Purpose & People

One of my greatest challenges as a new principal is how to balance time throughout the day.  By nature I am very task oriented.  When I was in the classroom, especially after I had kids, I didn’t linger in the hallways chit-chatting after school or during transitions.  I was in my classroom trying to “get things done” so that I wouldn’t be taking a bunch of papers and work home with me.  Even so, the bag of work came home as it still does now.  It certainly is a constant struggle.

As we began this year, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my vision and mission. I knew it was important to be clear on my purpose and to keep that in mind so that when I got stressed I would remember why I was here and the difference I am trying to make.  It’s funny, but I think I can be almost too purpose-driven at times.

Lately, I have found that I need to slow down and intentionally make time for people.  I have a tendency to go from one agenda item to the next, looking at unexpected conversations as things that detract from my purpose, instead of as opportunities.  Again, it’s all about balance.  I can’t just sit around and talk to people all day, but I need to be intentionally present in those conversations so that I can take advantage of the opportunities to build relationships and get to know people on a personal level. That’s important.

Our staff members are more than just as a means to fulfilling our school mission.  People come with their own sets of expectations, perceptions, hopes, dreams, and struggles.  I need to see their humanity and not just the qualities related to their positions.

A Worthwhile Investment

“Instead of micromanaging teachers, principal should lead efforts to collectively monitor student achievement through professional learning communities.”

How Do Principals Really Improve Schools? Rick Dufour and Mike Mattos

The article from which this quote was taken discusses the paradoxical position principals are in between the emphasis placed on teacher evaluation and what really works to improve schools.  The authors write that while the approach to improved teaching and learning based on more frequent and intensive evaluation is the cornerstone of many school improvement efforts, it alone is an ineffective strategy to raising student achievement.

When our state first switched to our Professional Growth and Effectiveness system, I felt optimistic about using rubrics to help clarify and identify specific observable behaviors that help teachers become effective.  I appreciate how the Danielson framework takes teaching and learning and places them on a continuum.   I love the emphasis on instruction and in coaching teachers to become more effective.  I do, however; agree with the authors on their assertions that evaluation is an ineffective strategy to rely on to raise student achievement.

While I had come to this conclusion on my own, this article does serve to remind me of the power of the PLC process in increasing student achievement.  It is affirmation that I am on the right track in the emphasis I am placing on team planning, analysis of classroom data, and building structures this year that will lead to a true focus on what Dufour and Mattos describe as the “collective analysis of evidence of student learning.”

As my time from 7:30 to 3:30 is many times is dictated by situations that come up unexpectedly, I have to be very intentional about how I allocate my time.  I have to give priority to those experiences or initiatives that have research behind them proving their impact on student achievement—PLCs are a worthwhile investment