Saturday, September 3, 2011

When You Fail, I Fail - Approach To Leadership

One of the top questions surrounding education is, “How can we develop a fair and effective model for teacher evaluations?” Is it fair or effective to include test scores, or is measuring student progress throughout the school year a more fair and effective approach? Regardless of the outcome, there are ways in which principals can work closely to ensure improvement in teacher effectiveness.

Supervision of Instruction occurs between 8:00 and 3:00 or it doesn't get done!

The power to change education, for better or worse, is and always has been in the hands of teachers. Therefore, principals as instructional leaders, must separate the managerial side of the principalship with that of improving teacher effectiveness. No longer is it acceptable to sit in an office, work on state reports, complete teacher evaluations, or engage in any other activity that can be completed outside the school day. An effective principal designates school hours for students, teachers, and parents, every day.

Try this:
  • Teach a class and model technology integration, differentiation, embedded interventions and other proven instructional strategies.
  • Seek opportunities for professional dialogue with your teachers to build collegiality. Social media can be an effective tool to think, learn, and grow together with your teachers.
  • Engage in a “Lunch and Learn” with an ineffective teacher to follow-up on his/her growth plan.
  • Cover a class to allow a teacher the opportunity to visit a colleague's classroom. Make sure to schedule a time for self-reflection with the teacher.
If your faculty refers to walkthroughs as “drive bys,” failure may be just around the corner.

One of the most important, mandatory, responsibilities of a principal is frequent classroom visits. Frequent informal visits with a purpose add up to a true examination of what's happening in the classroom. However, what's happening in the classroom differs between a good principal and a great principal. A good principal spends much of the time at the back of the room focusing on teaching. A great principal spends valuable time at the front of the room focusing on students. The primary objective is to walk away with meaningful information that will promote teacher growth and enrich student's educational experience.

Try this:
    Interview a student after class and ask probing questions to check for understanding. It's always good practice to ask questions once the natural forgetting process has begun. Don't be afraid to ask a question about last week's lesson to check for retention.  Always share with your teacher your findings.
If your feedback is sugar-coated, expect failure to be blunt.

Feedback must be as frequent and mandatory as classroom visits. As a principal, we must be courageous and provide honest, specific feedback that articulates the desired expectation. Instead of just stating a concern, provide a solution or strategy for improved performance. Every teacher, regardless of performance level, deserves meaningful feedback. Teachers feel unappreciated when the principal fails to provide any type of feedback.

Try this:
    To be courageous, simply say to yourself, “I must be honest, straightforward, and detailed because our students deserve the very best.” This significant act of being downright honest separates an effective instructional leader from an ineffective instructional leader.
Belief Doesn't Come First; Action Comes First

Talking about great ideas and actually putting ideas into action are two very different things. Many times, good principals passionately share their perspectives and points of view with a reluctant teacher, hoping this teacher will jump on board. Recently, Lyn Hilt explained to me that to change one's belief, we must first change one's behavior. We can do this by setting high expectations and developing a teacher growth plan.

Many principals are excellent at collaborating with an ineffective teacher to develop a well-detailed growth plan but fail by not following up. A great principal intervenes immediately to address a concern rather than waiting for a post evaluation. A strong growth plan includes strategies for achieving the desired outcome, contains indicators and measures of achievement, and a completion time. Effective principals work collaboratively to develop an individual plan for every teacher and provides support so that failure is impossible.

Try this:
    Embed professional develop into every day. As Eric Sheninger suggests, replace teacher duties with intensive, specific, professional development to move a teacher from good to great. Quit talking about such things as differentiation, technology integration, and interventions, and expect teachers to put these strategies into action. Once teachers experience positive results, they will undoubtedly change their belief. Remember, as an effective instructional leader, it's your responsibility to assist and provide support to ensure positive results. Otherwise, you both may fail!
Failure to build trust, sooner or later, will build failure.

The best way to build trust is honesty. It is important to be straightforward with every teacher and do for one teacher as you would for any other. Provide support, detailed feedback, and individualized professional development for every teacher. Stretch and challenge every teacher to grow and to put proven strategies into action. As principals, our first priority must be to move every teacher to proficient and beyond. How can we expect to get every student to proficient when we have limited knowledge or unsatisfactory teachers?

To build trust, principals must adopt the philosophy that 'when you fail, I fail.' If students, teachers, and principals all hold themselves accountable for student learning in some capacity, failure is impossible. 

ac·count·abil·i·ty - an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions

In conclusion, teacher evaluations can be fair and effective when the formal evaluation is not a surprise. By October, every teacher should know their area for improvement, strategies to reach proficiency, and frequent updates regarding progress toward reaching the desired expectation.  If the teacher has the desire to improve and enhance the educational experience for their students, they will.  If not, much data and evidence is documented to prove otherwise.