Thursday, January 10, 2013

Supporting principal growth . .

I could argue that the most important role for a superintendent is supporting principals as we focus on instructional practice in all of our classrooms.  Of course, this is not the "traditional" role, but it is one that I take seriously and find the most rewarding of my job functions.  I believe that I have the responsibility to teach and to create a culture that promotes and supports change in instructional practices that are reflected in increased student achievement.  My classroom are the principals and central office staff that make up our Educational Leadership Team, ELT.

I have multiple opportunities each month in a variety of settings for this work and this week has been especially rewarding.  Tuesday, we had our monthly ELT meeting that has traditionally been a management meeting.  Two years ago, we added a Teaching and Learning standing item to the agenda and over time we have seen a shift from predominately management to a greater focus on instruction.  On Tuesday we spent the majority of time focused on instructional issues around Classroom 10 and both the teacher and principal components of TPEP.  I used the time to share what I was learning and to reinforce expectations for principals to use strategies that support teacher growth.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was with three principals on my monthly learning walks in each building.  This is a combination of sharing current reality, looking at data, revisiting prior conversations and new learning, and visiting classrooms.  This year I am focusing on data and feedback, always trying to have our time together result in creative tension leading to reflection on the part of principals related to their support of teachers.  The visits this week were especially rewarding for me.  Though we didn't get into classrooms in one of the visits (first time) because of the content of our conversations, I know, through feedback, that the principal has been reflecting on the conversation.  In a drop-in during a staff meeting the next morning I asked if she would like some feedback with staff in the room and she said yes.  So, we had a brief conversation, similar to what I want between principals and teachers, with a focus on what she might do differently in planning the next meeting.  I think that it is important for teachers to see that principals are also learners and need feedback to support growth.

Following learning walks with the other two principals we talked about feedback and identifying the focus that would support teacher reflection.  We also talked about the role of the principal beyond just giving the feedback, including the importance of engaging the teacher in looking at how the identified focus area might lead to deeper understanding and additional strategies for future use.  Each principal shared with me the decision they made on a focus and that they had provided feedback.  They felt good about the process and experienced a positive interaction with a teacher focused on learning and support.  This is rewarding feedback for me as I support my classroom to increase their capacity to influence and support teacher growth.

I encourage members of our ELT or one of the principals or teachers involved in these learning walks to share their experience by commenting on this post.

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