School Leaders and Influence

My definition and viewpoint of  school leadership have changed significantly from when I first walked into a classroom a little more that 15 years ago. Its evolved from a [mis]perception of the ‘battlefield general’ giving orders to my growing, changing understanding today of the leader, collaborator, innovator, inspirer, builder. Its ironic that all of my K-12 principals were never barkers to students.  These principals were very personable to students and I would be hard pressed to imagine them treating staff and teachers differently. But I do wonder how they effected changed and monitored.

My wife and I worked on our school administration degrees together and had the fortune of learning from Dr. Douglas Fiore. He’s the first education leader I’ve met face to face who took us deep into school leadership. He shared the following saying with us years ago and it has stuck with me:

STUDENTS are the reason we have schools,

TEACHERS are the most important people in schools,

The PRINCIPAL is the most influential person in the building.

At the time, this was applied to a very different education field than now. There are different expectations for school leaders today.

As a school leader, how do you use your influence?

Of the many different areas we can affect or influence our staff, I think about this in terms of my practice as a growing digital school leader.


As a connected educator, I embrace my role as a leader and change agent by examining my practices and the resources I use to accomplish my goals. Ultimately, I look to make a positive affect on student learning, teaching practices and how I can always improve my administrative practices.

I fully utilize my influence by:

  • Modeling new practices – Whenever the opportunity arises to share a new tool or model a strategy, I lead in the sharing or strongly encourage our school leaders to demonstrate what will make a difference.
  • Consistently building my PLN – My consistent involvment in building my PLN allows me to pull strategies, bounce ideas off other experts and engage in continuous professional development that will in turn makes a difference with my students, teachers, my school and myself.
  • Committing to looking for better practices – I tell my staff that that our pursuit is not for ‘best practices’ but better practices. To me, ‘best practices’ implies that a goal can be reached or we can arrive at a location. Better practices fits me better because it about journey not destination. Committing to continual improvement is embraces the different teaching practices, learning modalities and all the growing number of resources that are shared through my PLN.
  • Embracing my role as coach – Diffusion of innovations is the science of getting people to try, buy into and adopt new innovations. A big part of Being the model is a great start but it is often not enough. To empower teachers to dive into new practices, school leaders

How to Participate in Twitter Chats

Participating in Twitter chats is a great way to grow professionally and connect to and learn from practicing professionals and experts in our field. I’ve put together a couple of slides giving some information on how I participate in chats. I use two tools primarily, one is an old school favorite but both get the job done equally effectively.

I hope this helps you in your efforts to get connected!

Your growth, helps us all grow!

Sharing GoogleForms Observations and Teacher Feedback

   Several weeks ago, the principals in our cluster got together and did an instructional walk thru in my building. This is the second one we’ve done in our district, the first at our cluster high school. This great talk inspired me to offer my school as the next walk thru site. I’ve always invited open feedback into the instructional practices in my school – this transparency is a great way to make a difference in learning and teaching. I asked the visiting administrators to visit any and every classroom they felt like. Every classroom, even empty ones, has data we can use to provide teachers information that will affect learning. We had a great follow up discussion and shared several points my team acted on immediately but a great discussion to evolve was how we use GoogleForm as a walk thru tool and data collector. We shared our process and tool with the administrators. Since we use iPads for our visits, we shared iPads from our iPad cart. The experience left the administrators wanting to learn how to create their own walk thru tool.

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Sharing and Building

   This past Friday I led a collaborative share session with these administrators and school leaders on creating a GoogleForm for a walk thru tool. Our group consisted of principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches and teachers. This larger group represented the school leaders who play an active part in the instructional monitoring in their building.

   My talk broke down into two parts:

  1. Rationale for walk thrus and using GoogleForms as the tool;
  2. Creating the GoogleForms Walk Thru and installing the component that will enable feedback to be sent to the teachers.

   Collecting and reviewing data on teaching and learning is a critical part of instructional supervision. It has become an integral part of our dialogue, training, and planning process. I’ve written about it here in a previous post. Adding the component for enabling feedback has multiple steps and technical but we led the group through the process. Now everyone in attendance has a fully functioning, walk thru form that can email feedback back to teachers. This is a difference making process for the schools in our district.

