I’ve recently been reading The New York Times Bestseller:Influencer The Power To Change Anything. It proposes that by reading it you’ll learn to:
As principals one of our main objectives is to influence positive change within our schools. This may seem impossible, especially when trying to change behaviors around homework, attendance and basic soft skills. In reading through the book I came upon three techniques that might help change student and staff thoughts and behaviors around these school struggles. These three tips are all from chapter four of the the book.
Make It A Game
One of the issues teachers regularly bemoan is that students rarely do homework. While the benefits of homework for high school students is subject to debate, the fact that it can, at a minimum, impact a student's’ grade in my school is not. In thinking about a way to encourage the completion of homework this particular point “Make it a game”, in chapter four came to mind. I asked myself how can I make homework a game so students want to do it instead of dread doing it? The answer I came up with to create a huge dry erase board with all the students’ name on it and place it in our community room. When they complete a homework assignment they can place a marker of some kind on the board. Once they complete a certain number of assignments they can make it to the next level. Once they reach the next level they get a prize. Once a week when we meet we can pass out prizes and recognize those students who have moved to the next level. By making homework a game I’m hoping to positively influence my students’ academic outcomes.
Connect to a Person’s Sense of Self
This idea was one of the other suggestions the authors of Influencer have for those looking to create change. This idea only works if you and your staff find time to really get to know your students and understand who they think they are. Most of my students have brothers and sisters and feel intensely loyal. The question becomes how to attach this new behavior (doing homework consistently) to their sense of loyalty. In thinking of ways to do this I came up with the idea of students having to take a selfie with a family member and then, upon showing that picture to a staff member, they get the opportunity to win a bonus prize for their entire family. The prize could be as simple as delivering a pizza to the family’s residence and acknowledging the student in front of their family.
Win Hearts by Honoring Choice
This was the last strategy in the chapter and there is a quote that I found especially impactful. The authors say, “You must replace judgement with empathy, and lectures with questions. If you do so, you gain influence. The instant you stop trying to impose your agenda on others, you eliminate the fight for control.” So how does this relate to students and homework? Perhaps you give students a choice of what kind of homework they do. By giving them this control you could increase the likelihood of them completing the task and reinforcing what they’ve learned. Students like staff need to feel as if they have some autonomy, giving them choice gives them what they need to help them change their behaviors.
Changing students lives is why we’ve become principals. The book Influencer The Power To Change Anything provides some suggestions to do just that. What are some of the books that you’ve read that have great insight into changing behaviors? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
With at least half the 2016-2017 school year over, now is a great time to start marketing your school. A lot of times we wait until right before school starts to begin talking our schools up. By then it’s almost too late. At this point of the school year you’ve had assemblies, there are student products up and around the school as well as many other examples of student success. This is also the time when parents may begin to fill dissatisfied with their current school of choice and there is an opportunity for you to begin planting the seeds of change in their minds. These 3 tips are easy to implement immediately and will help your school stay top of mind and begin the process of recruiting and keeping students.
You’re The Best
Regardless of whether you’re a newly established principal or a veteran you are an expert at what you do. You know exactly what the students need to do to be successful and you’re able to deliver it. The families need you and your school’s expertise. So how do you deliver this information. The easiest way to do so is to use social media. Presumably your school already has a Facebook account. If it doesn’t start one. According to Facebook stats,Facebook has the largest number of users between 25 and 35. That is a prime age for beginning families. Leverage your demographic data and use a social media platform to meet your families where they are.
Your school does something particularly well. It might have small learning communities or have a great curriculum. Write a blog post or an article highlighting the researched based reasons these unique qualities positively impact your students’ growth. You have an email list. In marketing this is one of the most valuable commodities because it give you direct access to your families. Use that list to share your content. Ask them to forward the email to families who might be interested in seeing the good things your school is doing.
Your Greatest Untapped Assets
Your staff is your greatest asset. Often we forget that they can do more than just teach. They have hundreds of contacts in their own email and social media accounts. Use them to help spread the greatness of your school. Once a month pass something onto them that they can share with those with whom they have influence. It could be as simple as a picture of them working with their students. Add a brief caption about how great they are and send it to them asking them to share it with their friends. You’ve got’em, ask them to help spread the word.
Now is the perfect time to begin spreading the positive impact your school is having on students’ lives. Leveraging social media, creating content and sending to your families to share and tapping into your teachers social circles are great free ways to promote your school. What are other free or low cost ways you share your school’s successes? Share 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 our second Principals’ 20 Day Classroom Challenge!
Recently I lost a building leader to another district. She was the lead teacher and was in charge of the small learning community. With her gone a new leader will need to rise up and accept new responsibilities. In looking for ways to support the new leader I found these 3 tips to help her make the transition.
