Administrative Professionals’ Day

We know how much our administrative professionals do for our schools, our parents, and for us.  How can we show them how much we appreciate them?  In combing through several surveys, the most popular answer was to give them a gift card to a place that you know they go often and would appreciate.  This answer beat out flowers, cash, and taking them out to lunch.  You know your administrative professionals best; maybe your secretary loves getting flowers.   The survey responses made one thing clear.  Use your knowledge of your support staff to allow them to celebrate in a way that matters to them.   If they love notes from students, you have some time to see if students and teachers can support you in showing our appreciation to these very special administrative professionals.

Improve Your Interview Questions

How can you adjust your interview questions so that they predict a person’s performance on the job rather than assessing if they are good at interviews? 
 
Determine the attributes and competencies that you need for this position.  Do you need someone who is results-driven?  Flexible?  Someone who has a “whatever it takes” attitude?  Someone who will be open to support and mentoring from a strong team?  Figure out these competencies first and then select questions to assess these competencies. 
 
Eliminate bad interview questions.  The questions you ask need to differentiate between the candidates and help you predict their performance.  Mark Murphy, founder of LeadershipIQ, shares how to change your interview questions in his Hiring For Attitude webinar outlined below:  
 
·        Get rid of hypothetical questions in favor of “Could you tell me about a time when…”   Delete questions that can be rehearsed, that ask candidates to gaze into the future, or where candidates can reconstruct history.  For example, “Why did you leave your last job?” asks about the past, but not about the candidate’s actions in the past. Questions that ask about past behavior have a higher potential to determine whether the candidate “has the competencies that are hallmarks of superior performance in a particular job.” 
 
·        Leave the question hanging.  If you want to know how they handled a difficult situation, leave off “…and what you did to resolve the situation.”  Applicants should provide a positive resolution without prompting if they are problem-solvers, reflective, or results-oriented. 
 
·        Ask fewer questions.  Try to narrow your questions to around 6 questions for a structured behavior based interview.  It is better to ask only those questions that can differentiate performance for your key attributes or skills.  Think of a current employee who is marginal and one who is exceptional.  How would they answer, “Tell me about a strength and weakness.” This question rarely differentiates performance between candidates.  Now, consider how your marginal and exceptional employees would respond to this approach:
·       What is your supervisor’s name?  Please spell that …

·       Could you tell me about ___ as a boss? 

·       What could you have done to enhance your working relationship with ___?

·       When I talk to ___ what will ____ say your strengths are?

·       Everyone has areas to improve.  When I talk with ___, what would  ___ say your weaknesses are?       (Murphy, Hiring For Attitude, 2015)

Create answer guidelines.  Know how each person on the team should evaluate the candidate’s response.  You may want your exemplary employees to create the “Target” answer for each question.  Your interview form can have the “Target” bullet points and then your team can rate responses as Target, Acceptable, or Unacceptable.  
Another way to have interview team rate responses is to listen for the candidate to describe PAR:  a specific Problem, an appropriate Action, and how he or she learned from or contributed to a Result (Clement, 2008). 
 
Need examples?  Below are a compilation of questions.  What competencies or skills do each of these questions assess?  Select the competencies and skills you need and then select a handful of questions that would assess them. 
 
Questions from Mary Clement’s  “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” (2008):
·        Could you describe a unit of study that you have taught?
·        How have you divided a large amount of material to be covered?
·        How do you write a daily lesson plan, and what is included?
·        Could you please describe a practical way to teach _____________. (e.g., the concept of symmetry in mathematics, or democracy in social sciences)?
·        What have you done to refocus a class? 
·        How have you modified assign­ments for English-language learners (ELL) or special education students in your class?
·        Share an example of a positive commu­nication that you have sent to parents.
·        Could you tell me about a typical homework assignment in your class and what you have done to deal with students who do not complete homework?

Questions from David Walker’s “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” (2017):
·        How did the culture at your last school or organization empower or disempower you?
·        What were the characteristics of the best boss you’ve ever had?
·        Describe how you handled a conflict with one of your co-workers.
·        What kind of feedback do you expect to receive in this role and how often do you expect to receive it?
 
