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13 Career-Advice Tips for Educational Leaders


Educational LeadershipSchool is out. Whether you are taking some time off or getting in some of your online courses in Educational Leadership, summer is always a good time to reflect on the previous school year and begin preparing for the next! To help you prepare, we’d like to share some career advice from Robert Sternberg, a professor at Cornell University. You can also find Sternberg’s tips in the May, 2015 issue of The Chronicle for Higher Education.

  • Put family first.
  • Make your health a close second.
  • Save as much money as you can.
  • If you’re in the wrong place, get out.
  • Stay away from jerks.
  • If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Don’t tie up too much of your self-esteem in someone else’s evaluation of your work.
  • Take stock periodically.
  • Have a hobby. See the world. Or both.
  • Help others.
  • Take some risks.
  • And here’s one from our own list…enroll in Marygrove’s Education Leadership online program.  Become a school leader and make a difference!

 “That’s it,” Sternberg concludes. “I hope that by the time you reach my age, you’ll feel that your life and career have made the kind of difference you had hoped to make. Me? I’m not there yet, which is why I’m still trying – for example, by writing this article.”

“Career Advice from an Oldish Not-Quite Geezer” by Robert Sternberg in The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 29, 2015 (Vol. LXI, #37, p. A27-28),

School Improvement Grant Peer Reviewers Needed


Michigan Department of EducationOn May 28, 2015, The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released an announcement that they are seeking peer reviewers for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) Cohort IV. If you are an aspiring school leader, you may find the experience as a peer reviewer helpful as you prepare for a school leadership career.

Peer reviewers will read, score, and make recommendations for funding of applications which demonstrate: 1) the greatest need for the funds, and 2) the strongest commitment to use the funds to substantially raise student achievement in SIG-eligible schools.

Peer reviewers must be willing to meet for a two-day consensus review on
July 15-16, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Clinton County Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) in St. Johns, Michigan. Before the consensus review, reviewers will be asked to:

  • Read 2-4 applications

  • Score the applications using a standardized scoring rubric

  • Take note and document questions, observations, and points of clarification to share with consensus teammates

At the consensus review, reviewers will be asked to:

  • Work collaboratively with assigned teammates

  • Participate in a calibration activity using one common application read by all reviewers

  • Review and determine a consensus score for each assigned application

  • Document the rationale for the application’s score

  • Make final funding recommendations

The consensus review will take place on Wednesday, July 15, and Thursday July 16, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Clinton County RESA, 1013 South US 27, St. Johns, Michigan. Lunch will be provided both days.

If you are interested in reviewing SIG Cohort IV applications, e-mail a résumé to by Friday, June 12, 2015. If you have questions contact Dr. LaWanna Shelton at (517) 373-3488 or

Revised Draft Standards for Education Leaders: Give Feedback Now!


Educational LeadershipOn May 11, 2015 the  Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and The National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA) released the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards for School Leaders, known as ISLLC, for public comment. 

People interested in reviewing the standards can read them here and can provide feedback through a survey here. The public comment period will last until May 29. CCSSO will use the comments to make additional refinements to the standards, which will be finalized and released this summer.

 Michigan is one of forty-five states and the District of Columbia, utilizing ISLLC standards to guide preparation, practice, support and evaluations for district and school leaders, including superintendents, principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders.

Marygrove’s Educational Leadership online program is aligned to the ISLLC standards and  reflect the new emphasis on the changing responsibilities of principals, superintendents and other district-office leaders. 

ISSLIC standards “are built on a transformational vision of education leadership expressed through seven policy standards. Transformational education leaders:

  1. Build a shared vision of student success and well-being.
  2. Champion and support instruction and assessment that maximizes student learning and achievement.
  3. Manage and develop staff members' professional skills and practices in order to drive student learning and achievement.
  4. Cultivate a caring and inclusive school community dedicated to student learning, academic success and the personal well-being of every student.
  5. Coordinate resources, time, structures and roles effectively to build the instructional capacity of teachers and other staff.
  6. Engage families and the outside community to promote and support student success.
  7. Administer and manage operations efficiently and effectively.

Each of the seven policy standards is accompanied by specific actions that illustrate that standard.”

