past the first chapters.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch. I got a copy of this shortly after it was published. It feels weird to think that I may have ideas in common with Diane Ravitch, and I am eager to find out.

Catching Up or Leading the Way by Yong Zhao. I received this through ASCD and keep hearing positive reviews. Seems like it will complement The World is Flat and Whole New Mind.

Leading Change in Your School by Douglas Reeves.

Then, there are a slew of fiction titles that I hope to read. In particular, I love to read young adult fantasy and science fiction, but that is a list for a different day.

Day 10 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 20 to go.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Curl Up With a Clear Vision (Day 9)

Day 9 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with the final part of my answer to the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... Possessing and communicating a clear vision is possibly the most important quality of an educational leader. Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great (2001) about the hedgehog effect. As the hedgehog curls up into a ball with the singular purpose of escape, the effective educational leader must establish a clear vision and curl up with the singular purpose of making that vision the reality. As the position of principal covers so many domains, I have created a clear vision that covers leadership, community, and learning. Of course, there is great overlap in these three areas. My vision of leadership is: 1. “We do what is best for children,” 2. “It’s all about relationships,” 3. “Process and participation matters in decision making.” My vision of community is based on three words: “Safety, Respect, and Learning.” My vision of learning is straightforward: “All children can learn and be successful.” Each of these vision statements is chock full of ideas and action plans, research and implementation, and trends and traditions. When a principal combines a clear vision with other qualities such as being organized, flexible, calm, outgoing, and fun that leader, can be an effective educational leader. ...

I know that I possess some of these skills, knowledge, and qualities. I learn again every day that I have much left to learn, though. In fact, I am constantly learning. That is why I am taking the blogging challenge; that is why I am on twitter following dozens of other educators. Each month that goes by in the principalship is another month to learn, learn, learn.

I would love your comments about this. Or, tell me what skills, knowledge, or qualities of an effective leader have I missed. If you work with me, please pile on the advice. I know that I have lots left to learn.

Now that I have published this whole essay, I ask you all: what do you think are the most important knowledge, skills, or qualities for a principal?


9 down, 21 to go.

Coming next will be a series on how I stay organized, my summer reading plans, and more.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It’s All About Relationships (Day 8)

Day 8 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... “It’s All About Relationships.” Gerry, the about-to-retire guidance counselor, said this to me almost every day during my first year as an administrator. Each year since, I understand more what he meant.  A principal needs to foster, cultivate, and facilitate relationships among and between himself and each of the constituent groups in the school community. All the listening that a principal does certainly helps to gather data, but it does far more to nurture relationships. My full schedule of listening is explicitly dual purpose. Listening is far from the only way to promote positive relationships. Effective educational leaders must also see teachers and students at work. I strive to reach my ambitious goal of visiting five classrooms every single day (my weekly average is lower than that, but constantly improving). After a boost in visits, one teacher summed up the feeling by telling parents in a meeting that I must know what is going on because I visit her room so often. I have been able to increase trust with parents by describing their child during my last visit. By being in classrooms more, the school community knows that I value the learning and the teachers. ...

As always, your comments will earn you points!

8 down, 22 to go.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Copious Communication is Worth It (Day 7)

Day 7 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... Regular, two-way communication with various aspects of the school community is also a very rewarding set of skills for the effective educational leader. Since nature abhors a vacuum, it is the principal’s job to ensure that there is no vacuum when it comes to information about the school. The principal must have a clear vision and must communicate that vision in every way he can as often as possible.  I am a firm believer in the idea of an abundance of communication. I write a note in the weekly parent newsletter. The staff receives the Monday Message from me, every Sunday night, with information about the week to come. I make careful use of the Community Outreach module of Connect Ed. I make the rounds of the building to speak with individual staff members or students. I created a staff blog and have started this Principal’s Point of View blog to highlight the great learning at Spofford Pond School and to share my opinions from time to time. The flip side of all this sharing of information is the great skill of listening. Educational leaders must listen to the staff, the students, the parents, and the community. I have adapted the corporate CEO idea of gathering the daily pulse of the business via charts and graphs to fit public school. I listen regularly to the curriculum specialists, the special education coordinator, the counseling staff, the grade-level teams, the special educators, the specialists, the office staff (although right next to me, this is sometimes the hardest meeting to have), the nurse, the head custodian, the district leadership, various parent groups, and the students. While all of this communicating is time intensive, it is vital in its own right and to the relationship building that is part of being an effective education leader. ...

As always, your comments will earn you points!

7 down, 23 to go.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 Spofford Pond Parent Survey

Dear Parents at Spofford Pond School,

Please take our annual Parent Survey. Your responses are anonymous and very helpful to the Spofford Pond Site Council.

Click on the link or the title of this article now. The survey is only open for ten days; it closes at 5:20pm on June 16, 2010.

Thank you very much.

Larry Fliegelman on behalf of the Spofford Pond School Site Council

Use Data to Decide What is Best (Day 6)

Day 6 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... The second principle of decision making revolves around the appropriate use of data to do what is best for the children. Victoria Bernhardt (Using Data to Improve Student Learning, 2003) writes about using, both individually and at the intersections, “multiple measures of data: demographics, school processes, student learning, and perceptions.” Bernhardt explains that each of the four are vital and that using the intersection of all four types of data will lead to the best decisions. Over the last three years, I have been engaged with the staff in improving our use data for improving student learning. We look closely at MCAS data through Cognos/DESE Data Warehouse, we study our own assessment data, we conduct staff and parent surveys, and we are developing a student survey. I have frequent conversations with teachers about how their classroom observations and experiences with a student compares to the assessment data; we try to dig deeper into why there is a problem. This a change in thinking for many teachers and is slow going. The work on increasing our use of data to make decisions that are best for children has been very rewarding. ...