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Questions from Anne Rubin’s “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” (2018): 
·       Tell us about your best collaborative experience with a colleague.
·       We tell kids all the time that failure is an important step toward success. Describe a time when you failed in a professional setting. 
·       Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a leader?
·       Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a follower?
·       How have you changed from your first years in the classroom?
·       Could you share an example of how your teaching practice been shaped by your understanding of your identity?
 
References: 
 
Clement, M. (2008, January/February) “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” Principal.  NAESP.  Pp. 44-47.
 
Murphy, M. (2015, February 19).  “Hiring For Attitude” [Webinar].  LeadershipIQ.   
 
Rubin, A. (2018, March 30).   “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” School Leaders Now.
 
Walker, David. (2017, July 26).  “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” Inc. 

What Would Your Staff Do With A 20% Raise?

Educators never expected to get rich teaching, but many did not expect to be battling poverty or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.   Christine Marsh, 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, asked teachers what they would do with a 20% raise (Roberts, 2018).  Many of the answers included finally taking care of medical procedures, paying back debt and student loans, living without their parents’ financial assistance, and replacing cars, bald tires, or air conditioning units that are no longer reliable, with a few instances of wanting to be able to go out to dinner or get coffee occasionally without feeling guilty. 

 

The question was reminiscent of the book I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by teacher, Kyle Schwartz, inspired by the answers of her students living in poverty.  She used the sentence stem, “I wish my teacher knew ____” and gained great insight from the answers of her students.  

 

When we as educational leaders advocate for our staff in the areas of culture and total rewards (climate, engagement, pay, benefits, rewards, recognition), do we know what our individual staff members want?  The research suggests that the educational retention problem is not all about pay.  Teachers want support and a positive climate.  However, we know that half of teachers leave within their first 5 years.  What is it that would keep these teachers in the profession and what makes it not worth continuing? 

 

What could be gained if your staff were to answer the following? 

  • I wish my principal knew ____
  • I wish my budget committee knew ____
  • I wish my HR department knew ____
  • I wish my legislators knew ____


 If you knew the pinch points, how might your school or district be able to tailor your culture and total rewards to increase retention? 

4 Practices to Build Trust

Building trust can be particularly difficult this time of year, especially as people wonder about placement, hiring, budgets, contracts, and what is in store for next year.  Last week, you reflected on actions that can bust trust.  This week, try to practice the four actions that can build and restore trust identified by Julie Peterson Combs, Sandra Harris, and Stacey Edmonson (2015).    

·       “Build trust by understanding trust. Trusted leaders demonstrate care, character, and competence in their interaction.” 

o   Of these, competence may be the most difficult characteristic to demonstrate.  If you are continuously learning and improving your practice, you can gain competency in handling difficult situations, managing change, and supporting struggling teachers.  When there are areas for which you lack competence, how can you simultaneously gain competence while leveraging resources and people to provide the skills or knowledge that are needed? 

·       “Build trust by monitoring your reactions. Leaders' reactions to challenging situations affect others' views of the situation and the leader. It's important for leaders to monitor their moods and not react impulsively or in anger.”

o   You’ve heard, “It’s like water off a duck’s back.”  React to changing moods and challenging situations like you’ve handled them smoothly before.  Let a trusted colleague know that you are working to control your reactions.  Have that person talk with you whenever you seemed overwhelmed or upset so that you get clear feedback when it is happening.  

·       “Build trust by addressing concerns. Leaders should handle difficult situations among staff quietly and directly, instead of reprimanding an entire faculty for the actions of a few. When working with struggling teachers, leaders observe their work with care and offer honest and specific feedback.”

o   Good teachers leave principals who do not address concerns.  They want to know that there are high expectations and that you know how to manage staff who are not meeting the expectations.  They are looking for you to show the persistence and commitment required to increase someone’s competence or leave the role.  