(CCSSO Press Release, May 11, 2015.)

5 Reasons to Earn Your Educational Leadership Degree at Marygrove


Masters Degree in Educational LeadershipWe get it!  Trying to balance all of the demands of daily life can be quite a challenge.  You have family and job responsibilities that take up most of your waking hours.  That’s why Marygrove College offers a 100% online Masters in Educational Leadership, designed to meet your career goals

Enrolling in Marygrove’s online Educational Leadership program is the perfect way to prepare you for a career in school leadership and develop your skills as an agent of change.

5 Reasons to Earn Your Educational Leadership Degree at Marygrove

Avoid Commuting.  On snowy, bad weather days, you won’t miss a beat by taking online course.  As the adage states, “You can learn any time and any place,” whether in your “bunny slippers” or after the kids go to bed.

Highly-Qualified Instructors. Marygrove’s Educational Leadership courses are facilitated by practitioners in the field of school leadership.  With an average of twenty-five years of experience, our instructors are highly qualified and know how to help you make the connection between theory and leadership practice. 

Networking. Network with your peers from all over the country.  Through the use of discussions, chats, blogs and social media, you will expand your contacts with other like-minded professionals. 

Career Advancement.  You will develop new skills not only specific to educational leadership, but also technical skills that are needed in many occupations beyond education.  Additionally, you will be able to apply your new found comfort with technology in your own classroom.

Social Justice.  The Marygrove College mission is real. Marygrove provides a personalized learning environment focused on Competence, Compassion, and Commitment, and to building a more just and humane world.

To learn more about our Master in Educational Leadership program, visit our website, call (855) 628-6279 to speak to one of our admissions representatives, or request more information here.

Common Questions About Masters in Educational Leadership Programs


Masters in Educational LeadershipYou’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you certainly have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every administrator worth his or her salt must have. Now what?

Before you revamp that resume and start applying for open positions, we thought we would answer a few common questions aspiring principals might have.

Do I Have to Have a Masters in Educational Leadership to Become a School Principal?
The best answer we can give to this question is yes, a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership is required by most states to become a school administrator.

How Do I Apply to a Master in Educational Leadership Program?
In addition to filling out an application, most Masters Degree in Educational Leadership programs require applicants to take the GRE test. This is a test taken by most students who are applying for admission (or a fellowship) to study at the graduate level.

The good news about Marygrove College’s Masters in Educational Leadership program is that we do not require our applicants to take the GRE!

To apply to our program, you’ll need the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Minimum 3.0 grade point average
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work completed
  • Career Plan
  • Interview with program coordinator
  • Completed application with $25 application fee
  • Elementary or secondary teaching certificate

What Should I Expect From My Experience in a Master in Educational Leadership Program?
Our program offers students the choice of completing their course work either on-campus or online. Although our program is certainly rigorous, most of our students also find their experience to be rewarding—some might even go so far as to say that it is fun.

Academically, your experience in our Masters in Educational Leadership program will be very different than the undergraduate experience. How so?

Think about it this way: As a graduate student, you’ve already learned how to learn. Furthermore, you’ve built a sturdy foundation of knowledge and experience that makes adjusting to our program much easier, exciting, and pleasant. In addition to this, you will also be surrounded by likeminded peers, most of whom aspire to become school administrators, and professors who choose to teach at Marygrove College not so that they can research and publish—although many of our professors do—but so that they can do what they are truly passionate about: TEACH!

What is the Coursework Like in Your Masters Degree in Educational Leadership Program?
In our program, you will take courses that cover a variety of relevant topics including courses in executive leadership and decision making, finance, technology, curriculum theory and development, legal issues in education, staff development, racial and ethnic diversity, and urban social issues.

In addition to these courses, you will complete a Practicum in which you will develop a plan of work and engage in several administrative duties, responsibilities, and activities such as, organizational leadership, curriculum development, and supervision and evaluation of staff during the practicum experience.

How Do I Learn More About Marygrove’s Masters Degree in Educational Leadership Program?
To learn more about our Master in Educational Leadership program, visit our website, call (855) 628-6279 to speak to one of our admissions representatives, or request more information here.


