Effective Leadership

Effective Leadership

Effective Leadership: It is as Ez as 1-2-3…
Written By: Amy Rhyne

What makes a leader effective?

The title “leader” does not automatically make one effective. However, we have all witnessed how this mindset has led to a negative impact on many systems within educational institutions everywhere. Effective leaders lead from the heart, with a willingness to serve and continuously learn alongside those they are responsible for supporting, coaching and evaluating. Creating a system where there is an individual “Marge in Charge” for the sole purpose of evaluating those within the system will undermine the leader’s efforts and result in negative outcomes.

Fortunately, becoming an effective leader is as Ez as 1-2-3! 

  1. Examine the Environment

You cannot lead people you do not know or are not willing to get to know. As a leader, it is essential that you take time at least annually (more frequently if possible) to ask what is working and not working from those on the front lines completing the daily work, as well as those supporting your system. Furthermore, it is essential to involve a variety of stakeholder voices: administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents and even community members. Once the feedback has been collected, take time to begin making process improvements based on the overall vision, mission and priorities of the group. Creating a positive culture begins with getting to know the priorities of your stakeholders, with the intention of creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe. Be mindful… most people see through a phony!  Collecting the information for the sake of creating a positive self-image, rather than process improvement, is dangerous and will backfire every time.

  1. Exemplify Energy and Excitement

One thing to note about the title “leader” is the root word “lead” definitely holds true in most settings. Energy and apathy are both contagious! If a leader is full of energy and excitement, most others follow. Similarly, if a leader makes excuses, is not fully engaged or committed, he/she will find the same character seeping out of those within the system. Effective leaders must observe stakeholders and recognize that, in most cases, it is your daily mirror. “Attitude reflects leadership”. Take time to reflect and adjust based on what you see in the mirror. There will be times the image you see is ugly. We all have ugly moments. What matters most is how we respond when we recognize we are part of the problem. Learn from it, admit when you own it and improve it. Never quit during the tough times, because it is never going to be easy. Rewarding, yes. Easy, no.

  1. Establish Buy In – Engage and Encourage Everyone at Every Level

One key thing to realize is that leaders exist at every level, far beyond the Superintendent and Principal. Teachers are leaders of their classroom system. Students are leaders of their learning. Each level should treat those they lead accordingly. Take the time to meet people where they are, celebrating their strengths and coaching their gaps to afford them the opportunity to become great.  Simply put, an effective leader grows leaders! It is not about what leaders do to, or for, those in the system that matters most. Instead, it is what they do alongside or with them, supporting the individual growth. A leader’s main purpose should be to encourage and celebrate the successes and accomplishments of those they are supporting, coaching and evaluating every step of the way! Take time for a genuine heartfelt thank you for individuals and stakeholders.

A servant leader is the one responsible for holding the spotlight, not the one in front of it. 

As a leader, my goal has always been to leave a place better than I might have entered it and know in my heart that those I have had the honor to support and coach no longer need me. It was my job to hold the spotlight, rather than stand out in front of it. Even during these very trying times, whether in person, virtual or hybrid, I have learned these same values hold true for effective leaders across our state and beyond.

Stick together! Be a present guide, so that no one feels alone in this uncharted territory.  And don’t forget to check your mirror!

Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Know thy Impact | Using a Classroom Walkthrough Tool as formative assessment to determine the effectiveness of your Leadership Team
Written By: Shannan Church

To reach total school improvement you want all arrows moving in the same direction. As instructional leaders in the building, it is our responsibility to set our building up for success.  How do we do that?  How do we intentionally and strategically align school improvement?  After we get them aligned, how do we explicitly communicate the alignment with our staff?

School improvement starts and ends with data.  We begin by analyzing universal screening data to write Tier 1 Core Improvement Plans. Then we use those plans to draft our school improvement plans.  These school improvement plans should outline the PD needed in order for the teachers to carry them out to fidelity.  We provide PD teachers need then we use our classroom walkthrough tool (CWT) to formatively assess and provide growth feedback that helps us determine the effectiveness of our Leadership Team’s support.  Check out this easy to read graphic that summarizes these alignments.

Questions Playmaker Leaders ask:

Are the Professional Development trainings provided making impact?  Do our PLCs produce highly effective teachers using high yield strategies in their classroom that in turn positively impact our data and student achievement/growth? 

