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What Great Principals Do Differently: An Infographic

 

This morning we came across 18 Things Great Principals Do Differently, a free infographic based off of Todd Whitaker's book of the same title. Enjoy!

What Great Principals Do Differently


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5 Stress-Management Tips for Principals

 

principalsStart a Stress Diary
You don’t like the sound of this, do you? “A diary?” you say. Call it whatever you want, but if you’re serious about managing your stress, the first thing you need is to be cognizant of its root.

You may think you know what’s causing you anxiety, but documenting your triggers can be a real eye-opener.

There are innumerable ways to keep a stress diary, but here’s what I do:

Throughout the day, list the situations or events initiating the stress response. For each event include:

  • Source of stress
  • Time and place
  • Level of perceived stress (1 = Slight, 2 = Moderate, 3 = Strong, 4 = Intense)
  • Thoughts and feelings about the stressor
  • Coping strategies you used to deal with the stressor

At the end of the day, reflect on these two questions:

  • What was your major source of stress for the day?
  • What is your personal assessment of how you managed stress today?

Let Go of Fear
Boil it down and you’ll find that stress is simply another word for fear—and fear, as Victorian iconoclast Samuel Butler once said, “Is static that prevents [you] from hearing [yourself].”

Most of us blame external factors—the mortgage, low test scores, low-performing teachers, needy parents and troubled students—for our stress. But these things, these people are just a part of your everyday life. They only become stressful when we fear them, when we fear that we will fail to meet the expectations of others. These ideals are burdensome—and very often they aren’t ideals of your own making. Let go of them. Let go of fear and carry on, my dear.

Give Yourself Completely to One Task
Our culture takes pride in its multitasking “proficiency.” Funny enough, research is almost unanimous in finding that people who chronically multitask (and claim to be proficient at it), are not only terrible at it, but more stressed and disorganized because of it.

Instead of dividing your attention between several tasks, give yourself completely to one thing. Immerse yourself in it until you’ve completed it to the best of your ability.

Coffee Problem?
A coffee problem is a self-diagnosed disease and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got the bug. I picked up the coffee habit in graduate school. I was waiting tables full-time, tutoring students in the university writing center, and taking two graduate classes at a time. To stay awake, I’d pound coffee all day, which not only dehydrated me, but made me wired, jittery, restless and in actuality, more stressed out. I’m still weaning myself and cutting down my coffee intake, but when I’m successful at it, there’s a noticeable difference in how I feel.

Clear to Neutral
We’re very good at scolding  students about waiting until the last minute to find their research or write their essays, but let’s be honest, educators are (covertly, of course) some of the best procrastinators out there. But why do we procrastinate? One of the biggest reasons is because we have to jump through a number of unpleasant hoops to get to the main task. Let’s illustrate:

You have to cook dinner, which means that you need the cutting board, clean knives, dishes and pots to get the job done. Unfortunately, all of the tools you need to make dinner are still filthy and sitting in the sink. So before you can get to what you set out to do (cook), you’ve got 20 other things to do (clean and scrape pans) before you can actually start on the main task (cooking). What happens? You’re frustrated. Now apply this to the sundry, and perhaps unpleasant, tasks that await you as principal.

Here’s where Clearing to Neutral (CTN) comes in. CTN simply means that every time you finish an activity, you engage in a routine, a setup, so that the next time you start the activity, your environment is ready to go. No prep, no cleanup, no frustration…just a clean slate.

 

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7 Stress-Fighting Tips for Principals

 

principalsLeaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a principal. Sure, the stress becomes easier to manage with time and experience, but it never completely goes away, no matter how competent or passionate we are about our job.

Whether you’re a new or veteran principal, odds are that you could benefit from a few stress-fighting tips. Below, you’ll find 7 that work for us.

Play your favorite record
You may not be able to leave the office, but you can shut your door, lean back in your chair, and crank up your favorite song. Make this a meditative experience. Close your eyes, tune out everything else, and focus on the music.