5 Ways Principals Can Facilitate a Digital Learning Environment


principals_Digital Learning EnvironmentMost of us have seen how students respond to technology in the classroom. Teachers, too, are enthusiastic about it, but I think we can all agree that unless classroom technology is used deliberately and strategically, and tied to specific learning objectives, there’s really no reason to introduce it to the classroom environment.

So how can principals help facilitate a digital learning environment? Furthermore, how can they ensure that teachers receive the training and mentoring that is often necessary in order to make this happen?

To help answer these questions, we’d like to share five classroom technology implementation strategies from Janette Hughes and Anne Burke’s new book, The Digital Principal.

5 Ways Principals Can Facilitate a Digital Learning Environment

Teach the Teachers
Whenever one of your teachers attends a conference or workshop, make it an expectation that s/he will share the experience—along with any materials and resources s/he may have gathered—with the rest of the staff. This can happen at a staff meeting, during a professional development day, or occasionally during lunch breaks.

Use Instructional Rounds
Most of us have attended a conference or professional development session in which we listened to someone share exciting ideas about a new teaching strategy—but once it comes time to execute that same strategy, we feel at a loss.

Many of us are visual learners and would benefit from seeing these strategies in action. That’s where the “instructional rounds” approach comes in.

An “instructional rounds” approach offers teachers the opportunity to see a lesson/activity or digital technology piece in use in the classroom context.

In an instructional round, a lead teacher plans a lesson using a digital tool, and a group of teachers sits in on the lesson to observe. After the lesson, with everything still fresh in their minds, the whole group meets outside the classroom to discuss and reflect on what happened.

Keep in mind that this should not be an evaluative exercise!

Try Virtual Book Clubs
Work with the technology team or committee you have established to select a Principal’s Book of the Month—maybe a picture book, a professional book, or a novel. You may want to supplement hardcopy books with digital reading materials like YouTube videos and podcasts.

For your book club, set up a virtual space for interested teachers to discuss the book. When appropriate, the teachers can also create and share related lesson plans that use digital technology. You can lead the discussion yourself or arrange for a technology team member (or volunteer) to do it. In any event, be sure to take part so that your staff sees that you are committed to the endeavor.

Partner With Other Schools
At your regular school district principals’ meeting or administrator conferences, ask your colleagues what kinds of technology they are using. If another school in your area is doing something innovative with technology, send a small team of your teachers for a site visit to observe.

Try Out Speed Geeking
We may think we’re tech savvy, but we’ve got nothing on young people like our students, which is one reason to give Speed Geeking a try. Essentially, it’s a professional-development strategy that loosely mimics speed dating, but replaces the dating part with student-led technology sessions.

Students facilitate Speed Geeking by preparing a brief presentation around technology. Each student is given five or ten minutes to share their favorite piece of technology—iMovie, say, or Storybird, Twitter and Flocabulary—and explain to teachers and administrators how it enhances their learning.

I’m intrigued by Speed Geeking for a couple of reasons. First, it’s student-centered. Speed Geeking gives students the opportunity to design instructional practice and values them as contributing members of the school. Second, it’s a way to breathe new life into our stodgy old faculty meetings and get our hands on new tech-tools that we know students respond to.

If you’d like to learn more about Speed Geeking, check out this article by Kim Cofino.

Photo credit: mortsan / Foter / CC BY

Click here to get more information about Marygrove’s new School Administrator Certificate program and how it can help you advance your career as a principal or educational administrator.

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Hiring Teachers: 5 More Tips for Principals


Hiring Teachers Tips for PrincipalsLike we said in our last post, it’s a competitive market and odds are that you are going to receive dozens, possibly even hundreds of applications from prospective teachers. So how do principals sift through them to find that proverbial needle in the haystack?

To help you find the right teachers, we’d like to share a few tips from Aspen’s Practical Guide to Interviewing Teachers (unfortunately, this book is currently out of print).

Hiring Teachers: 5 More Tips for Principals

Details give resumes credibility
Sometimes it’s what candidates don’t say that’s most important. Say that an applicant lists “conflict resolution” experience on a resume. That sounds good, but doesn’t necessarily tell you how or even if he or she has been involved with it. It may just be something the applicant read about. On the other hand, if an applicant writes, “Worked with kids in a conflict management program”—and describes, in detail, his or her specific role—the information is a lot more credible.