Easy as 1 – 2 – 3 | Steps Strong Leaders Model

  1. Deep Data Analysis | Use this data to drive tier 1 core improvement plans.
  2. SIP Alignment | Use Tier 1 Plans to write SIP goals (look for trends).  Determine PD needed to carry out your plans.
  3. Plan to Action | Provide the PD that is needed over an appropriate period.  Use a CWT to measure what your teachers are implementing and where they still need support.

Indicator Categories to Consider:

These are several indicators that we know yield high growth.  Please note- only indicators that teachers have received PD on should be on your CWT.  This list is not exhaustive.

  • Learning targets, posted, and communicated (Do students know their goals and success criteria?)
  • Instruction is aligned with standards (Did the PLC collaboratively unpack their content?)
  • Data Representation (Grade, Class, Individual Data Notebooks)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Scaffolded, Flex Groups, Data Driven, Collaborative Groups)
  • Instructional Routines (Literacy and Math)
  • Active Student Engagement (Active or Passive learning)

What does a CWT look like, sound like, feel like?

Now that you understand the critical components and compelling why of CWTs you may be asking how do I actually complete these?  Here are some rules our team lives by.

  1. Walk with a purpose.  Are you observing instruction or behavior?  Figure out who is completing the CWTs.  If you are completing behavior walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and counselors in your school.  If you are completing instructional walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and coaches in your building.
  2. Inter-rater reliability matters. At the beginning of each you review your indicators as a leadership team.  Discuss quality measures and non-examples.  It’s a great idea to complete paired walks the first couple weeks.  This will create unbiased, equitable marks and feedback throughout the building.
  3. Frequency over duration.  Each member of your leadership team should complete a minimum of 5 walks per week.  These are quick shots.  Create a schedule for who is walking where each week.  Only stay in the classroom 3-5 minutes per walk.
  4. Feedback feeds back.  Teachers crave positive feedback and constructive feedback.  Create a system for yourself.  Every time you complete a walk pick out something positive and then grow your teacher with a “have you thought about” idea.  Check out the tear off notepads we use to leave our teachers love notes when we walk into their classrooms.
  5. PLCs are the lifeblood.  Leadership Teams should make a standing agenda item to discuss/review the classroom walk data during their weekly leadership PLC and collaboratively design PLC agendas that support and grow teachers based on CWT data.

Do you need help aligning school improvement at your school?  We are here to help – send us your needs info@i-leadr.com.

Do you need help designing your own classroom walkthrough tool on a limited budget?  We’ll help you make one for free that will collect your data and represent it in easy to use charts for your leadership PLCs and teacher PLCs.  Reach out to us at info@i-leadr.com.

I’d Love to Tell You I’m a Great Educator

I’d Love to Tell You I’m a Great Educator

By: Janna Sells

You know how they say timing is everything?  True story alert.  I’m not one who believes in coincidences. 

I was having a casual conversation during a professional partnership call.   A friend on the call said something so profound that it caused me to stop and really reflect on his words.  He said, “I’d love to tell you I’m a great husband, but that’s not my call.” .. Wait, what? .. He continued, “My greatness is decided upon by my wife.” 

[Mic Drop]  

What would those I serve say about my greatness? It’s not my call.

Flash back- two weeks.  Our team solicited feedback from our stakeholders to work on our own continuous improvement.  We all have room to grow.  Quoting my wise and late, Grandpa Wes, “Janny, when you’re done learning, it’s time to die.”

As we began reading some of the anecdotal feedback from our service community we were smitten by the positive affirmations.  What a bucket filler.  We were feeling pretty amazing!  Living our mission to REACH, EDUCATE, EQUIP, and MATTER.  Our hearts were full .. but the feedback was not all positive.

There it was, the criticism that specifically stopped me in my tracks.  Referencing a personal experience that I shared with a team of teachers, I knew immediately exactly who the feedback was referencing.

My immediate feeling was defeat.  I was the one.  I was one who in the midst of 100s of affirmations had the one negative (err .. 3 actually) comments. There were 3.  All referring to me.  I had let my team down.  The team that I help to lead. Gut punch.

