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Principal as Instructional Leader

If you have been reading this blog for several years, I'm sure you already know my stance on how important it is for principals to be strong instructional leaders.  By no means am I naive enough to say I am a strong instructional leader.  However, I am growth-minded and a lead-learner.  I push myself to learn and stay current in my position.  I place student and teacher learning at the forefront of everything.

This quote keeps me grounded-


Here's a look back at my first couple of weeks of Professional Development for 2017-2018.

If you haven't read the book, One Thing, it is a must read.  It helped me take an idea and tweak it for a school setting.

 "When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

"Going small" is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It's recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It's a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It's realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible...

When you go as small as possible, you'll be staring at one thing. And that's the point." ~ Gary Keller from The ONE Thing

After brainstorming with principal Jarett Kuhns, an activity called 10-10-10 was developed.  Directions are found here.


I knew at the beginning of the year we needed to set a goal or a few goals to direct us this year.  In order to accomplish our goals, we must know our direction.  I certainly didn't want to come in this year and have these goals already selected and our vision set.  That would be a big mistake.  Goals must be shared and collaborated, as well as, our vision for the year.  We must have a shared understanding of where we are, where we need to go, and how we should get there.

 The vision set by my teachers for this year is- to be a family of learners.  We want everyone to feel part of the team and part of the school family.  We will never stop learning this year.  We will hold each other accountable for learning.  Everyone has a voice.  Everyone is significant.  Everyone means- parents, students, teachers, custodians, paraprofessionals, etc...

I have to say my heart is full.  Just look at this amazing list teachers ask of me, their principal.   I love their list.  I gladly accepted it.

Amber Teamann is a Texas principal and blogger.  I follow her on social media, as well as, regularly read her blog.  On a recent post on Facebook, I found her idea of lighting a candle.  She had her staff light a candle.  I decided to just pass out this notecard.  Since it is my first PD in this school, I didn't want to chance burning down the school or setting off any fire alarms.  My luck just goes that way. (HA!)

Here's a glance at the data stations called DATA Carousel.  You can get the DATA Carousel headers below.  The purpose of this activity is to engage teachers in reading data- just locate the facts.  Each group was color-coded prior to starting.  When the music played, they moved to the next station.  When all stations were complete, we could do a Walk It Out.  A walk-it-out just means they rotate through all of the stations one last time and read the comments made by the other group members.  We were short on time so one of the co-presenters read the data findings to the entire group.

See collage image below:

Upper Left- Teachers worked in small groups and analyzed core subject area data from state testing results.  K-2 teachers looked at how their state standards led into the 3-5 grade levels.  Since grades 3-5 take state assessments, one goal is to vertically align our instruction to better prepare our students for state tests.

Lower Left- We are required to do a refresher training on classroom observations and walkthroughs.  The only way to get through T-TESS training is with a lovely scoop of ice cream.  You can grab this printable here.

Upper Right- T-TESS sign in and handouts were on the table outside the room.  In our training, we reviewed dimensions 2 and 3, watched a video of a lesson from Teach For Texas, rated the teacher in each area, and discussed how important it is to discuss the objective of the lesson.  TTESS flipbook

Lower Right- We did a little more team building and used balloons.  The activity can be found in the Professional Development Activities All Year Long packet.  The focus of this activity is to be a positive team member.  Negativity can weigh the campus down and limit us from reaching our goal.

One of my favorite videos from the week is What is Your Hope

Students will walk through the door of the school tomorrow to begin 2017.  

We plan on fighting like warriors and performing as champions. #gameon2017

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How to Digitize Your Notes

This post may include affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

This week while reading through the posts from over 3000 school leaders in my private Facebook group- Principal Principles Leadership, I noticed a principal shared a little about Rocketbook. Being that I love technology so much, I looked more into it.  Later that evening, I shared the information with the hubs and we decided to order two from Amazon that very night.

I am very excited to get this in hand.  A little side note: If ordering from Amazon, I had it within two days of ordering.  For someone who is so anxious, fast shipping is a big deal.

Let me share what Rocketbook can do for you.


- Use Rocketbook to organize your notes, lists, projects, or ideas.
- Use it as a sign in form to your next professional development session.  (Just pass the notebook around along with a special Rocketbook pen and have all staff sign in to your session.)
- Consolidate all of your notebooks into one notebook.  There is really no need for additional notebooks with this system.
- The Rocketbook allows you to digitize your notes without being in front of a computer screen.  It doesn't require wifi, cords, or any other complicated tools.
-Share your notes and sketches with your staff or colleagues.

Create. Scan. Erase.  Three simple steps.

The Rocketbook does require a special pen.  When you place your order, it comes with one.  I ordered a set of multi-colored ones too.