What do letters of recommendation and references say about applicants?
Reading between the lines also applies to letters of recommendation. Check to see how specific the letters are. If the writer is vague about the applicant’s abilities, you may have a reason to think twice. It’s possible that the reference just didn’t know how to refuse to write a letter of recommendation.

This is especially true when recommenders use vague phrases like “really eager” without going into details. Was the teacher “really eager” to take days off? Or was s/he “really eager” to pursue professional development? We have no way of knowing and, generally speaking, more reason to ask more questions about the applicant.

Review the candidate’s last performance evaluation—if you can
If possible, you might want to look at the most recent performance evaluations of top applicants. If your state doesn’t formally track evaluation information, you can still request that applicants provide you with a copy, or simply bring it to the interview.

Ask applicants to call for application information
One way to conduct an initial screening is to ask all candidates to call for specific information on how to apply for the job. This forces applicants to show initiative and gives you a chance to analyze their communication skills.

Judging candidates when they are recent college graduates
Sizing up the credentials of an applicant is challenging—but it’s even harder when he or she is a fresh-faced college student. That is not to say that you should not consider recent graduates. None of us came out of the womb with 30 years of experience under our belts!

If you are considering a recent graduate, you may want to consider these four clues that often separate future superstars from the rest of the crowd:

Life experiences: Take a hard look at individuals who went back to school after starting families or working in other careers. These folks are experienced—although not necessarily in teaching—able to adapt to change and are often confident.

To find this information, look closely at applicants’ resumes. Candidates’ work histories often indicate life experience and maturity.

Multi-Level experience: The candidate should be able to list practicums at different grade levels. The varied experiences of working at different levels makes candidates more well- rounded—and more appealing. How do you find this? Check under “teaching experience” or “related coursework.”

Professionalism: Teaching is not a 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. job. Is the applicant aware of this? Look closely at the cover letter. What is the applicant’s tone? Is it riddled with clichés about teaching or is it grounded in reality?

Flexibility: Can this person deal with students who have a lot of needs? How well will the applicant work with other teachers? Will he or she share ideas? If applicants don’t seem flexible, you may want to pass.

Look at the candidate’s student-teaching evaluations—specifically those written by supervising teachers—for clues that tell you something about their flexibility.

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Hiring Teachers: 5 Essential Tips for Principals


hiring teachers; tips for principalsHiring teachers is a tricky business. More specifically, though, hiring is a solitary business. We may include the staff, the PTA, or the board in the selection process, but whether they are included or not, the administrator will stand alone if that new hire doesn’t work out.

It’s a competitive market and odds are that you are going to receive dozens, possibly even hundreds of applications from perspective teachers. So how do you sift through them to find that proverbial needle in the haystack?

To help you find the right teachers, we’d like to share a few tips from Aspen’s Practical Guide to Interviewing Teachers (unfortunately, this book is currently out of print).

Decide what type of person you’re looking for
The days when teachers closed their doors and went quietly about their business are long gone. Teachers must be flexible, cooperative and, most of all, team-oriented. Sure, you want someone who can teach kids, but it’s just as important that teachers work with school staff, parents, and the community. Teachers can’t come to work with the attitude that they’re going to just teach.

In hiring, this means you must look for applicants with more than just good teaching credentials. They’ll also need specialized skills, personalities and experience that compliment your existing team—and your vision.  

Start by building a profile of the ideal candidate by answering these questions:

  • What are the specific demands of the position
  • What are the strengths of the department/team/grade level?
  • What are the weaknesses of the department/team/grade level?
  • What type of person will add more balance to the group—but still mesh easily with its members?”

Ask staff members to describe their ideal colleague
It’s your staff, your students and your school. All of you have a right to be picky. Current teachers should have a chance to custom-order their colleague. After all, who knows more about the skills that will make the teaching team more productive? To solicit opinions, meet with staff members at the open position’s grade level before deciding whom to interview.

You may even want to put together a survey for students. Solicit their feedback. What, to them, makes an engaging learning environment? What, to them, makes a strong, fair, and engaging instructor?