·       “Build trust by saying ‘thank you.’ Sincere and frequent expressions of appreciation built trust. Look over your calendar or walk through the building looking for people who have been helpful and deserve thanks. Verbal and e-mails of thanks are valuable, but hand-written notes can be especially encouraging.”

o   Consider systems that could help you make this a regular practice.  Could your secretary bring you 5 blank thank you notes each week?  Could the opening to each professional development be a ritual where you start with a thank you that speaks to the school vision?

Consider the possibilities of the work you and your staff could accomplish in a high-trust environment and make the effort to focus on building trust.  

Combs, J, Harris, S, and Edmonson, S.  Four Essential Practices for Building Trust:  Are you communicating in a way that inspires trust?[Abstract].  Educational Leadership.  72(7).  18-22. 

Building or Busting Trust

High-trust environments are places where staff work collaboratively and respond to changes fluidly with the knowledge that they all have the same intent, even if they disagree passionately on the best ways to get there.  High-trust environments allow leaders to occasionally say the wrong thing or say something in the wrong way and people give grace and concentrate on a leader’s intent.  

 

For the next two weeks we will look at leadership moves that affect trust.  This week, we will focus on actions that erode trust in you.  Next week, after you have reflected on your own behaviors, we will look at actions that build trust.  Consider your actions in the past few weeks: 

 

Trust Buster 1. Not Listening. How frequently do you… 

Ask people for input, but then ignore their ideas? Interrupt when others are talking? Prepare your own response while others are still talking? 

 

Trust Buster 2. Trying to Save Time at the Expense of Others. How frequently do you… 

Reprimand the entire group for the actions of a few individuals? Fail to include all who are involved in a situation? Address criticisms when it is most convenient for you, without considering how the timing affects others? 

 

Trust Buster 3. Saying One Thing, but Doing Another. How frequently do you… 

Fail to follow through with an announced plan of action? Tell one group to do something that conflicts with what you have told others? Change your mind about an announced plan of action on the basis of the most recent conversation? 

 

Trust Buster 4. Gossiping. How frequently do you… 

Break confidences when you share with others? Talk about others in an unkind or unfair way? Exaggerate the facts? Share information that isn't helpful or necessary?

(Combs, Harris, & Edmonson, 2015, p. 21)

 

This week notice and stop making any of these moves.  Next week, we will look at how to build or repair trust.  

 

Combs, J, Harris, S, and Edmonson, S.  “Four Essential Practices for Building Trust:  Are you communicating in a way that inspires trust?”  Educational Leadership.  72(7).  18-22. 

Prioritizing Sleep

Do you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep during the week?  Are you laughing?  It is no laughing matter.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 27% of us get enough sleep and only 10% of us actually prioritize sleep (Morgan 2018).  You have probably tried to get by without much sleep and have seen that it compromises productivity and health.  The results of sleep deprivation are grim.  Christopher Barnes and Christopher Drake (2015) compiled the research and view our national sleep crisis as a public health crisis:   

Sleep-deprived people are less effective in making decisions (Killgore, Balkin, & Wesensten, 2006) and are less creative (Harrison & Horne, 1999). Sleep-deprived individuals suffer negative moods (Dinges et al., 1997) and are more likely to experience distress (Glozier et al., 2010). Sleep-deprived employees are low in work engagement (Lanaj, Johnson, & Barnes, 2014), high in unethical behavior (Barnes, Schaubroeck, Huth, & Ghumman, 2011), and low in performance (Drake et al., 2001). Sleep-deprived people suffer more obesity (Taheri, Lin, Austin, Young, & Mignot, 2004) and are at greater risk for coronary heart disease (Ayas et al., 2003). Sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to be injured (Barnes & Wagner, 2009), involved in motor vehicle crashes (Drake et al., 2010), and die at an early age (Kripke, Garfinkel, Wingard, Lauber, & Marler, 2002).                                           

For Sleep Awareness Week, prioritize sleep as the easiest way to improve your life:  

·       Determine your ideal bedtime and set an alarm to remind you to turn off electronics and get ready for bed.  

·       Use the infographic to re-design your evenings.  Stop sabotaging your ability to feel tired. 