Thank you for reading this far. There are few paragraphs left of this essay and then starts the new writing. Any suggestions for topics? Please leave a comment. Thanks.

6 down, 24 to go.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sound Decision Making (Day 5)

Day 5 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... Of the dozens of skills used in any given week by the leader of a school there are three main categories that will make that leader more effective.

  •  Sound Decision Making
  •  Regular, Two-way Communication
  •  Fostering Relationships

An effective educational leader needs to keep two principles in mind while making decisions. First, the process used to make any decision needs to be based on an explicit, usually inclusive, process. It helps to tell the staff exactly what kind of decision the leader is about to make: the principal could be delegating or facilitating or collaborating on a staff driven decision, the principal could be consulting before a decision is reached or testing a preliminary decision, finally, the principal must sometimes directly make a decision with little or no input. This structure of decision making (and associated staff roles) is one that I use with the staff when working on a large decision for the school. I have a chart posted in my office and bring a copy to the Faculty Advisory Committee meetings. I seek to make very few decisions without an explicit, inclusive process. ...

As always, your comments will earn you points!

5 down, 25 to go.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This Principal needs a PLN (Day 4)

Day 4 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... With all of this knowledge comes the realization that even the most veteran principal cannot know everything and must know how to find information and create knowledge. The best source of information is the expertise of the staff in the building. An effective educational leader models lifelong learning by engaging in professional development with and by the teachers. I attend as many of the teacher-taught sessions as I can, including Reader’s Workshop, Read Naturally, and Tips for Teaching Basic Math Skills during the last couple of years. In the last year, I have grown my own Personal Learning Network. I have never met most of my PLN face to face, but we exchange teaching and leading tips and opinions about ideas in education - all online. My PLN has provided some of the best informal professional development I’ve yet encountered. Gaining all of this knowledge is very important; knowing what to do with all the information, a foundation of strong skills, is even more so. ...

Your comment and feedback would be awesome.

4 down, 26 to go.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Law, Budget, and Discipline (Day 3)

Day 3 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

... A principal needs to know many aspects of the law as it relates to student records, special education, and student discipline. I have attended trainings and workshops, and I know when to ask the Superintendent and Director of Special Education for advice or review. Only with proper knowledge of budget management, can an educational leader also be the manager that he needs to be. I am very proud of the group effort that has gone into creating and maintaining the budget in the last few years. From starting with a needs-based proposal to creating a fair process for the inevitable reductions, I have managed several budgets that support the core program even in difficult financial times. For the past seven years, I have been the lead disciplinarian with a fair and firm policy. My experiences include handling running in the halls, antics in the cafeteria, bullying, harassment, and more. Of course, a thorough understanding of such areas as the health office, the kitchen, the school bus, the boiler, and the custodian’s closet comes in handy from time to time. ...

I would love to know what you think, please add a comment.

3 down, 27 to go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Good Principal Needs to Know Pedagogy (Day 2)

Day 2 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink continues with answering the following job application question: Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

...  The most important knowledge for an effective educational leader is the insight that he doesn’t know it all. Of course, it is vital that the leader know the best pedagogical practices of a vibrant learning environment such as differentiating instruction, creating hands-on activities, and designing interdisciplinary units that complement state and local standards. When I taught seventh grade social studies, I created a learning environment that was engaging and differentiated. My lessons often allowed for a layered approach or a hands-on style to help all types of learners. My four-teacher team created engaging interdisciplinary units. I have studied and led study-groups of Turning Points 2000 (Jackson and Davis, 2000) to increase my understanding of the best practices of middle school. As an administrator, I have had the opportunity to create a mental catalog of the skills of dozens of fantastic teachers. While pedagogy comes closest to the core of what an educational leader needs to know, there is also much practical knowledge required.  ...

If you have a comment about pedagogy or what a principal needs to know, please leave a note here. Thank you.

2 down, 28 to go.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spilling Ink: Day 1 & To Be An Effective Leader

On Monday, May 31, Melinda Miller (@mmiller7571) retweeted the following:
“@teachergirl89: "Spilling Ink" challenge... blogging every day in June...Who's up for it?” anyone?“

Well, I told Melinda that I would if she would and she told me that she would if I would. So, I guess that settles it. We both will.

I’ve decided to start my month of blog-a-day by answering the following job application question that I recently wrote. Here is part one:
Describe the knowledge, skills, and qualities one should embody to be an effective educational leader.

Being an effective educational leader requires a complex set of knowledge, skills, and qualities. There is a temptation to think that the principal must know it all, be able to do it all, and be everything to everyone. While this is not possible, the effective educational leader must never stop acquiring knowledge; the principal must use that knowledge with a variety of skills to create the conditions for learning; and the effective educational leader must embody a diverse set of qualities so that his vision is inclusive and attainable. Effective educational leadership starts with a wide-ranging knowledge.

Tune in tomorrow for more about the knowledge that an effective educational leader needs.

As always, I would love to hear your comments.

1 down, 29 to go.