How It Works:

1.  Download the Rocketbook app on your phone, iPad, or digital device.
2.  Set up where you want your PDF's and images to be stored.  For example, I created a folder in my Google Drive.  All of my scans will go directly to a special folder in my Google Drive.
3.  The symbols in the book and along the bottom of the page are basically just a destination symbol of where you want your files to be stored.  I designated the rocket symbol (first one) to go to my google drive.  The second symbol (diamond) is designated to go to my email.  The apple symbol is designated to go to dropbox.

Take notes and sketches as you normally do with the special pen.  When you are ready to transfer your notes and save them digitally, place an X over the symbol of the location of where you want to store your notes.  Placing the X on the rocket symbol means it will go to my Google Drive folder.  This was determined when I installed the Rocketbook app.  Now, hold you phone or iPad over the page and scan it using the Rocketbook app.  The magic now happens and it will be stored for later use in your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, or Email.  

When you are finished with the page, just wipe it clean with a damp cloth.  The pages can be reused over and over again.

I ordered the EverLast notebook and cleaning it happens with a damp cloth.  The Wave notebook is cleaned using a microwave.

What to learn more?  Watch this video:

Order your Rocketbook here if you are interested in digitizing your notes.

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Back to School: The Principal's Office

The summer is extra busy for me this year.  Last year (2016-17 school year) I decided to be a "work- from-home-kind-of-girl."  I focused on Principal Principles through online mentoring, presenting, and consulting with schools.  I loved it, but I missed my calling.  I'm blessed to get to do what I love every day.  So therefore, I decided to return to the principalship.  I'm only a couple of weeks into the job, and it has been a big adjustment.  Fortunately, the former principal has been a wonderful asset and help to me as I transition to fill her shoes.

Here's a look at my first unofficial couple of weeks:


I decorated my office.  I had to get that done first so I can focus on all the rest.  I need to have a space that feels like home.  I don't spend a lot of time in the office during the year.  However, I wanted it to look inviting to all the staff and community who may enter.


I have started working on professional development powerpoints and activities.  I plan on sharing tons of pictures as soon as everything is ready.


The motto is You Matter: Every Child. Every Day.  I'm inspired by Angela Maiers and her message.  This was very easy to put up in the main entrance of the school.  I purchased the large YOU MATTER letters from Michaels and spray painted them- pink, blue, green, and purple.  The Every Child Every Day letters were already black.  I used adhesive to the back of the letters.  I'm crossing my fingers and hope they stay up all year.


I will be creating a Professional Development Calendar for the year and using anchors charts is top of the list.  I found these anchor charts from Hillary Kiser on TpT.  My training show how anchor charts can be used in all content areas and all grade levels too.

Other possible topics during the Professional Development week are: STEM/STEAM and Growth Mindset.  I'm still working on the PD plan.


Be The Change is a bulletin board I created in the main hall of the school.  It is actually the first bulletin board you see when you enter the building.  I wanted it to be bright with a positive message.  I purchased this bulletin board from Texas Lone Star Teacher on TpT.
On Facebook last week, I shared how I created a WELCOME wall.  This was very easy and inexpensive to create.  The letters are very light weight letters from Hobby Lobby.  I spray painted them black.  The colored backing is foam board.  I spray painted these in the same color as the You Matter bulletin board.  


Have you ever tried a Data Carousel?  I created a video to help explain how this works.  If you need extra information on how to get started, google data carousel.  Teacher Channel has a great video on it.


Teachers move around the room in groups and analyze data sources. Each group of teachers will have their color marker. For example, one group will have one red marker, another group will have a blue marker. This marker moves with the group. Groups will have a set amount of time to work together to analyze the data. When the group is finished at that station, one person from the group will write a narrative fact about their findings on the chart paper using their color marker.  At the end of the activity, you can see that all groups have finished by checking for all colored writings on the charts.

For my school, I will have 6 groups.  Therefore I will have 6 chart papers with the headers, 6 data printouts, and 6 different colored markers.  I picked six because I will be focusing on core subjects and state data reports which came to 6 different groups.  I will divide the groups into different grade level teams.

When all groups have completed all data stations, the facilitator will then look for similarities and discuss solutions. Take time to celebrate victories. There are always pockets of growth that we can celebrate. Do not focus on only the areas of improvement.

Prior to beginning this activity, discuss how this is not an activity to blame or point fingers. Data is not used in a negative way. No one is being judged by looking at the data. You can help eliminate this by telling the group to be thinking about our systems or our resources that might need to be changed. This will shift the focus from “people” blaming to a focus on our systems, our curriculum, or resources, etc… 

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Professional Development for Teachers: STEM

High-quality teaching is vital for student success.  We can all agree that quality professional development is essential to improving teaching.  When teaching improves, students will benefit.

I'm very passionate about providing quality professional development in our schools.  I think it is important for leaders to model the same kind of delivery as we expect from our very own teachers in the classrooms.


STEM is everywhere- all around us.  STEM must also be a strong force in our schools.  Did you know the fastest growing careers are in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math?  Exposure to STEM/STEAM is important in the 21st century learning as it allows our students to succeed in higher education, as well as, a variety of those career choices.  STEM isn't just for Career and Technology classes or for secondary students.  This is a vision that should begin in the early grades.