·       Plan your sleep around natural 90-minute sleep cycles, aiming for 7 ½ or 9 hours of sleep with an additional 12-14 minutes to fall asleep to maximize your sleep and wake up feeling rested.

·       If you think you may have a sleep disorder, make an appointment or contact your wellness program and request an in-home diagnostic test, if not a full sleep study. 

Barnes, C., and Drake, C.  (2015)  “Prioritizing Sleep Health: Public Health Policy Recommendations.”  Association for Psychological Science. 10 (6).  733-737.  

Klien, S.  (2015)  “Prioritizing Sleep Helps You Get More Of It.”  The Huffington Post.  

Morgan, D.  (2015)  “Arianna Huffington:  Better sleep improves every aspect of our lives.”  CBS News. 

Hiring Teams

Most of us have a committee or team that supports hiring, but do those hiring teams also feel responsible for the success of those hired once they come on board?  They should.  As their leader, you can support the team in creating onboarding and mentoring plans and holding your hiring team accountable for the success of your new hires. 

As you are going through the selection and placement process, your team has learned a great deal about the skills, knowledge, competencies, and experiences of each candidate.  Often, even if you hire the very best candidate, there can be areas of concern.  Sometimes you decide to hire someone who has the right attitude and passion, but who needs a great deal of support.  In any case, one of the roles of the hiring committee should be to use their knowledge of the candidate to create an onboarding and mentoring support plan for the recommended candidate.

When you think of what will support this candidate’s success, what individualized support would this candidate need?  Does she need to get to know your evaluation tool?  Should she read the book that your school did a book study on last year?  If you had to select two on-site informal mentors for this person, who would be a good choice to support with teaching content and who would be a good choice for general school or classroom management concerns?  What specifically would you want the mentors to accomplish with this new hire?  If there is anything that concerned the team within the interview process, there should be a plan to address the concern proactively so that the candidate feels supported in meeting your high expectations. 

If the new hire ends up not showing the growth that you had expected, then bring the general concern back to the hiring committee.  What would help the process or the system to avoid hiring and onboarding someone who was not successful?  How would our top performers have performed in our hiring and selection process? How can we recruit to ensure we are getting these types of candidates?  

Ensuring that your hiring committee feels responsible about the candidate’s success once hired creates a cycle of improvement that continuously improves the alignment among selection, placement, and onboarding practices so that your school hires and retains top talent. 

Six Skills to Manage the Parent/Teacher Concern Conversation

A parent wants to talk with you and told the secretary that she has a complaint about the teacher.  How will you handle this conversation?  According to Deidre M. Le Fevre’s and Viviane M. J. Robinson’s research, a principal who effectively manages these conversations: 

  1. Expresses a point of view grounded in examples and evidence.
  2. Seeks a deeper understanding of the teacher's point of view.
  3. Checks his or her understanding of the teacher's point of view.
  4. Helps the teacher consider alternate points of view.
  5. Is open to the examination of his or her own point of view.
  6. Agrees with the teacher on what to do next. (pp. 8-9)

Which of these 6 practices come naturally to you and which ones might be a focus for you over the next few weeks?  The skill that principals in the study needed to work on most was checking his or her understanding with the teacher’s point of view.  Comment below if these 6 skills improve your next conversation about a parent’s concern with a teacher.  

ACSD.  (2015). “Double-Take:  Research Alert.”  Educational Leadership.  Communications Skills for Leaders. 72(7). 8-9.

Le Fevre, Deidre M. and Robinson, Viviane M. J. (2014). "The Interpersonal Challenges of Instructional Leadership: Principals' Effectiveness in Conversations About Performance Issues."  Educational Administration Quarterly. 51(1).  58-95.

Straddled Between this Year and Next

As a school leader, this is the time of year where we are still pushing to reach our current goals while also planning for next year.  If straddling two different school years have you stretched out and stressed out, consider how you could use this transition time to build the capacity of all of the adults in your building.  This was one of the four driving factors of school success according to the study of high-achieving and rapidly improving schools by Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas:

1. Their beliefs about student potential drive their work
2. They put instruction at the center of their managerial duties
3. They focus on building the capacity of all the adults in the building
4.  They monitor and evaluate what leads to success and what can be learned from failure.  
(Chenoweth & Theokas, 2013, 57-59)

This isn’t just about distributing your work.  Take a moment to think about what skills, practice, and support individuals on your campus need to support the goals of your staff and your school.

