Archive for Informational
After two years of sitting in the school administrator’s chair, I still find myself far from reaching my goal of School Administration Mastery. I have learned so much this year, and still I feel that I am not where I thought I’d be on this journey I’ve started.
I am grateful, however, for the lessons I have learned. I feel more comfortable in my position, and I know that as I continue to use every moment as a learning experience, I’ll be better prepared for when the powers that be see fit to place me in a position with even more responsibility.
I’ve worked under many principals in my career in education, and some have been more effective than others. All have wanted to have an impact on the school. All have wanted to move the school forward. All have wanted to see improvement in one area or another. Not all, however, have been successful in accomplishing this. Why is that?
I’ve learned that one of the biggest obstacles to a principal’s impact on a school is staff buy-in.
Every principal that I’ve known has a vision for the school. He / She has a particular goal or goals that he/she wants to reach as the leader of the school.
The tough part is getting the staff to jump on board and run with his/her vision.
So how do effective principals get their staff to buy into their personal vision?
Successful school administrators probably already know the answer, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned for other future principals like myself.
How Effective Principals Get Staff to Buy In to Their Vision:
Create the team.
This can be your department heads or your team leaders or a group of teachers who are seen as the leaders of the school. They give the team a name like, The VISION Team. It sounds a bit hokey, but it gives them a unique identity, instead of The Bunch of Teachers Trying to Improve the School Team.
Once the team is assembled, the principal will share his/her vision for the school and what he/she would like to see happen. He / She focuses on one or two specific goals that are measurable and attainable. Setting a goal of 100% of the student body testing proficient on the upcoming state test is not a reasonable goal. Lowering the number of D’s and F’s of the students at one grade level is not only reasonable, but measurable.
Let the team brainstorm.
The principal will allow the team to brainstorm. Someone (even the principal) will write down the ideas on a chart paper or on the whiteboard.
This is the tough part for the administrator. He / She already has ideas in his/her head, and wants to share them. An effective principal will have to let the teachers do the idea sharing. The principal can still guide the session with questions and comments. After all, he/she has done the research. He / She sees roadblocks and obstacles that they don’t see, because of his/her position and experience. Still, the plan has to come from the team. Teachers can be very creative. They will most likely come up with a strategy that will work better than the one in the principal’s head.
Decide on a plan of action.
When the brainstorming session is over, there should be a direction that can be taken to reach the goal. It’s written down, circled and underlined. It’s given a name. The “No More D’s and F’s Plan.” Please come up with something more catchy.
Determine a timeline.
When will this plan take effect? When will we gather data to measure its success? When do we meet again?
Who does what and by when? Are there documents to create? Data to collect? Reports to build? The principal should try to get each member of the team a job to do. The principal makes sure that the team has the supplies and resources necessary to do their job. Most importantly, the team has to come up with the names of the people who will be sharing your strategies to the entire staff. This cannot be the principal.
Allow the team to deliver the details.
Now it’s time to spread the vision to the rest of the staff. In the next all-staff meeting, the principal will schedule in some time to talk about what the team has come up with. The principal will open the conversation by sharing the vision. Then it is handed over to the predetermined group of teachers who will give the details of the plan. This is where the buy-in happens. Since it’s a plan developed by their colleagues, the chances of getting more of the staff to support it are greater.
Meet for a follow up.
The team meets again after a reasonable amount of time to share data and see how effective the strategy has been. Determine next steps and make modifications to the plan if necessary.
Give credit where credit is due.
The team is given credit for any successes that come because of the new strategies put in place. Effective principals look to build their staff up instead of looking to make a name for themselves.
In my experience, I’ve learned that an effective principal will be willing to place their vision in the hands of others to accomplish. Ineffective principals will try and convince the staff that his/her vision and strategies are exactly what needs to be done.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself sitting in the principal’s chair, leading a school and promoting my vision to my staff, but I do know that I won’t be able to do it alone. No matter how motivating and inspirational my speech might be to the staff, I won’t be able to reach that goal without getting the staff to buy into it.
I hope this was helpful.
What do you think? Have you seen this in action? Please leave a comment or send me a tweet.
Until next time,
Here’s to your journey toward School Administration Mastery!
As a school administrator, I’m often asked to sit in on a meeting between the teachers and parents of a student who is being unsuccessful in school.
This is normally how the meeting goes:
Teachers take turn talking about how the student is not doing homework or is being disruptive in class.
Then, the parents give their child a lecture on how he/she needs to take school more seriously.
Sometimes a teacher will add to the lecture, describing a personal story or some kind of heart-felt plea for the child to consider his/her actions and the effects they will have on the future.
Then the parents request more communication from the teachers, even going as far as to asking them to notify them daily if the student doesn’t do his/her homework.
This, of course, is not reasonable. Teachers don’t have the time to contact each student’s parents individually to let them know about homework.
The meeting ends with the parents promising to do their best to hold the student accountable for his/her homework and the teachers promising to communicate more via email.
After about a week, however, the student is back to his/her old habits, and eventually ends the year with poor grades.
What I’ve found is that most parents want to help their child succeed, and they are willing to force them to do their homework or study for their test if necessary. Especially in grades six, seven, eight and nine, it’s important that the parents buckle down on the student. These are the years, in my experience, when many students will place their education on the bottom of their priority list.
The problem is that the parents don’t know what the homework is. They have to rely on the student to tell them if there is homework or not, and the student may not want to divulge such information, especially if homework interferes with skateboarding or video games.
Some teachers have tried to solve this problem by having a website where they post their homework online. This is a great idea, but unfortunately, teachers get busy, and find it difficult to consistently update their web page. Eventually, their website gets abandoned.
So what’s the answer?
It’s called a Homework Blog.
But not just any homework blog, it’s a homework blog that’s not updated by the teacher, but rather by students.
When I was a teacher, I created a homework blog for my team, and it was a great success. Parents could check every night what their child had for homework in each of their classes, and I didn’t have to do a thing, except set it up and select the students who were going to update the blog.
Here’s how it worked:
I set up a blog on Blogger.com (Now I would use WordPress.com)
I set up the first homework page.
I gave two responsible students the login and password to the blog and showed them how to add a new post.
The students then went to each teacher on the team and copied down the homework for the day that was written on the white board.
The students then updated the blog on a daily basis.
All I had to do was give the parents the web address to the blog, and that’s it.
Teachers are happy; parents are happy; students are not too thrilled about it.
Below, I’ve added a link to a video I created for my other blog, SuccessInTheClassroom.com, along with a PDF How-To sheet that I passed out to my current staff.
This is one of the most successful projects that I’ve come up with. It’s a free and easy way to keep parents involved in the education of their children.
I would encourage any administrator who is reading this to share this post with their staff and any other administrator who is looking for a way to involve parents in a more immediate way.
Most parents want to help. They are willing to do their part at home. They just don’t know what the student should be doing.
This student-run homework blog gives the parents what they need to help their child be successful.
I worked great for me as a teacher, and I am confident that your teachers will also see it as a valuable tool to get parents more involved and get more students finding success.
I welcome your comments.