Consider the needs of the school and the students
Before you begin weeding out candidates, consider the special needs of your school. Is your school in an affluent district where parents’ expectations are high? Or is your school serving a low-income population? Whatever it is, the population you are serving should play into the selection process.

If candidates have little to no experience with your student population or your school’s “hot-button issues,” you may want to look elsewhere.

Rescue your job descriptions from filing-cabinet purgatory
Job descriptions/posting are often treated as little more than formalities: bureaucratic documents that have to be created, but once they are, usually end up gathering dust inside a filing cabinet or living in purgatory on the company server.

This is unfortunate not only for legal reasons, but also because keeping up-to-date job descriptions offers you the opportunity to improve productivity and increase retention and morale.  

If you’re looking for a new teacher, do not simply repost the same one you used in 1989! There are several reasons you need to invest in a well-written job description.

  • First, the job description is the basis of your search for a new hire
    Going into an interview without a clear job description is like packing for a trip abroad without putting together a list of things to bring. In both cases, you’re bound to forget something. You may think you know what a job entails, but chances are that the position you’re looking to fill has evolved over the years. An up-to-date job description will ensure that candidates know what the position requires and help you weed out unqualified applicants.

  • Second, the job description is an indispensable interview tool
    You may have a set of interview questions you’re in the habit of using, but a detailed and clearly- written job description should ultimately be your interview roadmap.  

    We’ve met interviewers who insist on using questions like, “If you were a bicycle, which part would you be?” or “If you were a cocktail, what kind would you be?” to help them determine which candidates can think on their feet and problem solve. We beg to differ. Questions like this are cute, but they have little to do with whether or not a teacher is qualified. Stick to your job description and use it to frame your interview questions.

  • Third, new employees can use the job description to get an immediate understanding of expectations
    A teacher who only has vague notions of what you and your staff expect is in a precarious and uncomfortable situation. Well-written job descriptions help eliminate the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often accompany the decision to accept a new teaching position.

Did the candidate supply you with a philosophy of teaching statement?
CVs and cover letters convey useful information, but the philosophy of teaching statement is often more revealing than any other document prospective teachers will supply you with. If you didn’t receive one of these, that may be reason enough for you to move on to the next candidate.

A good philosophy of teaching statement should really get at the heart of who this candidate is, why s/he teaches, and how s/he teaches. For a more detailed description of what to look for in a philosophy of teaching statement, check out an article called “The Dreaded Teaching Statement: Eight Pitfalls.”  

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20 of the Best Brain Breaks for Students


 brain breaks

The closer to the holiday break we get, the harder it is for our students to focus; they’re either falling asleep or climbing the walls! To help you refocus your students’ energy and get them back on track, we’d like to share 20 of our favorite brain breaks.

Desk Switch
Give your students 10 seconds to grab their materials and find another desk to sit in. They will remain in this desk until the end of the lesson. There are two reasons we do this: First, it gets them moving; second, being in a different location often helps them see the environment in a new way.

Position Switch
Many teachers are sticklers for good posture, but in our experience, one of the best ways to help students focus is by allowing them to turn their chairs around and sit straddling the chair so that their hands can rest on the back. Sitting like this is a rare treat for students—and we’ve yet to see any misshapen spines as a result.

Go on a gallery walk. Set up several stations around the room and place a different image or object on each one. To give students a clear sense of purpose, provide them with a series of questions or tasks that they must complete at each station. When they are done, gather as a class and have each group share its conclusions.

Active Survey: Survey your students by asking questions and having them step to a side or corner of the room that represents their response. This gets students up and moving and out of their seats!

Fidget Bucket
If your students can’t sit still, put together a fidget bucket. This may include stress balls, stuffed animals or even random items that you have lying around the house like bottle caps, corks and magnets. Objects like this allow students to keep their hands busy, but still focus on what’s going on in the classroom.

Toss Them a Foam Ball
Instead of calling on students, toss them a foam ball.

Walk Around the Room
Instead of gluing yourself to the whiteboard, wander around the room as you teach. Human instinct provokes us to follow things that move, so don’t be surprised when your students start tracking you!

