As a principal we often have to deal with the mental health crises of our students. Sometimes they hit painfully close to home. Suicide is something that impacted my family when my sister killed herself at 16. To this day, 20 years later, that event impacts me and my family. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil that ensued when a student of mine returned from an attempt. In talking to that student upon his/her return the tone I was projecting was one of anger. I quickly realized I needed to shut my mouth and let the counselor take the lead. After a brief reentry meeting we talked to the staff and went over some crisis management steps so we were all on the same page. These 3 protocols are good to review when dealing with a student who has made an attempt on her/his life.
Take the threat seriously and do not leave the child alone. Often we question ourselves whether or not the student is serious about their comment. Sometimes the student making the remarks is one who constantly seeks attention in any number of different ways. This could lead to second guessing because you don’t want to disrupt your day or feed into the child’s attention seeking. Regardless of your personal discomfort you must follow up.
Provide immediate support
Find a private space and talk with the student reassuring him/her that you care about them. This can be emotionally taxing. The student can be in extreme emotional pain and as a principal you aren’t necessarily trained to handle a child in this type of crisis. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you have your school counselor or social worker available and taking the lead.
Two is not only better but necessary
Make sure that there are at least two adults with the student whenever possible. It might be necessary to physically restrain a student or to be a witness. Having two staff members with the student is ideal if a witness is needed for any reason. Two adults ensuring the student is safe until they can be handed them off to professionals or parents will also keep the staff safe.
Supporting students in crisis is one of the most fulfilling roles of the principal. It is also one of the most emotionally draining. Having protocols in place and reviewing them with your staff, prior to a student’s return, helps relieve staff anxiety and get everyone on the same page.
What are other protocols your school implements in this type of crisis? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
“Alternative Facts are not facts. They are untruths.” Political commentator Chuck Todd uttered this quote in disbelief when addressing Kellyanne Conway, white house advisor. They were discussing the comment made by press secretary that the inauguration had the most attendees ever. As principals, it’s even more important than ever that we display integrity when those in the highest positions of authority do not. These three tips for demonstrating integrity will help your staff and students understand and appreciate what leadership should look like.
Action > Words
Do the little things. You’ve heard it before, but this is one of the best ways to show integrity. Doing the jobs that you expect others to do is an example of integrity. Show them that you aren’t afraid to get in the trenches with them. If you’re school holds ISS, take a turn sitting in their with the students. Join your staff in performing the jobs you know they dread. Leading by example, demonstrating through your actions that you mean what you say is a great way to show your integrity.
We > Me
This is a team concept and those with high integrity demonstrate this value. Gathering the advice and listening to the point of view of those on your staff is important in building a strong culture. Being able to ask for help and not pretending to have all the answers is an offshoot of this concept. It shows you do not have a false sense of superiority and are willing to listen. Treating your entire staff as integral parts of a whole highlights your integrity as a leader.
Discomfort > Comfort
This is often about honesty. Telling the truth tactfully lets your staff know where you stand. They don’t have to worry that you’re hiding something from them. Often making the decision to confront someone is more difficult than having the actual conversation. You must embrace the discomfort. When a teacher is disrespectful to the student and then the student responds in kind. Asking your staff what they could have done better isn’t easy. It’s your job to do it anyway. Integrity means having the courage to be uncomfortable.
In the current age of hyperbole and alternate facts demonstrating integrity is one of the most important characteristics of a principal. Leading by example through your actions, showing that the team is greater than the individual and embracing discomfort are all components of integrity.
What are other ways you can demonstrate this characteristic. Share your thoughts in the comment section below. If you’re looking for a group of supportive principals join the private FB group. We’re currently engaged in The Principals’ 20 Day Classroom Challenge!
One of the difficult aspects of promoting a districts public school system is that it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. As schools of choice, charter schools and perhaps an impending voucher system for every state proliferate, standing out becomes more difficult. These days districts are using radio spots and billboards to promote their schools. Use these three strategies to stand out in a crowded educational field.
One of a Kind
This isn’t easy for a public school because we have to be everything for everybody. This makes it hard to be distinctive. One of the advantages that private and charter schools have is their ability to define their own niche. A private school can be religion based and focused solely on a particular faith. Charter schools can have a specific theme or cater to specific ethnicities. As a public school finding your focus is essential to increasing school enrollment. This has traditionally been done through a focus on things like athletics or band. In today’s technological age what are ways you can stand out from the crowd? Answering this question will help you be unique.
Another way to stand out is to be dependable. Often times, every few years, schools lurch from one new fad to the next. In doing so they create uncertainty and parents aren’t sure from year to year what their child is going to get. Being consistent in your offerings helps parents know what they’re going to see when they come in for their second and third child. With that expected way of doing things the parents and the staff can confidently state what is happening year to year and promote your school. No one likes instability. Being unstable will creates anxiety among your stakeholders and make choosing another option more likely. Be dependable and not only will families stand by you they’ll sell your school for your.