  • Consider Staffing:  Are there teacher leaders who might be considering a transition to AP or coach or mentor teacher?  What opportunities and support would help them be successful in these roles?  How can you support their development as you work on staffing?  Does someone need more early-grade experience before they apply for a coaching position? 
  • Consider Hiring:  Are your hiring practices getting you the best possible candidates?  How might you include more of your staff in designing or evaluating a multi-data point hiring process?  Could your amazing 5thgrade team design a simulation of analyzing student work and revising a common formative assessment based on the data?  Could your ELA team create a writing task and rubric?  How might involving your staff more in the hiring process benefit your school?  If we all decide to hire this candidate, we are agreeing to support this new employee in areas that we know may need work.  
  • Consider Instructional Feedback:  If we need teachers to get more actionable feedback to improve their teaching, how can we use our resources to both give teachers feedback more regularly, and support teachers in how to give feedback?  Could we teach everyone how to collect low-inference data and how to use the Six Steps of Effective Feedback to support peer observations?
  • Consider Classified:  Could your classified staff be called upon to design a way to onboard new hires for the next school year?  Would this help them feel more involved in how they demonstrate the values, mission, and vision of the school?

 Consider what you want to accomplish as you finish this year strong and prepare for a smooth start.   How can you build the capacity of the adults on your campus while you accomplish these goals?

Chenoweth, K. & Theokas, C.  (2013) How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done.  Educational Leadership:  The Principalship.  (70)7, 56-59.

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The Language of Love

Do you speak the same love language as your staff members?  Before you think that we might be getting into dangerous territory here, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a bestseller called The 5 Love Languages.   Chapman’s research helped categorize ways that people feel and express love.  While one partner in a relationship might feel loved when spending quality time together the other might appreciate acts of service, such as unexpectedly doing the dishes.  If you only give in ways that you like to receive love, your partner might not feel appreciated, even if you are trying to express your love.  

The same theories hold true at work and Gary Chapman applied his research to work-based relationships in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.   The five languages are:  1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Quality Time, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Acts of Service, and 5) Physical Touch.   

Please visit the 5 Love Languages Assessment for more detail and a survey you and your staff can take.  How might you vary the ways you show appreciation based on staff preferences?  How might you use each of these languages throughout the year or during Teacher Appreciation week?   How might you help your staff use these with their students, team members, or with the important people in their life outside of work? 

Gary Chapman (1995). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your MateNorthfield Publishing

Adapting Recruitment Strategies to get the People you Need

We are starting to see job postings for the next school year.  How do you communicate with and attract the people you need? 

First, think about the competencies, the patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, or speaking, that help people be successful in the job.  Think of what competencies your top performers have.  Do they value teamwork?  Are they flexible?  Do they have a drive for achievement? Inform applicants of the competencies expected within the language of the recruitment advertising. 

Target your recruitment to sources where candidates with these competencies are likely to be found.  Ask your top performers.  Do they go to a certain gym or coffee place?  Is there a college or district that produced successful hires? If you work with a specific college, do their instructors know the competencies you want and do they work to develop these competencies?  Do your top performers have friends that they could recruit?  High quality educators usually know other high quality educators and they can pick out the people in their graduate school classes that would be successful in your school. 

Does your recruitment advertising or posting share enough about the competencies, knowledge, and skills that would help candidates be successful and possibly earn performance compensation?  Is there a link to your evaluation system so that candidates can self-select out if it looks too rigorous?  

Finally, does your posting share your brand and values?  What makes employees love working at your site?  What makes you special and different?  Communicate this in your recruitment materials.

These strategies can help you attract candidates that will be a match for your needs.  Next month, we will focus on how to select from your pool of candidates.