Pass the Baton
Meet with the new leader and make sure that you show them how this new position is aligned with their values. Make sure that you don’t just give the person the new position and leave expecting them to figure things out. If possible, allow the outgoing staff member and the new leader time to share information. Provide a substitute for them both and give the two time to prep and pass on information. This will help ease the transition.
One of the main ideas that you need to communicate is that good is good enough. A lot of teachers work to perfection and the idea of things not being exactly right can cause undue stress. Make sure to support the idea that everything is not going to be done the exact same way as they were before. That’s ok. Allow the new leader time to grow and don’t lose patience.
Let it Go
Once the baton has been passed and you’ve assured them that good is good, step back. Give them room to grow into the position. Don’t crush them with your presence. Trust that they’ll do what is necessary. Check in on them and offer your support but don’t micromanage. Often times they might ask for your advice. Resist the urge. Instead ask open ended questions and support their ideas. As they become more confident in their new role they will stop asking for reassurance and then just check in.
Passing the baton, assuring the new leader that good is good, and then letting go and taking a step back will help the new school leader grow into their new role. What other advice would you give to a new teacher leader? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
This blog post is dedicated to Lakesha Barton a great high school Science Teacher, building leader, student advocate, colleague and friend. Enjoy your new job!
As a principal, one of the road bumps of having a great employee is that their skills are transferable. And in many instances they can and will leave and get a much deserved larger salary. We are sad to see them go knowing that their contributions impacted the entire building. This is a time when we are filled with anxiety because we know there will be gaps that must be filled. These three keys will help smooth the transition of that loss.
They’ll be missed
Make sure that to them know how much we appreciate what they’ve done. While we might be put in a short term bind, they have the opportunity to grow. Wish them the best of luck. It’s important that we treat them well, as this sets the tone for the entire building. We also want to keep that relationship healthy because, if we're lucky, that staff member may want to return at a later date. In addition, if other positions open up they could be a reliable contact that we can tap to send talent our way.
Say Good Bye
We want to provide time and space for both a formal and informal goodbye. Staff and students will need closure. Having a ritual send off is a good way for your community to turn the page. Make sure to let your parents know in the weekly newsletter that the teacher is leaving and allow them the opportunity to say their goodbyes as well. Finally, we also should do a formal exit interview. This is a great time to learn about our own weaknesses, find out ways to support current staff and get valuable information on ways to improve the building.
We’re going to need everyone to step up and take on extra tasks while the transition to a new hire takes place. As educators it’s our instinct to be helpful. As the Principal it’s okay for us to say, “Hey this really sucks. She did so much around here I’m not sure how we’re going to cover everything she did. Let’s come up with a plan over the next week, so we don’t miss anything.” This is the time to let our team know we’ll need their assistance.
At some point every Principal will those a valuable staff member. They'll leave for any number of reasons; spouse getting a job out of state, higher salary elsewhere, and just life circumstances. None of those reasons have anything to do with us or how we run our school. Making sure we turn this negative into a positive is why we get paid the medium sized bucks.
How do you mitigate the loss of a great teacher? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
Like all schools I have a number of students with IEPs. One of the observations I’ve made in my school is a lack of a true partnership between the General Ed teacher and the Teacher Consultant. There is a healthy respect between the two, but I don’t see the integration of the two practices on a consistent basis.
I recently sat down with the Special Ed Director and asked her what advice she would give to Principals and General Ed Teachers. She gave the following three suggestions
Accommodations Across The Board
One of the things that she’s noticed as she moves around the district is the siloing of accommodations. Often these seem to be saved for high stakes testing, both at the district and at the state level. She advised me to make sure that these accommodations are in place in every instance.
Collaboration Is Key
General Ed Teachers, Teacher Consultants and Para Educators all should have some input when it comes to behavior intervention plans. TC’s may have the expertise but often times it’s the Gen ed teacher and the Para who have the most contact with the child. As principal we need to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
Broaden The Focus
Gen Ed Teachers and the TC will often focus on implementing and adhering to the goals and objectives of specific students. However, that shouldn’t be the end of their contributions. Ideally the Gen Ed teaches the TC and Paras should be working hand in hand to build lesson plans that are scaffolded to meet the needs of all students. The Gen Ed teacher is not alone and all students will benefit from the expertise of both educators.
Making sure accommodations are implemented across the board, providing time for Gen Ed and Special Ed teachers to collaborate and ensuring both broaden their focus to include all children will strengthen the learning environment.
The suggestions by the Special Ed Director were helpful. What are some other tips you have for integrating special ed and Gen Ed teachers? Leave your comments below!
One of the many stressful events that can impact your day as a school principal is working with students who have been sent to your office. They are usually angry and/or upset and full of anxiety when they come to you. These 3 subliminal methods will help calm them down, so you can have a productive conversation.