Save positive notes
One of the best ways to counteract your feeling unappreciated is to look through cards, notes and emails from parents and teachers. Print your emails, save your notes and put them in a file folder. Reading through these is a great way to reaffirm that yes, there may be bad days, but you are still making a difference and reaching a lot of people.

Browse your favorite website or blog
The Internet can be an incredible time-sucker—but sometimes “wasting” time on Pinterest and eBay is the best cure for a bad day. If you feel the need to justify your web browsing, look for lesson plans, articles or YouTube videos that some of your teachers might find engaging. This will distract you, but still keep you productive.  

Eat lunch with students
When we’re stressed, often our first instinct is to shut down, close the office door and be alone. But that’s usually the last thing we need. Get out of the office, sit in on a class, join in on a recess game, or find a table and eat lunch with students. This will benefit both you and the kids.

Read and read for pleasure
When you read, you want to make it count, so you may tend to read about leadership, curriculum and scholarly articles related to education. That’s admirable and necessary—but you should also read for pleasure. Read to decompress. Read books that you can’t put down. Stephen King? Yes, please. Dean Koontz? Definitely. John Grisham? Of course you should.

Work from home
The office can be a refuge, but it can also be a source of distraction, especially when we have to catch up on major reports and other projects. Between the meetings, incessant phone calls, emails and visits from random visitors, it can be challenging to get anything done. If you can get approval from the board, we suggest taking an at-home work day once or twice a year.

Take an hour
There’s always more to do, right? There are meetings, reports, phone calls…but it can wait—all of it. Set boundaries; set aside a specific time every day to do something that nurtures you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, etc. Go home! Revere this time like you would any after-school tutoring session or faculty meeting. The world and all its reports can wait—at least for one hour. 

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3 Ways to Nurture a Positive School Culture

 

positive school cultureIf the job description of a principal was put into writing, it would be of War and Peace proportions. Today’s principal is pulled in hundreds of directions at a moment’s notice—so how does s/he move beyond survival mode and create a successful learning environment? This was Shelly Habegger’s guiding question when she studied principals at three high-performing schools of low socioeconomic status.

Despite the fact that these schools had fewer resources and a disproportionate number of under-qualified teachers, Habegger found that these schools continued to succeed. How and why though? Habegger attributes their success to the power of a positive school culture.  

Creating a sense of belonging for students
When Habegger asked the principals about their major goals for their schools, their answers were unanimous: to develop positive relationships, not generate high test scores.

Most of us know that relationships are important to our students’ success, yet we may have underestimated them. Research suggests that when we nurture relationships with students, we actually:  

  • Contribute to the academic achievement and motivation of our students (Elias, 1997)
  • Decrease the likelihood of a student dropping out (Thurlow, Christenson, Sinclair, Evelo, & Thornton, 1995)
  • Help prevent and reduce bullying (Olweus, 1999)
  • Help prevent substance abuse (Resnick et al., 1997), and violence (Dwyer, Osher, & Warger, 1998)

Creating a sense of belonging for teachers
In addition to creating a sense of belonging for students, these three principals also made it a priority to nurture relationships with teachers and support them professionally.

One way the principals achieved this was by facilitating a “common planning time.” Essentially, this was a weekly meeting where the principal and teachers:

  • Viewed achievement test data
  • Sought assistance for particular students
  • Discussed curriculum alignment, instructional strategies, how to enhance student achievement, and other job-embedded issues.

These meetings laid the foundation for a collaborative, professional learning community, but they also benefitted teachers in number of other ways:  

  • Teachers began to take collective responsibility for student learning
  • Increased efficacy
  • There was a noticeable reduction in teacher isolation
  • Teachers learned from one another and experienced higher morale and greater job satisfaction
  • Retention rates increased

Creating a sense of belonging for parents and community
Relationships with parents and the community were also priorities for all three of the principals Harbegger studied. Here’s what she found:

  • Each principal referred to the parent’s (and community’s) role as complementary to the school
  • Each principal strove to learn parental needs and welcomed and solicited parents’ questions and concerns
  • Informally, information was gathered through conversations principals had with parents as they dropped off and picked up their children from school and attended various school events, and in phone calls home.
  • More formally, the principals conducted a needs assessment survey of their school’s parents to keep in tune with what and how to best communicate with them concerning their children’s social and academic growth.
  • Each school displayed substantial efforts to invite, include, and demonstrate need for parents and various community members.
If you’re looking for more ways to nurture relationships and create a positive school culture, check out a few of our recent blogs: “Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture,” “5 simple ways to strengthen student engagement,” and “5 More Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom.”