Putting Technology to Work for You

How have you made technology work for you?  See if any of these apps would help you be more engaged or productive.  What app helps you the most at work?  Share below in the comments and tell us how the app supports you.  

The standards.  What do you do when you walk into a class and are not sure if what you see aligns with the grade level standard?  Now you can look it up easily.  You may want to use this app in a professional development session so your teachers have it for easy access.  Most people can use the Common Core app but some states, such as Arizona, have slight changes and thus their own Arizona College and Career Standards app for IOS and Android.  

Common Core IOS

Common Core Android

TaskCracker:  You probably learned that we should spend most of our time on the work that is important rather than just urgent, right?  There are days that this seems impossible, but this app allows me to drag and organize my tasks by day and color-coded priority level to ensure that I get the important work done each week.  The $20 purchase was a deal for me to know that I am prioritizing my week to meet my goals.  TaskCracker currently works with Outlook and Google calendars on a desktop computer or an Apple device, but they are yet to develop an Android app.   

IOS

Adaptive Schools: I consistently use the Thinking Collaborative’s work with Adaptive Schools during any of my work with teams.  I use this app to analyze a meeting (either with my team or on my own) and determine the structures and moves to make in our next meeting to develop our organizational and professional capacity as a team.   If you are familiar with The Thinking Collaborative, they also have a Cognitive Coaching app for coaching maps, logging coaching records, and assessing States of Mind).  These apps support me in developing my teacher leaders and planning effective meetings.  

IOS

Android

Slack:  You can call, message, or send documents to members of different teams easily.   You can share lesson plans or agendas with your instructional cabinet, other principals, the ELA team, or specific people.  You can easily message your full staff during lock-down or fire drills, even if they aren’t near their computers.  People can access the groups to which they belong but all of your workflow is in one easy-to-search place.  It also works with Dropbox and Google Drive so that we were able to stick with the free plan.  

IOS

Android

Notes:  I wonder if my actual memory has become weak because I rely so much on the “Notes” section of my phone.  I have 4 folders with 97 notes, 13 of which I refer to on a weekly basis.  In addition to reminders and mileage, I will sometimes dictate a letter or rough objectives for an upcoming meeting while I’m walking the halls or on duty so that I can then transfer it to a more appropriate format when I have a chance.  

For more, read Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal’s blog “10 Best Apps for Principals and School Leaders” 

What is your favorite app?

Doing Both Well

Last month, we looked at How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done focusing on leaders’ beliefs about student potential.  This month, we will look at the 2nd of 4 qualities of effective leaders.   As Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas studied 33 effective school leaders in 19 states,  the following four characteristics were common among the group:    

1. Their beliefs about student potential drive their work

2. They put instruction at the center of their managerial duties

3. They focus on building the capacity of all the adults in the building

4.  They monitor and evaluate what leads to success and what can be learned from failure.  

(Chenoweth & Theokas, 2013, 57-59)

These leaders found ways to filter managerial duties with a lens that focuses on maximizing opportunities for student and teacher learning.    How do we schedule to ensure the students and teachers who need the most support get access to the most effective teachers?  What schoolwide routines would let us focus more on instruction?  Let’s look at transitions to see if we are maximizing the time we spend teaching.  How do we develop systems, train others, and delegate tasks to support substitutes and new students and facility rentals so most of the day can really be focused on instruction?  

Try using an instructional lens this week.  Anytime you spend on managerial duties, ask yourself if something could be tweaked to put instruction at the center or this task or use of time.  We will check back next month to see how you are doing embedding the instructional lens into your managerial duties.  

Chenoweth, K. & Theokas, C.  (2013) How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done.  Educational Leadership:  The Principalship.  (70)7, 56-59.

Zmail Policy

Recently, I had a boss who was an early bird.  As a matter of practice, we would receive emails in the wee hours of the morning and on the weekends.  She sent email when she was most productive and I never felt like she expected an answer immediately.  It didn’t bother me, but she changed her practice after reading “Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team” and it had ripple effects with our team.  When she stopped sending early morning and weekend emails it changed how I worked.  It took some getting used to, but I stopped scanning early morning emails and marking them unread until I got to the office.  I left my phone in the bedroom during the weekend.  My significant other appreciated seeing me without my phone.  I managed my attention to be focused on work or focused on home.  My boss didn’t have to change when she worked.  She just delayed the messages to go out during our typical work hours. 