Enthusiasm for your work is the secret ingredient and leads to sustained excellence. If you think of the great Principals they demonstrate that passion on a daily basis. They’re greeting students and staff as they come in and walk the halls with purpose. Charles Dodd NASSP Principal of the year displays this type of positive energy. When the President of the NASSP described Dodd she said, “His passion for personalizing the school and meeting the needs of each student. . .marks his leadership throughout his tenure at Lesher”. Enthusiasm for your school transfers to every person you come into contact with and will help with positive recommendations for your school.
Successful Principals and by extension schools promote themselves with their one of a kind offering, dependability and enthusiasm. These three strategies can help you maintain and increase your student enrollment. What are other tactics do you use to stand out. Share them in the comment section below.
If you’re looking for a group of supportive principals join the private FB group. We’re currently engaged in The Principals’ 20 Day Classroom Challenge!
We spend too much time in meetings. We lead school improvement, staff and sometimes even a version of the PTO meetings. If we’re not leading a meeting we’re attending one. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy and our meetings tend to be longer because we haven’t had time to properly plan. These three tips will help speed up the meetings that you’re responsible for facilitating.
For each specific meeting have one main goal that you would like to accomplish for that particular session. Walking into a meeting without a clear vision of the outcome you would like will lead to discussions with no ending in sight. You can easily get off task with any number of issues that are seen as important. In order to limit the time of the meeting have a clearly stated goal on your agenda. In doing so, you have one lense that can filter out the extraneous conversations.
When you have planned meetings, on your calendar, include an extra five minutes in that time block. Use that five minutes to prep for your meeting. This extra five minutes alone will cut down on the time you spend in your meeting. You can use that time to choose your goal, gather your materials and get your thoughts together. Too often we’re running from one meeting to the next and a lot of time is wasted trying to get everything situated. If these are set meetings you also wanted to make sure that the team you are meeting with is also ready to go when they come in the room. Everyone being prepared will help ensure that the meetings do not run over.
This comes back to your time in the classroom. Each meeting you have should have it’s own process. Everyone should know what to expect. These norms should be set in the first meeting. If you are working with data your should have a routine that you consistently use to dig into that information. You don’t want to spend time each meeting figuring out the how. Having a set routine will help eliminate wasted time.
Each of these three tips will help speed up your meetings or at least help keep them on track. What methods do you use to save time? Share your advice in the comment section below.
If you’re looking for a group of supportive principals join the private FB group. We’re currently engaged in The Principals’ 20 Day Classroom Challenge!
I was at an all day professional development session put on by MI Excel, a Michigan system of support for priority and focus schools. The pd was around the use of data and how a focus on it can create positive change in 18-24 months.
Just to set the stage, I am not a math person. I failed or skated by with D minuses consistently in high school, was able to completely avoid it while obtaining my Bachelors, and only had to take one basic math class to get my Masters. So walking into an all day pd around data was a stress inducing situation.
The system that was presented was called the Collaborative Learning Cycle. These three steps, taken verbatim from the training, have very little to do with math and are an easy way to fearlessly look at data.
Step 1 Activate and Engage.
In this step you get a blank sheet of data that mirrors in form the data you’ll be looking at in step two. Then you fill in the blank sheet based on your prediction of what the data will look like. Once everyone has filled in the data sheet with their own guesses you write predictive statements that explain the reason for your guesses. This is essentially a data icebreaker. It’s used to get everyone’s thoughts on paper. Once a time limit has been set and reached and group members have written their statements, you come together and write everyone’s responses on chart paper and post it. The symbolic move of removing it from the table and placing it up provides a means for everyone to get past their biases. I liked this part for two reasons, no hard math was involved because I was making up the numbers and I was able to see different points of views.
Step 2 Explore and Discover
This is when you get the actual data set. It wasn’t as difficult to look at this data because I had already seen the format in step one and played around with it using my own numbers. I was able to compare and contrast and see how close I was to the actual data points. We were asked to silently identify interesting trends or differences and then write narrative statements. This was done within a short time limit and then once again we went around the table and shared our narrative statements writing them on chart paper. Then as a group we identified statements that were similar and decided which ones we wanted to focus on for step three. This was posted on the wall alongside our other chart. I enjoyed this part more than I thought I would because I was able to look at the data and write a story around the numbers.
Step 3 Organize and Integrate
In the previous step we wrote narrative statements explaining in a factual way what we observed in the data. In this step the purpose is to write the story around the data. MIExcel calls these causal theories. This is where we take that narrative statement and discuss why the data looks like it does. One thing that was reiterated was the need to focus on the narrative statements that are in your locus of control. Once you’ve written and discussed these theories you create action plans around them. You focus on both quick wins, that can be implemented the next day, and longer term goals. I liked this part because it provided immediate concrete steps for us to do the following day.
This easy 3 step process took away my anxiety around working with data. By activating and engaging with the data through predictive statements, exploring and working with the actual data sets, and then organizing and integrating ways to impact the data, I was able to walk away from the training feeling as if I could bring the Collaborative Learning Cycle back to my staff. For an admitted mathaphobe this particular pd was a win.
