Posts Tagged With: school leadership

The Principal Affect

Last Spring we completed perhaps the largest re-configuration of school administrators in the history of our District. Sixteen of the twenty-four principal and vice principal positions will have new individuals assigned to them as students return to school in September. We are very excited about this significant change to our leadership team. Some are transferring in from other administrative positions within our District while others are taking on leadership roles for the first time in their careers. Based on the qualities and skill sets each one of them is bringing to their new role, our hope is for a significant positive impact on our schools and students.

I recently came across a 2013 research paper called School Leaders Matter where the impact of effective principals was measured in relation to school and individual student success. It was found that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year;IMG_0092 ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. Much of that work was attributed to management. And by that I don’t mean the management of the school but rather the management of teacher quality. The research supported the fact that “management of teacher quality is an important pathway through which principals affect school quality.” The findings went on to point out that “less effective teachers are more likely to leave schools run by highly effective principals.”

The work, then, of our new leaders (and all school leaders for that matter) is not so much with the students but with the teachers. Building a culture of continual improvement and teaching excellence will ensure that the best possible teachers are impacting our students every day. 


Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Am I A Shepherd Leader?

Ever since being introduced to the concept of Shepherd Leadership a few years back I’ve not only been incorporating it into my daily practice, but also sharing the philosophy with others whenever possible. As a matter of fact, every time I find myself engaged in a conversation about education leadership, I present the 4 pillars of Shepherd Leadership as a model worth considering and others agree that it looks simple yet potentially effective. This mornings #satchatwc Twitter chat was no exception as numerous school leaders Retweeted and Favourited my Tweet:

So what does this look like in the day-to-day life of someone who holds a formal leadership role in education? The interest in my Tweet this morning has caused me to reflect on this very question.

For me, as I take stock of my first few weeks in district office, practicing Shepherd Leadership means that I’ve tried to make room in my day to incorporate the 4 pillars and put them into action. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to:

1. Know your people.

  • Spent a great deal of time meeting with my predecessor and others at central office to better understand where the district has come from and where it hopes to go.
  • Spent a day with our 22 new teachers to set them up for success and get to know them all better.
  • Have set up meetings with every principal in our district and will spend a half day in each of their schools before the end of October.
  • Visited a number of classrooms to observe teachers in action.

2. Overlook most things.

  • Have looked at others through a wide lens in opposed to a narrow one. Everyone has strengths and areas for growth; including me.
  • Have responded positively when challenged on the new ideas I bring to my role in the district. By listening to an opposing view I think of things I would not have otherwise.
  • Have not become discouraged with those who are slow in responding to my requests or directives. Everyone moves at a different pace.
  • Have supported some decisions that were made before I arrived, even though I would probably have approached them differently. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

3. Stand for a few things.

  • Have introduced a program where principals and vice principals are expected to be in classrooms supervising instruction on a regular basis and then following up with professional conversations. Plans must be documented and shared at the district level and with other principals. This Wiki will be a place to share resources and develop transparency about our work.
  • As the gatekeeper of human resources in my district I’ve only hired teachers who could demonstrate an ability to engage today’s learners and could effectively answer these relevant teacher interview questions.
  • Have been responsive to the needs of teachers and support staff through the parameters of our collective agreements.
  • Have fully supported the direction our superintendent and school board has set for the district.

4. Praise a lot.

  • Sent cards of thanks and positive feedback to teachers who invited me into their classrooms.
  • I’ve shown appreciation for my colleagues and the amazing work they do.
  • Every day I try to express gratitude for those who assist me in my work.
  • I’ve tried to smile as much as possible while navigating my way along the learning curve of a new position.

The practical application of Shepherd Leadership may look different from one leader to the next but I truly believe that this simple formula will allow all leaders, both formal and informal, to experience a great deal of success in the important work they do.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

My Spin on Leadership

Leadership is taking on a very different look in schools everywhere; and if it’s not, it should be. As a matter of fact, school administration plays a very different role than it did when I first became a principal in the 1990’s. The culture of the time pretty much told me that I was an island unto myself, unilaterally charged with making decisions that I believed were in the best interest of the school community and individual students. My staff, whether they agreed or not, were expected to support my decisions and I was usually credited with school successes or blamed for failures. Even if I wanted to work more collaboratively with stakeholders, it was a foreign concept to most. Teachers mostly stayed behind the safety of their classroom doors, students followed a structured schedule and detailed set of rules, and parents volunteered at the school only if they were invited to do so.

Over the last few years, with the education landscape quickly changing, I’ve come to realize that my role as a school leader is less about leading by myself and more about developing a culture were distributed leadership can blossom and thrive. Through credibility and trust, leaders must enlist school communities in joining them on a journey toward a shared vision for their school. And letting go of control is an important part of that. Leadership can and should happen at all levels of any system and the formal leader sometimes needs to just get out of the way and let it happen. So, in trying to practice what I preach, I’m supporting my teachers, parents, and students in taking on leadership roles. The formula, as I see it, is really quite simple.

1. Stop saying ‘yes, but…’; and start just saying ‘yes.’

2. Show others that you trust them.

3. Value a culture of risk-taking and learning from failure.

4. Collaborate ‘with’ others and not ‘to’ others.

5. Smile, encourage, and have fun every day.

As the distributed leadership model takes hold in my school, I am encouraged with the number of innovative new practices that are emerging. There is a sustained positive energy and everyone seems to be happier. I am seeing in action, Carol Dweck’s growth mindset and Daniel Pink’s motivation 3.0. In many ways I feel like I’m just going along for the ride.

Another spin-off is that I’ve had a lot less “managing” to do and therefore can join in the exciting new learning that is taking place every day. My job is easier and more relevant than it has ever been.

I once read that the best legacy of any leader is to have left many leaders behind when they move on. I now understand the importance of this statement.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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