Pretend to be confused: If your students are dozing off, pretend to be confused about the lesson you’re teaching. Everything that you knew is suddenly confusing and the only way you can get out of this predicament is with your students’ help.

Select a Code Word
If your students are nodding off, arrange a code word—something fun like “Boom!” or “Shazam!” Whenever students hear this word, they must use both hands to hit the tops of their desks two times and then clap two times. This should wake them up!

“Wot dat yeh sey?”
If you’re not afraid to tap into your silly side, teach a short (notice the emphasis on short) part of your lesson with an accent. Our cockney English accent isn’t the greatest, but our students seem to think so. 

Roll the Physical Activity Cube
In our perusal of Pinterest, we came across set of instructions to create a physical activity cube. Each side of the cube has a different exercise—spin in a circle, jump five times, flap your arms like a bird, hop on one foot, etc. When students need to wake up, we pull out the cube and give it a roll.

Crab Walk around the Room
Put on a song and have students walk in the crab position around the room. At some point, have students go in reverse. 

Heads Up, 7-Up
Another classic that is easy and exciting for students!

Choose a student to come up and lead a minute of stretching.  Most students know various stretches from gym class and will enjoy leading their peers!

Choose a student to act out an activity without talking.  The class must mimic the leader and then guess what the activity is (swimming, flying, sleeping, laughing, jogging, singing, etc.).

Have students pair up and mirror the actions of their partner. Students will get a kick out of this activity!

Thumb Wrestling
Have students choose a partner and participate in some old-fashioned thumb wrestling. Be sure to establish your expectations before this little brain break.  

Sky Writing
Have students “sky write” their ABCs, sight words, spelling words, or a secret message to their friend.  

Air Band
Choose an "air" instrument and "rock out!"  Drums, guitar, and saxophone are my personal favorites.

Silent Yoga
Strike a yoga pose and see how long your students can hold it. Google "Kid Yoga" for some easy examples. 

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A Principal’s Guide to the 5-Minute Classroom Walkthrough


classroom walkthroughsTired of the checklists, the paperwork, the stress, and the push-back that comes with the traditional classroom observation process? So are we. That’s why we threw away the old model and started using the five-minute classroom walkthrough.

How can anyone perform a classroom or teacher evaluation in only five minutes? Unlike traditional observations, five-minute walk-throughs don’t bite off more than they can chew. Quick evaluations target specific and therefore digestible goals and keep both the observer and observed from being overwhelmed.

In order for five-minute walkthroughs to work, administrators should:

  • Have a specific observation goal
  • Conduct walkthroughs routinely and across all classrooms
  • Have clear documentation summarizing the goals, observations, and conclusions

To put your five-minute walkthroughs into play, take the following steps:

Begin with a staff meeting that includes teachers
Before the observation, administration should call a staff-wide meeting to clearly explain what a 5-minute walk-through is and encourage staff involvement. Teachers should be told exactly what will be observed during the process.

Set up observation teams
While walk-throughs can be done by one person, it is best for two or more people to routinely participate so each person can have a specific task and more meaningful data can be accumulated. Rotating some of the observers each time is even more beneficial.

Before each walk-through, the team should set one specific goal. For example:

  • Let's see what student writing samples are displayed in the classroom.
  • Name the teaching strategies used by the teacher.
  • Are the learning goals for the lesson clear?
  • Let's evaluate the level of student engagement with the lesson.
  • What do we see that the teacher might not?
  • Is technology being used consistently throughout the classrooms?

By focusing on one objective and applying it to every classroom, the team will get a clear sense of whether the school/district goals are being met.  Strengths and weaknesses will become obvious.  If walk-throughs are routine, a bad or good day will matter less and less because a consistent theme—whether positive, negative, or neutral—will emerge.

Produce Clear Documented Reflections
When the day's walk-throughs are complete, the team should take the time to clearly pinpoint the observations and communicate them to the observed teachers.  This valuable feedback will create goals for subsequent walk-throughs.

The hope is that administrators, teachers, and even students, will begin to feel like part of a more collective whole.  Learning goals become shared, regardless of grade level or subject expertise. The result is that developing teachers continue to become more effective and engaged in the classroom. 

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