The first method begins before there are even any kids in the building. It starts in the summer when it’s just you and the district’s work crew. Ask them to paint your office in soft grays, beiges, or blues. According to The Huffington Posts, The Best Paint Colors To De-stress A Room, “these colors can help slow the heartbeat, lower blood pressure and create a relaxing atmosphere.” Once school starts any student sent to you will start to calm down without even realizing it.
The second strategy is to have calming music playing just loud enough to register. The Website: Sound ADD ADHD Treatment recommends music with a slow beat, “slower than the heart's natural beat.” It goes on to mention two types of music, nature and or classical. Playing this music just below the conscious level will help sooth you students.
Having a lightly scented office is the final piece of the three pronged approach to relaxing students sent to your office. Most of us have heard of the soothing properties of lavender. However, as a male you might not want that scent in your office. If that’s the case try sandalwood. According to Mental Health Daily, Aromatherapy: 9 Best Essential Oils For Anxiety And Stress sandalwood has a sweet, woodsy, outdoor type scent [which] can be very beneficial [in] reducing anxiety. Employing either one of these two scents will help create that stress free environment you’re looking for when working with students.
When students are sent to the office they are often anxious. This is generally the case regardless of what happened prior to them being there. These three subliminal strategies will help induce a calm state, so when dealing with the child you can have the best possible outcome. A final suggestion: if the child is sent for a disciplinary reason leaving for 3-5 minutes and allowing the child space in that calming environment before the discussion may increase the desired effect.
What techniques do you use to help calm a child down? Share your tips in the comment section below.
For those of you who watched the latest Super Bowl, you can’t have missed the greatest of all time, Tom Brady and his miraculous come from behind victory. For those of you who might not know, Tom Brady wasn’t considered the best option. In fact he was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. For most of us in the education world Betsy DeVos wouldn’t even be in our top 200. Unfortunately, besides the red white and blue they both wear that’s about where even the metaphorical comparison comes to an end.
Although Brady was picked 199th overall he still went to one of the top public universities in the nation, The University of Michigan. Betsy DeVos has never attended a public school.
Brady played back up first and gained experience in his chosen area of expertise. DeVos has no experience as a leader as a Superintendent, Principal or a teacher.
Brady earned his way to success putting in years of practice and dedication both in and out of season. DeVos is on the verge of being appointed to her position, not because she is qualified but because she has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Republican Party.
There is, however, another similarity between the two. Hate. There are any number of fans that hate Tom Brady. Despite this, they know he earned his way to his successes and if nothing else they can respect that. For us, those in the field of education, a lot of our disdain for DeVos is the fact that she hasn’t put in the work.
Although Betsy DeVos is hated and is one of the last picks that anyone would want to fill the position, she is no Tom Brady. She did not attend public schools, she has no experience, (even as a backup) and she will not have earned her way to her position. Betsy DeVos should not be our Secretary of Education.
Part of our job as principals is doing classroom evaluations and providing the appropriate feedback after walkthroughs and formal observations. In essence we are truth tellers we hold up a mirror of their practice, helping them to improve. With the amount of time we spend in the classroom, in meetings and dealing with discipline and managerial issues finding time to work on our own practice and seeking the truth about it is often put on the back burner. At the end of a school year we may provide anonymous surveys for the staff to fill out so we can get a snapshot of what they think about our performance, but those usually only happen once a year. These three tips will help you get truthful and helpful feedback on a regular basis.
When asking your staff for their observations focus on a specific domain in which you want to improve. Asking, “how can I improve staff meetings?” is more likely to get an answer with which you can work then asking a more general question like “How am I doin'?”. In addition giving them multiple ways to provide you that feedback either immediately, through email or a suggestion box will help get the answers you need to grow. Finally schedule regular times on your calendar to illicit this specific feedback. This will help you get the course corrections you need in a timely manner.
Using the example above about improving staff meetings; provide the reason why you’re eliciting the feedback. Tell them that you’ve noticed that the staff meetings are not as effective as you’d like them to be. People respect those who are willing to name the things that aren’t working well. In addition to them providing you ways to improve, you are also creating a means to get greater buy in once the problem is solved.
Once you’ve gotten the specific feedback you might find that your ego is a bit bruised. Resist the urge to defend your process or explain the reasons why you’ve done something a particular way. Control your body language and make sure to say thank you. You don’t want to scare your staff and have them think that you’re just going through the motions. Keeping your posture and your facial expression open and pleasant as well being appreciative of the feedback will ensure that you continue to hear what you need to.
These three strategies: being specific, providing context and being grateful will help you continuously improve your performance as a principal. A bonus tip which will almost guarantee further helpful critiques is to take action and follow through.
In what ways do you get formal or informal feedback on your job performance? Share your advice in the comment section below. For more tips and helpful articles check out my blog and podcasts at theprincipalentrepreneur.com.
I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a 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......