The next feeling I felt was failure.  I failed this particular team.  I failed the school they serve.  Worse, I failed their students.  The very first action of our mission is REACH.  Failure.

The feelings following were a mix between, regrets (should haves) and hopes (next time).

I began reflecting and praying over the feedback because the reality is, while their words are not true to me, I allowed their words to be true to them.  It is so true that our perception is our prison.  Thank you to one of my inspirational coaches, Trent Shelton, for that piece of wisdom.  

I began to question the approach I used to lead the crucial conversation, my choice of words, the way I made someone else feel, and sadly my passion and purpose for serving children.  I asked colleagues to coach me up.  I referenced some tactical approaches from my own crucial conversation training.  I pulled some articles and texts from my educational leadership resources.  I was so hurt that I made someone else hurt.  So vain.  I know.

The more I mulled over my shoulda, coulda, wouldas, the more my God showed up for me.  I had prayed for the opportunity to redeem myself.  I had prayed that in the future, I more genuinely articulate the WHY behind my work.  I had prayed that the people who were hurt by my support would somehow know that at the end of the day, I will passionately and unapologetically try to give more than my best to serve and grow children.  I prayed for grace. 

Another core belief I hold is that teachers do the best they can, with what they know at the time they know it.  Once we know better, we do better.

Flash to the Present.  I recently bumped into one of my former 3rd grade students.  Shortly following our reunion I received a social media friend request.  ACCEPTED.

Within 24 hours I received the most uplifting message from this now beautiful rising senior.

Yall.  There are so many times in our life we question our purpose.  What is our roll in this big world?  I am so blessed to have found and live in my purpose, but it doesn’t mean that I do not occasionally feel the pressure to question it.  

I will always VALUE and APPRECIATE my stakeholder’s feedback to continually grow in my practice.  Even when it hurts, there is room for improvement.

This simple message from a former student reminded me that just because I need to work on some outward communication doesn’t mean that I should question my worth when I’m working in my purpose and driven by my compelling why.  She is part of my why.  To allow someone else permission to judge or evaluate MY why is not growth mindset nor is it part of any continuous improvement model.  My why is mine and no one no matter the feedback will take it from me.

Here is your simple two step challenge friends-

  1. STAY TRUE TO YOUR WHY.  No one has permission to rob your passion or purpose.  Remember the desire for personal or professional reflective, continuous improvement does not represent a weakness in your purpose.  It’s quite the opposite.  It represents humility and that you are so solidly grounded in your why, that you’re comfortable being uncomfortable growing in your practice.

     

  2. No matter your life or professional role, identify who it is that you serve and allow your consumer the opportunity to make your call of greatness.  The reality is, I’d love nothing more than to tell you that I am a great educator, but truth be told, it’s not my call.  Make your impact matter to those your serve.  Humbly and reflectively, GROW IN YOUR PRACTICE while maintaining your WHY.

I hope you leave these thoughts determined to be the best version of yourself and that those you serve no matter your practice know how great you are!

#neverquestionyourwhy but rather #improveyourpractice

Matter is the Minimum

Matter is the Minimum

Jay Urich, Gamecocks QB, said it best: Matter IS the MINIMUM.

“Black lives are worthy. Black lives are loved. Black lives are needed.”

At i-LEADR, we are committed to standing beside other like-minded and like-hearted leaders who are learning and continuing to improve upon providing equitable educational, social, and professional opportunities for students of all races. We humbly acknowledge the truths from diverse subgroups and as a company that serves educators we will continuously improve and grow our compassion and knowledge around ways to improve equitability.

Our commitments to those we serve and the community we impact:
We will grow in our own knowledge and understanding. We must first educate ourselves.

 

We will make intentional efforts to ensure our professional development and other services offered are diverse and genuinely crafted to better educate the staff we serve on stronger ways to provide equitable and educational schools, homes, and communities for ALL students.

We will continue to hold the non-negotiable value for ALL educators to hold high expectations for all their students regardless of students’ background, socio-economic status, race, or gender.

We will grow our team, our company, and our services with minds, hearts, and hands that share our company’s same values and morals regardless of their outward category identification.

We will know better each day and therefore, we will do better by those we serve. We will show grace. We will show love. We will show improvement.
We will reach. We will educate. We will equip. We will matter.