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Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

 

positive school cultureThere’s been an awful lot of ink spilled on the benefits of building a positive school culture—and just as much on the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students. All that ink leads me to the conclusion that these things are important to educators.

But if building better relationships and creating positive schools matters to us, why aren’t more schools positive places?

According to Jon Gordon, author of The Positive School Manifesto, the answer is simple: Building a culture of care is hard work. Not only that, it requires a special breed of leadership—the kind that’s determined and passionate enough to make positivity contagious.  

Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

Positive leaders required
Positive school cultures are created by principals who make the health of their organization a priority, lead the initiative, and are engaged in the process—even when it’s a struggle. Many of us start off with good intentions, but find it difficult to remain positive in the face of resistance and skepticism. Do not tolerate negativity! Weed it out and press on.

Build a positive leadership team
While principals can certainly be the spark for creating positive energy, they’ll need teachers and staff to fan and carry the flame. Invite your leadership team on the bus by setting up a workshop where you create a vision, a road map, an action plan, and a set of initiatives to move the school in the right direction.

Develop a fleet of bus drivers
You’ll be driving the bus at first, but you’re eventually going to need a fleet of bus drivers to join you. To recruit drivers, start talking. Share the school’s vision with everyone.

Conversations should happen between principals and teachers, teachers and staff, staff and students, students and parents. Each person needs to understand the school vision and identify how their personal vision, job and effort contribute to the overarching vision.

Tend to the roots of the tree
In a world driven by test scores, budgets and short-term results, it’s easy to be distracted by outcomes rather than the process. Don’t fall into this trap. Tend to the roots of your tree and you’ll always be pleased with the fruit it supplies. If you ignore the root, eventually the tree will dry up—and so will the fruit.

Weed out negativity
To create a positive school culture, you must deal with the cost of negativity head on. Ask yourself the following questions: How are we going to deal with negativity, challenges and energy vampires?

Dwight Cooper, the CEO of a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), asked himself this question; his answer was a company policy he called The No Complaining Rule. This rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint, they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.”

Give this rule a try: it may lead to new ideas, innovation and success.  

Stay tuned for part II; we have five more tips to share with you next week!

 

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5 Things that Distinguish Excellent Leaders from Leaders

 

excellent leadersOver the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of teachers and asked them to tell us what made their principal an excellent leader. Some described small, but meaningful gestures that made them feel appreciated. One teacher told us how her principal would leave the office an hour early on snowy days, bundle up, and head out to the staff parking lot to scrape car windows. Others described the way in which their principals provided feedback or how they would receive unexpected thank-you notes in their mailboxes.

Excellent leaders lead in a myriad of ways, but according to Neila Connons, author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students, there are a few characteristics excellent leaders share that set them apart from the rest.

According to Connons, excellent leaders have:  

The ability to care and be concerned for others
Before anyone can make a difference they must care. The best schools are based on the premise that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The leader of a school is instrumental in defining, developing, and designing a climate of care. From the moment you walk in the front door of a school, symbols of care must be prevalent throughout. It is the people, practices, positives, and performances that characterize the “caring-ness” of a school. An effective leader serves as the CARE police.

The desire to be successful
Effective leaders are persistently in search of ways to improve, grow, and strengthen. Success begets success. Consequently, in surroundings where leaders are focused on pleasant results, outcomes are frequently rewarding to everyone.

The ability to handle stress
Stress is an element of life and it depends on how one handles this stress that makes or breaks a situation. Successful leaders respond to stress rather than react to it.  