Read the article for the details on what a “zmail policy” that discourages emails on weekends and afterhours on weekdays might do for your team.  With all that we need to do to make sure our students and teachers are supported, we require downtime.  Don’t just slog through until Spring Break.  Manage your attention and help your staff disconnect when they are away from work.   

Thomas, Maura.  2015, March 16). “Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team.”  Harvard Business Review

Reflection and Planning for 2018

In “End of year:  It’s time to reflect and start anew,” Eileen Chadnick provides 12 questions to help leaders take stock of the year and help us start the new year off right.  She suggests reflecting on these over the next few weeks over several sittings. 

The Year Past:  

·       What went well?

·       Who needs to be acknowledged? 

·       How did you grow this past year?  

·       What were the stand-out peak moments for you – and why?

·       What’s not working? 

·       Wrap up your year by giving it a theme or name.  

 

The Year Ahead: 

·       What thresholds will you be crossing?  

·       Who will you connect with more in the year ahead? 

·       What kind of leader, peer, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

·       What do you want?  

·       How will you put this into action?  

·       What’s the mantra for 2016?   (Chadnick, December 14, 2015)

 

Take the next couple of weeks to reflect, recharge, and come back refreshed and reinvigorated.  To that end, TXTS4Leaders will also take the next two weeks off.  We will be back January 10th. 

Chadnick, Eileen. (2015, December 14). End of year:  It’s time to reflect and start anew.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Do you have staff members who need support and improvement just to meet expectations?  It is important to prioritize that improvement or ensure that you will not retain them, not just for your students, but in order to retain your very best teachers.  

“‘There is a deep misunderstanding about what teachers believe make a good school,’ says The New Teacher Project’s Tim Daly.  Principals believe that focusing on retaining top teachers and addressing low performance would negatively impact school culture, but teachers said the opposite.  Teachers were more likely to leave schools where they didn’t see the principal addressing low performance.  Either improve your low performers or do not retain them; make schools attractive places for great teachers to work.”    (Varlas, 2013) 

So how do you prioritize improvement?  Ensure that you meet weekly with the teacher to work on one bite-sized change a week.  You observe, you coach and model, you observe again to see the teacher’s improvement, and then you work on one more bite-sized chunk each week.  Document the next step and the results.  If the teacher shows improvement, it is possible to get the teacher where you want him or her with intense support, even if it’s not immediate.  If it seems like it will take too long or you don’t see improvement, it’s time to have a tough conversation.  If you work intensely with this teacher, even for a short time, you will both have a good sense of what it would take to see improvement and it will be an easier conversation to have.  

Varlas, Laura.  (2013).  Focus on Retention.  How to Keep your Best Teachers.  Educational Leadership:  (55) 3, 1-2, 3, 7. 

4 Qualities of Principals Who Get High Achievement in High-Poverty Schools

Name 4 qualities of principals who get high achievement in high-poverty schools.  Do you show these qualities? 

During eight years of studying high-achieving and rapidly improving schools with at least 73% students of color and students of poverty, it was the building leaders that were driving factors in school success.  As they studied 33 school leaders in 19 states, Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas found 4 qualities these leaders share: 

1. Their beliefs about student potential drive their work

2. They put instruction at the center of their managerial duties

3. They focus on building the capacity of all the adults in the building

4.  They monitor and evaluate what leads to success and what can be learned from failure

(Chenoweth & Theokas, 2013, 57-59)

Reflect on your words and behaviors from the past week.  How did you demonstrate these qualities in your actions?  Could any of your words or behaviors give others the impression that you do not possess one of these qualities?  Think about how you might be more intentional this next week in ensuring that you are modeling these 4 qualities of successful building leaders. 