It is our prayer that every student regardless of category, who enters any school building feels loved, valued, and knowledgeable. We will continue to strive daily to support the endless potential in ALL students.

We are all in this together. We are the empower agents. We are educators.

The Seven D’s of Leadership

The Seven D’s of Leadership

Written by Principal Angel Oliphant

As a child I developed a love of reading and was like a sponge when it came to learning new things. By the time I got to high school, it was clear to me that both race and socio-economic status have a major impact on student learning and achievement. I saw this as a huge problem and made a vow to be a part of the solution. Now as a principal in a Title 1 school, my top priority is meeting students’ academic and social-emotional needs.    

These are seven leadership tips that I’ve used over the years that have contributed to my effectiveness as a principal:

1. Determine the needs of your students and put them first. Before any decision is made I always ask myself if it is good for students. I analyze multiple data sources and make sure students’ basic needs are met before trying to close their academic gaps. This can be accomplished through formal and informal assessments and observations. Counselors and Social Workers also play a key role in this.

  1. Develop strong relationships. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Show compassion for students and teachers and what they are going through. Be a good listener as they share their concerns with you. Just as I encourage teachers to develop strong relationships with their students, it is important for me to develop relationships with my teachers. Teacher support, nurturing and coaching are extremely critical for students’ success.

3.Depend on parents and other stakeholders within the school community for support. Parents love their children and want them to be successful. Partner with them by keeping them informed of students’ progress and engaging them in what is happening in the classroom and throughout the school. Remember the saying, “It takes a village.” All stakeholders are important. I’m a firm believer that the collective knowledge and experience of the whole far outweighs my knowledge and experience as a single individual. 

  1. Deposit into students’ and teachers’ emotional bank accounts. Even the smallest accomplishments should be recognized. This helps to motivate and encourage students and teachers to persevere. Let them know how proud you are of their efforts. They want to feel valued and appreciated.
  1. Delegate to others. You can’t do everything on your own.  Empower and promote the growth of teacher leaders by assigning them responsibilities and various leadership roles in the school. I trust teachers to accomplish these tasks independently because I’ve armed them with tools for success. This also includes soliciting input from teachers on important decisions.

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Choose your battles wisely. It’s ok to give in sometimes as long as it doesn’t hurt the students. Some things are just not that important. Spend your time on things that matter the most.

Strategies To Promote At Home Learning

Strategies To Promote At Home Learning

These strategies are provided by Mindprint Learning, LLC for its clients only. You may copy and distribute with Mindprint logo for non-profit educational purposes only unless with express written permission. 
www.mindprintlearning.com

  • Strategies can be printed front/back. If you have note cards, you can paste the front and back to a 4 x 6 note card and keep them in a stackable pile
  • We encourage you to customize these strategies for personal use, particularly the Student Checklists. Go to File/Make a Copy to make an editable copy.
  • Strategies are organized in the following categories

Get Organized. We strongly encourage you to start here to ensure no student is left behind. Best for: Elementary Students, Students with weaker Attention or Working Memory

Modifications to Instruction. Online learning requires a greater awareness of learner differences. Great teachers naturally compensate for some amount of variability as they interact with students and respond to their words and body language. One big challenge with online learning is that students might not tell you they’re struggling or need help. Best for: Students with weaker Verbal Reasoning, Memory, Attention or Working Memory

Student Checklists. Students must be more responsible to be as successful with online learning as they are in traditional school. The great news is that remote learning will develop these skills. Help students along by giving them checklists to use while they are doing assignments. Best for: All students, particularly those with weaker Verbal Memory, Attention, or Working Memory

Social-Emotional. It can be hard to tell how individual students are processing this new reality. Some are feeling a sense of loss, others might be angry, and others might be feeling anxious about their grades, performance, or not seeing their friends. When students are emotional it reduces their capacity to learn so help them manage those feelings. Best for: Students with Anxiety or weaker Flexible Thinking

Parenting. Parents can be confused about their role in remote learning. Communicating to parents how they can help their students be successful can empower parents while ensuring students have both the support and independence they need. Best for: All Parents, especially students with weaker Attention or Working Memory

Link to All Strategies

Please join us every Tuesday at 12pm EST for an open Q&A on these and related topics