A general feeling of good health
Anyone who decides to take on a leadership position must realize the importance of good health. Our health is like sleep—we don’t miss it until we are deprived of it. Valuable leaders recognize the importance of cherishing the mind, body, and spirit.

The ability to think logically
The best leaders take the time to look at every decision with care, commitment, and connections. They take time to reflect and always ask themselves, “How will this affect others?”

The ability to have fun
Anyone who embarks upon a mission of leadership in education today must be able to have fun. Education is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. Therefore, the best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing.

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5 Things that Distinguish Excellent Leaders from Leaders

 

excellent leadersOver the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of teachers and asked them to tell us what made their principal an excellent leader. Some described small, but meaningful gestures that made them feel appreciated. One teacher told us how her principal would leave the office an hour early on snowy days, bundle up, and head out to the staff parking lot to scrape car windows. Others described the way in which their principals provided feedback or how they would receive unexpected thank-you notes in their mailboxes.

Excellent leaders lead in a myriad of ways, but according to Neila Connons, author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students, there are a few characteristics excellent leaders share that set them apart from the rest.

According to Connons, excellent leaders have:  

The ability to care and be concerned for others
Before anyone can make a difference they must care. The best schools are based on the premise that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The leader of a school is instrumental in defining, developing, and designing a climate of care. From the moment you walk in the front door of a school, symbols of care must be prevalent throughout. It is the people, practices, positives, and performances that characterize the “caring-ness” of a school. An effective leader serves as the CARE police.

The desire to be successful
Effective leaders are persistently in search of ways to improve, grow, and strengthen. Success begets success. Consequently, in surroundings where leaders are focused on pleasant results, outcomes are frequently rewarding to everyone.

The ability to handle stress
Stress is an element of life and it depends on how one handles this stress that makes or breaks a situation. Successful leaders respond to stress rather than react to it.  

A general feeling of good health
Anyone who decides to take on a leadership position must realize the importance of good health. Our health is like sleep—we don’t miss it until we are deprived of it. Valuable leaders recognize the importance of cherishing the mind, body, and spirit.

The ability to think logically
The best leaders take the time to look at every decision with care, commitment, and connections. They take time to reflect and always ask themselves, “How will this affect others?”

The ability to have fun
Anyone who embarks upon a mission of leadership in education today must be able to have fun. Education is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. Therefore, the best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing.

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A 3-Part Exercise to Help Principals Make Better Hiring Decisions

 

principal hiring teachersHiring teachers is tricky business, but it becomes even trickier when a teacher suddenly announces his or her departure a few weeks—or even days—before the new school year begins.

When teachers move on unexpectedly, it’s easy to panic, but by deciding earlier in the school year what kinds of teachers we want to hire, we can avoid making careless decisions that conflict with our standards.

We’ve been reading The Rookie's Playbook: Insights and Dirt for New Principals and came across a three-part exercise to help you predetermine who you want to hire.

After answering the eight questions below, answer them again, only substitute the word “good” for “excellent.”  

  • Good teachers can talk to me about their subject matter or their classrooms in the following ways…

  • Good teachers demonstrate to me that they are passionate about students by doing these things…

  • Good teachers demonstrate to me that they are passionate about teaching by doing these things…

  • Good teachers say the following things about classroom management…

  • Good teachers must have the following qualities for me to hire them…

  • The following qualities are deal-breakers, no matter how excellent the teacher is…

  • These are the strengths that I personally have; I want to see them reflected in the behavior of the teachers I hire…

  • Good teachers demonstrate that they are good colleagues by doing and saying the following…

Now that you’ve completed parts one and two of the exercise, do the reverse: Replace the word good/excellent with the word acceptable. This will give you a wide spectrum of answers that illustrate your values about teaching and learning. When it’s time to hire a new teacher, refer back to your answers.

Photo credit: Nathan Stephens

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10 Qualities of Effective School Leadership

 

effective school leadershipWhen we think of effective school leadership, many of us immediately conjure up an image of the rebels we find on the silver screen: ego-driven lone stars who ride in on white horses, rack up bodies, and do it all on their own.

