‘Is Your Leadership Attitude Worth Catching?’

month, Dr. Julie Morrow , our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, led a talk with principals about setting the tone in our schools and how important our influence is to teachers, students and our community. I tweeted this picture during her presentation as what she was saying really resonated with me and the conversations I’ve been having with several #leadlearners around my school:

Her passion about this message evident and this is a message that speaks volumes by itself. It made me reflect on my actions and thoughts:

  • the-principal-50-part1
    The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence @PrincipalKafele

    What do I really believe about my school?

  • Would teachers/students parents be able to articulate my beliefs to a visitor to West Rowan Middle?
  • What does a person see/hear when I am talking about West Rowan Middle?
  • Do my students say my attitude sucks or do they believe I love them and my school?
  • What am I inspiring people to say, think and do?
  • Do they see/hear a consistent message?
  • Do they hear trust and belief from me?
  • Do I joke too much? Do I use sarcasm at the wrong time?
  • Am I speaking with enthusiasm and drive? Commitment?

I also reflected on other lead learners in my building:

Department Chairs: Do the teachers in these departments merely get updates or are they hearing an inspiring message to try new things? Do the teachers in departments know they are supported on every level? Are teachers encouraged? Are teachers being told that their department is critical but our overall goal is drive the school mission and vision forward?

Grade Level Chairs: Do teachers hear a positive message in supporting the emotional/social needs of our kids? Are teachers building great routines that help them get to supporting students? Are teachers being told that their grade level is the most important and our overall goal is drive the school mission and vision forward?

Leadership Team: Are they seeing me model tough conversations and change and is it giving them the tools and impetus to do the same? Do they hear and see the vision of our school being communicated in a powerful way that will help them repeat the message?

Parents: Do my parents hear me say we look forward to seeing kids everyday? Do they believe it? Do they know we are always looking for new ways to challenge kids?Do they know that we treasure their future?

I want my attitude and message to be meaningful and contagious. This is a great message for us all, any educator in any position, to keep a keen eye on what we do and say and be purposeful in our acts and messages.

Other resources:


Connecting and Influence

One of my graduate school professors shared an insight that has stayed with me for after almost 15 years later:

  • Students are the reason we have schools;
  • Teachers are the most important people in the school building;
  • Principals are the most influential people in the building.

As a teacher in program at the time and later as an assistant principal, I didn’t have a good understanding about the principal and influence. My perception was the principal’s role was one of authority – giving mandates around the school on what needed to be changed and put in place to make the school a better place to work and learn. But some good mentors and supervisors helped me understand the power of building a vision and empowering others to be incremental in making change in schools.

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My presentation this week at #ModelSchool in Atlanta  centered around the influence of the school leader and one of the major tools that school leaders leverage in becoming better leaders – getting connected. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how my PLN constantly reinforces and teaches me how to be a more effective leader. I learn from world class experts on leadership best practices that help grow me as a leader and in turn change my school environment. Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Iowa, is a great example of this. I visited Jimmy during one of his open sessions while he was coaching a school administrator on how to begin his journey on bringing about systemic, courageous change in his school.  I’ve heard Jimmy speak a number of times, follow of his posts and thoughts on social media and avidly follow his work. I know him to be a great thought leader and leadership coach but I would absolutely not know him if I was not a connected educator. Being connected shrinks our world and brings experts with in arm’s length. It gives us immediate access to their knowledge and experience. I’m a better leader and educator because my PLN [professional learning network] is always there and accessible.

School leaders at every level should make time to build up and engage their PLN. Spend time learning Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and start developing your leadership skills, understand your role as a vision builder and start using your influence help change your school. We will never mandate our way to better schools but leveraging our influence is how we build sustaining and impactful change.