How do you deal with data with your staff. What system do you use that you find helpful? Share in the comment section below.
Having to restrain a student is a horrible, emotionally-exhausting, and often physically dangerous thing to have to do. We’ve all seen social media posts or heard news stories surrounding students being restrained and the consequences that have befallen staff and administration when it has been done improperly. Or even perceived to be done improperly. Unfortunately, I’ve been involved on a couple of occasions when the safety of the student and staff had been compromised. In the ensuing documentation of the incidents, I’ve reflected and wondered what I could do to avoid such situations. These 3 rules are a good reminder on when physically restraining a student should be used as a last resort.
The following three rules are taken verbatim from the Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document.
Physical restraint or seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others has dissipated.
In one situation a student was in a highly agitated, visibly upset, emotional state. He was walking around the building looking for a particular student to fight. In this instance he was restrained and then confined to a particular portion of the building. As soon as he calmed down we were able to bring him down to the office where we waited for his father.
Every instance in which restraint or seclusion is used should be carefully and continuously and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, teachers, and other personnel.
In the previous example I was the one visually monitoring the events as they happened. I was able to speak on the situation to the father and able to recount the events in the necessary and mandatory paperwork that followed. If you have video cameras in your building it is also a good idea to review these as well to make sure your recollection of events are not colored by your emotions. Mark the date and times that the incident occurred so if called upon to submit evidence you are able to locate the data quickly.
Document Document Document
Each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion should be documented in writing and provide for the collection of specific data that would enable teachers, staff, and other personnel to understand and implement the preceding principles
Making sure an incident report is filled out by all witnesses. Not just the primary individuals involved is a great idea. In this way, if called upon, there is a well rounded and complete picture of the incident. In obtaining multiple points of view there is less opportunity for bias and that transparency is necessary to continue to have the necessary trust with that child’s parent.
Keeping your community safe is the primary goal of all principals. In rare instances restraining a child is necessary. Keeping these three common sense rules in mind, you or students and staff are in imminent danger, make sure you have a witness, and document the incident, will help keep you out of legal trouble.
What are ways that you’ve built a culture in your building where restraining a student hasn’t been necessary? For a complete list of other policies recommended by the Restraint and Seclusion:Resource Document click on any of the previous links.
President Elect Trump has picked Betsy Devos for Education Secretary. There has been a huge backlash from educators across the nation because of Devos's background and position on public education. The following are ten consistently mentioned reasons she'd be a disastrous choice.
From Education Votes:
1. Spent millions lobbying for laws that drain resources from public schools
2. Fought Against Regulation of charter schools
From Idaho Statesman article Save public schools from the clutches of Betsy DeVos:
3. Did not send her own children to public schools
4. Donated large sums of money to The Foundation for Excellence in Education (a proponent of testing to determine everything from school grades to teacher employment to learning gains
From The Washington Post, A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education :
5. [she] isn’t an educator
6. No expertise in pedagogy, curriculum or school governance
7. [she’s] essentially a lobbyist
8. Conflict of interest (between her point of view regarding charters vs traditional public education)
From Bigthink.com, Is This the Most Dangerous Member of Trump's Cabinet?:
9. Promotes school vouchers
10. In favor of private, charter and . . . religious school training
Admittedly this is a completely biased view of Betsy Devos, but it certainly makes for interesting reading. What are your thoughts on Betsy Devos as Education Secretary? Leave your comments below and share with your colleagues.
I recently read an article by Seanna Adcox of Associated Press. She reports that a South Carolina agency suggested that schools be graded publicly with an A-F scale. There has been an educational outcry against such a rating system. As a new Principal at an Alternative Ed High School, where test scores are low, my school would most likely fall into an F range. Regardless of that, there are three reasons grading schools should be graded on an A-F scale.
Getting an F as a school administrator is a reminder of how our struggling students feel when they are not successful. There are always circumstances outside our students’ control that impact their education. Likewise in receiving a failing grade we are forced to reflect on the difficulty that some of our students face.
If a school receives an F, the local media will run the story. Local businesses and families will have to make a decision if this is acceptable. More community resources would be funneled into the school system as people come together, as it would be in their best business interests to support the schools.
With the way people are able to twist language or use different words to soften the impact of failure an A-F scale makes it easy to see where you stand. Everybody knows what an A means. Everybody knows what an F means. There is no hiding behind political language. If a traditional grading scale is how we rate our children we should have the courage to rate ourselves in the same manner.
No system is perfect. A scale that rates our schools A-F at least reminds us what it feels like to be students, impacts community accountability and is easy for everybody to read. Perhaps if we don’t like using such a scale to judge ourselves we shouldn’t use such a scale to judge our students.
To read the article by Seanna Adcox and see why many oppose this rating scale click here. What do you think of the rating system? Leave your comments below.
I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm an owner of a new food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......