Effective school leadership, however, has little to do with flamboyance, charisma or a larger-than-life ego.

We agree with Dr. Robert D. Ramsey’s assertions about authentic leaders: They “give others credit while channeling their personal ambition into achieving a collective success. They are doggedly determined, realistic (willing to face hard facts), and terminally optimistic about the certainty of ultimate triumph.”

We’ve been reading Ramsey’s book, School Leadership from A to Z and would like to share 10 of the author’s qualities of effective school leadership.

10 Qualities of Effective School Leadership

An effective school leader:

Has a “can-do” attitude: Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It allows you to take reasonable risks and do more than you thought possible.

Faces reality and expects others to do the same: Effective leaders don’t kid themselves. They deal with things the way they really are, not just the way they wish they were. This attitude gives others permission to get real and deny denial as well.

Demonstrates faith in people: Without an attitude of trust, a principal or superintendent can be little more than a policeman constantly on the lookout for violators.

Holds a positive view of the future: Effective leaders are stubborn in their commitment to hope. Their realism keeps them from having a Pollyanna attitude, but they steadfastly believe that all obstacles can and will be overcome in the end.

Shows an open attitude toward change: Effective leaders are willing to shake things up, raise the roof, and—if necessary—turn the organization upside down to get desired results.

Values honesty: Effective leaders are authentic leaders. Anything less doesn’t work because students, teachers, parents, and school-board members have a built-in radar for detecting phonies.

Reflects an attitude of unselfishness: You can’t be your best as a school leader until you learn to “de-center” yourself—accept that you are not the center of the universe, or even of your own school.

Makes it clear that giving up is not an option: Winston Churchill’s “We’ll never quit” attitude embodies an attitude that saved an entire nation in wartime. Just think what it can do for your school.

Shows a willingness to accept conflict as a part of doing business in a public institution: Real leaders don’t back down from necessary confrontation and aren’t afraid of a fight when it truly matters.

Is passionate about the work and not afraid to show it: More than anything else, strong emotion—a passion that won’t let up—separates peak performers from the others. It’s true in all organizations and especially true in schools.

Photo credit: Photosteve101

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Simple School Bus Safety Education Can Nearly Eliminate Accidents

 

school bus safetyAccording to a recent article by Jeffrey Cassel, the president of School Bus Safety Company, there have been 92 child fatalities in the “danger zones” around school busses in the last eight years. Of these fatalities, 37 were caused by passing vehicles; 24 by being in front of a moving bus; 12 from staying too close to the side of the bus; and 10 from students chasing after busses.  

These accidents are tragic, especially since they could have been avoided by implementing simple safety measures.

Passing vehicles
You may not be able to completely eliminate students crossing the street after exiting the bus, but you can teach students and bus drivers that:

  • Students should only cross when the driver indicates that it is safe
  • Once the driver gives a predetermined signal, the student should stop at the bumper of the bus and look left and right before crossing

Crossing gates
Currently, 26 states have made crossing gates on busses mandatory—and for good reason. In the 20 years Cassel acted as Vice President of Corporate Risk Manager for the Laidlaw group, he oversaw a fleet of busses that grew from 15,000 to 38,000. In the first 10 years that the fleet did not have crossing gates, there were 15 child fatalities.

A decade later, after adding crossing gates to the busses, there was only one child fatality.

Even if your busses don’t have crossing gates, bus drivers can prevent accidents by “counting students away”: If five students exit the bus, the driver should know where each student is before pulling off.

Stay away from the side of the bus
Once students exit the bus, teach them to take at least six steps directly away from the vehicle

No running after the bus
Running after the bus is extremely dangerous and cannot be tolerated. If drivers see students chasing the bus or banging on the side of it, they should stop, but not allow the student on board. By showing the student that there is no benefit to chasing the bus, students will quickly learn not to do it.

To listen to part I of Cassel’s webinar, School Bus Safety Begins and Ends with the Drive, click here.  

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