One must first of all have a solid foundation. ~ Sri Aurobindo
Advice for Principals
A celebrated principal we know well once told us these wise words: “Success as an administrator is quite simple–always remember that it’s about the people not a program.” This advice epitomizes what great leaders understand, which is that people make the difference, and it is the responsibility of the leader to continually invest in them to develop their capacity.
Teacher Leader Capacity
Successful school systems build a network of strong teacher leaders who exercise extensive control over key responsibilities that can range from being a data coach to mentoring new teachers to the department chairperson. The art of leading well is in knowing what people need in order for them to grow and learn in these multifaceted positions and then to tailor their professional learning so that it is relevant to the person and their role.
The first step in capacity-building for teacher leaders is always universal in nature and requires leaders to devote ample time during every meeting to the professional growth of the team. This builds the strong foundation necessary for every leader, regardless of his or her position or responsibility. We realize from experience that there is always a great deal to cover on every leadership team agenda, but covering those items doesn’t necessarily lead to the team’s ability to make change after the meeting. In other words, we must ask ourselves whether or not a discussion of the items at the meeting puts teacher leaders in the position to lead what we’ve covered with efficacy and success. Two questions emerge:
Are you getting the results you set out to achieve with every item on the agenda?
Is success tied to the activity of the items or actual results?
If you answered either of these 2 questions with the potential opportunity to switch up your meetings to include a discussion of leadership, well, then you’re not alone. We often confuse completing an activity with the success of it rather than its actual goals. Efficiency can be mistaken for effectiveness. Completion doesn’t equal success, and too many of our agenda items end up being about process-checks rather than leading the work forward. With that said, take The Three Minute Challenge to redesign your next meeting, to support your leaders, by doing the following:
The Three Minute Challenge
- Identify an area of growth for your teacher leaders. For example, this month we are focused on feedback. This is a critical topic because we know how difficult of a skill it is to master. So, you may focus on Brene Brown’s work on clarity, such as “being clear is kind, and being unclear is being unkind.” In this case, we’ve selected “being clear with feedback” as an area for universal growth. Teacher leaders often need training to be clearer with their feedback regarding an initiative.
- Next, write out your agenda and add this foundational training as a key part of what is going to be covered at the meeting. Remember, foundational development is the first quadrant of our leadership continuum, and it is designed for novice leaders and the principles covered are universal in nature, like “being clear with feedback.” Add it as an agenda item with 30% of the meeting time allocated to the discussion.
- Last, plan ahead. Let your team know what you are going to do and why. Construct and develop an activity so the focus is evident and the outcomes are clear. Start with a simple book study using a book about being clear with your feedback as a leader. Then, sit back and watch your leaders transform as they learn to lead your initiative with more success.
Technical Tip: Set up a padlet to capture key ideas and thoughts in a central online space that can be referenced beyond the meeting.
Leadership Development Continuum Model
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