   I‘m a firm believer that you get more from sharing and this experience has only validated that. There was a lot of dialogue generated from this visit. One great piece came from Kevin Hasinger @KevinJHasinger, Principal at Long Hill Elementary. Kevin had some great value-add regarding adding metrics to observations to help communicate engagement. That piece, in addition to the other observations made about the tool will help all the schools with their observation efforts.

   This was a great experience for our cluster school leaders. It is a real example of the need for educators to continue to share and connect. I learned information from my PLN and was able to share with school leaders in my cluster and district.

Spanish Quiz Bowl 2013 – QSM

Quien Sabe Mas! 20130312_125223

Saturday March 9th was a great day at Spring Lake Middle School!

We had the distinct pleasure of hosting the Spanish Quiz Bowl for all middle schools in Cumberland County! This was a first for me! This was a cultural celebration as well as an academic competition. This event was organized by county level personnel but we enthusiastically agreed to serve as the host site. All middle schools from around the district are asked to form teams and begin training students for the Quiz Bowl. During the competition, students are asked trivia questions in Spanish and have to respond in Spanish. Teams from different schools are invited participate in contests all morning. This is a big, spectacular event that everyone involved got something out of.

Below are pictures from some of the displays schools set up at the entrance way of the school:

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The size of the event, the number of participants and teams was awe inspiring! With teams ranging from 5 – 10 students, we had 12 schools in participation along with coaches parents and school system employees. The following pictures are of our culminating event in the afternoon and the large group lunch.

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The afternoon event included musical performances from county personnel and students. A guest speaker from Fayetteville State University, a lecturer from the World Languages Department, gave a great speech on the value of learning a second language. Students who learn second languages do better in school, better on standardized tests, have a higher graduation rate than students who don’t learn a second language and have a higher probability of gainful employment. Great speech to a great group!

The winner of  the day’s competition was the team from Mac Williams Middle School. The team had a great showing. I took a picture with the principal from MWMS [picture below], Steve Morris @smor1955. Steve spoke highly of his team’s coach and described him as a motivator and great educator.

I’m extremely proud of our team! Last year the Broncos didn’t do very well in the competition. This year with new coaches and a new focus they finished 2nd in our division. Our kids were nervous and anxious and did not disappoint! They did us proud.

Its events like this that keep us in education!

One word for this day – awesome!!

Middle School Schedule [6]: Book Review ‘Making Teamwork Meaningful’

‘If teams of teachers are going to accomplish anything of substance, they need regularly scheduled opportunities during the school day to collaborate. In addition, if a school truly want to provide differentiated learning experiences for students – the teachers need regularly scheduled opportunities during the school day to provide targeted interventions.’ Ferriter, Graham, Wight, 2013

   Fortunate circumstances or divine intervention led my friend Bill Ferriter, @plugusin, to share his latest collaborative venture with me. I feel honored that he thought enough to share this great book. Bill is an authority on PLCs and building collaborative, goal oriented cultures in our schools. You’ve probably seen a couple of his works on the Solution-Tree catalog.

   Making Teamwork Meaningful is a great piece that dives into looking at all the systems and processes in a school that affect how students learn and teachers teach and a big part of that is how we promote and protect collaboration. This includes taking a look at our hiring process, developing intervention efforts and of course increasing our efficacy in collaboration and as the book points out, the school schedule is a critical starting point. This is a piece that all school leaders have to key into if we are going to make student learning a priority.

   Related to my series on middle school scheduling, there are some takeaways I thought that really resonate:


  • Teachers can’t be effective in ineffective structures
  • Outlining priorities and planning methods to protect them
  • The master schedule should support collaboration
  • School leaders have to create and protect opportunities for teachers to collaborate
  • School leaders should  consider how reflection and a commitment to flexibility will play a role in the schedule

   In addition these great points the book provides four key questions in guiding the building of the school schedule:

  1. What are our organization priorities, and who should help protect them?
  2. Who needs opportunities to collaborate to advance priorities, and how will we create time during the school day for that collaboration?
  3. What role will reflection and a commitment to flexibility to play?
  4. How can we be creative with positions and time to free teachers for intervention?

 I received this book well into our planning efforts for next year’s schedule but this was a timely read. Of course there are more aspects to this book developing a school scheduleIf you’re a school leader that’s involved in the decision making process including school improvement planning, building the schedule or designing interventions this is a must read. There are great points on every level for every level.