Over the next months, we will dig into each of these qualities in more detail.  Stay tuned. 

Chenoweth, K. & Theokas, C.  (2013) How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done.  Educational Leadership:  The Principalship.  (70)7, 56-59.

Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers

During this season of thankfulness, try #4 of the “5 Ways Principals Can Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers.”

Number 4 states, "Many teachers use the winter holidays to think about what’s next. Block off time after Thanksgiving to talk to your Irreplaceables and rising-star teachers about continuing to teach at the school next year. Tell them that they are irreplaceable and how much you want them to return. Ask them about their own interests and concerns, and if they are considering other options, ask what you can do to convince them to stay."

With whom do you need to have a stay conversation? 

 Click image to enlarge and download.

Click image to enlarge and download.

Strategically Plan for Increased Performance

Guest Author, Michael Labrecque, shares a few ways to strategically plan for increased performance.  

What is the most productive part of your day? This question is not as straightforward as you may think and can have tremendous implications on your school’s performance. In his keynote address at the HCInnovation@Work 2017 Conference: The “When” of Work: How the New Science of Timing Can Transform the Employee Experience, Daniel Pink discussed how timing is a science and very much in our control. Most strikingly, time of day effects can explain 20% of the variance in human performance. 

Here are a few key takeaways:

Be deliberate when scheduling team work. When do you hold your Leadership Team Meeting? If is later in the day you may want to think about moving it to the morning. Research has shown that human performance is at its peak in the morning and it is then when we are most likely to be best engaged when dealing with analytic tasks (Pink, 2017).  For example, in a study of over 1,100 prisoners up for parole it was found that when the judge ruled on the case in the morning there was a 70% chance of receiving parole while those heard in the afternoon had less than a 10% of acceptance. This is the result of what is due to decision fatigue (Tierney, 2011). Think how this could affect your team, not to mention when you should schedule surgeries… 

Do not underestimate the power of breaks. It is important to change our mindset around the concept of “break” and stop thinking of them as a deviation from work. Instead, we need to get in the practice of viewing breaks as a part of work. Research shows that performance goes up directly after a break so start scheduling them like you would do meetings and put them on your calendar (Pink, 2017). The effects can be powerful. In fact, going back to our parole example, the same study found, although the overall favorable rulings fell dramatically in the afternoon they did spike back up to 65% following a break or snack (Bryant, 2011). 

Strategically set your testing schedules. Our students are effected by the same time challenges and testing results have proven it. For example, Pink (2017) cited a study where students taking a test in the afternoon without a break was equivalent to those students attending two fewer weeks of school. On the other hand, when students took a test after a break they showed a performance level equivalent to almost four more weeks of school. And, like with the parole cases, students were much more successful taking the tests in the morning than in the afternoon. What implications does this have for student achievement on your campus?

Look forward to Pink’s upcoming book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing which is set for release in January. 

Resources:

Bryant, B. (2011, April 11). Judges are more lenient after taking a break, study finds. Retrieved November 06, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/apr/11/judges-lenient-break

Pink, D. (2018, October 25). The "When" of Work: How the New Science of Timing Can Transform the Employee Experience. Lecture presented at HCInnovation@Work 2017 Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Tierney, J. (2011, August 17). Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Retrieved November 06, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

Veterans are in our thoughts. Do you lead like a military officer? You might be surprised.

How many of these “11 Things the Military Teaches You About Leadership” apply to your own leadership in schools? 

·     Always look sharp.  

·     Take good care of your people

·     Assemble diverse teams to get a range of perspectives

·     Invest in relationships for the long term

·     Be willing to listen to everyone

·     Stay calm under pressure

·     Act decisively even with limited information

·     Carefully plan the logistics

·     Lead with integrity

·     Be, know, and do everything you ask of those below you

·     Give 100% of your effort             (Griswold, 2014)

Which of these do you think most applies to educational leadership?  Which of these could educational leaders adopt to see improvement?  Which of these would you want your students to practice?   

Griswold, A. (2014, February 27).  11 Things The Military Teaches You About Leadership.  Business Insider: Strategy