The benefits of STEM in the classroom builds many non-academic traits.  Students will build creativity, collaboration, communication, teamwork, critical thinking skills, confidence, perseverance, risk-taking, and so on...  Regardless of college or no college degree, every future career choice will require these skills.

With that all beginning said, I have decided to start sharing some PD resources with you.  I hope you find this as a big help to you as a school leader.  

How does this work?

Just download the Professional Development for Teachers:STEM resource and prepare an amazing day for your staff.  


Supplies - Needed (A shopping list provided. Most of the supplies you probably already have on campus.  All supplies very inexpensive.)

In the Professional Development for Teachers and Staff: STEM, I have included a traditional presentation, 6 hands-on learning stations for teachers, a planning and design sheet, STEM/STEAM Posters for the classroom, Engineering Design Posters, Informational Guide and STEM Station Table Tents.  

STEM Station Table Tents

If you are just starting out implementing STEM or any other new instructional endeavor, professional development (PD) is not a one time event. PD is a process that should be consistently scheduled throughout the year. Please do not make this STEM PD the only resource you use. It is meant to give your teachers an overview of it and experience hands-on learning. Use any part(s) or all of this resource. Try adding to it with your own ideas and creations.

Every school is unique. The teachers on your campus may have background in STEM and some may have little to no experience. I suggest using your teachers with experience to help lead this PD, as well as, any future trainings. I’m all for teacher leadership and empowering our own staff.

Prior to starting this training, set up your training room with the designated stations. Create additional stations, if you wish. Decide how you will group your staff and how many adults will be in each group.

Professional development should be experienced! It should be relevant, engaging, and practical. This should not be a SIT-AND-GET or a one-size-fits-all training. Have fun! Take pictures! Make classroom connections throughout the day by asking, “how and what will our students benefit from this?”

The bottom-line- Professional development is about increasing student achievement. This all starts with growing our staff. Make sure there is follow-up training and follow-through in the classroom. The learning doesn’t end in the training room.

Download Professional Development for Teachers and Staff: STEM

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Use Data to Improve Student Achievement

Schools are not lacking data.  We are data warehouses! We have data all around us- soft data and hard data.  It's not about having enough data.  It's about knowing how to USE the data to improve student achievement.  I'm not going to share why data matters.  I think it is safe to say we know it does.  If your school district does not have a data management system that can disaggregate the data, here are some forms you might like to print and share with your teachers.

I have updated the Targeted Data file on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It now includes Data Inventory Mats for Reading and Math.  All you need to do is use your own school data and create the inventory mat.

Data Inventory Mats for Reading and Math
Pin it on Pinterest

Groups can be color-coordinated as shown.  Green, Blue, Yellow, and Red symbolize student groups- Above level, Bubble, Intervention, and Urgent.  When I say bubble, these students are on level or slightly below.  These are the students that worry me the most because they tend to be inconsistent any day of the week.  One minute they are doing okay and then the next they are below level.

Targeted data means looking in-depth at each student, each skill, and each standard to determine a course of action or to determine the root cause of deficiency in student groups or instructional design.  The next step is to set challenging goals and intensive instructional interventions for each group.  It's very important that as leaders we are proactive in our approach when looking at data.

If you are just starting out developing a system of accountability on campus, here are a few suggestions.


1.  Make sure student assessments are reliable forms of measure.  Are you assessing students often enough to get the data?  Is the assessment assessing what it needs to assess?  Are the results really reliable and valid?

2.  Data needs to be used consistently in team meetings, during small group instruction, and a part of your culture of the campus.

3.  The data determines the needs of the students and the needs of the staff.  For example, what do your students need to be successful?  What do your teachers need to ensure students are successful?

4.  Match student needs to the intervention.   (The purpose of any assessment is to identify skills to target for aligning instruction to specific student needs in reading and math.)

5.  Create a culture that supports using data to change instruction and improve student achievement.

Making sense of data is tiresome.  It is even a part of the job that most administrators do not enjoy.  I just so happen to love data analysis.  However, it can be an enormous task for any single administrator.  That's why we need to invite teachers to sit at the data table.  It's so important that teachers analyze their data.  It is not only good practice, but it is meaningful data to them.  They know their students better than you do.  Involve your teachers in setting goals for themselves and their students.  Encourage your teachers to reflect upon their progress to help them determine what worked, what didn't, and what they might do differently next time.

If you are interested in downloading these Data Inventory Mats, check out the Targeted Data file on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Other resources you might like:  Data Talks and Forms

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The Best Books Every School Leader Should Read

No matter how much I may know or think I know, there is always more to learn.  I am constantly reading and researching from the best educational authors.  If you are enrolled in Leadership Unleashed, you know principals are expected to know it all. Professional learning is key to staying on top of the learning curve.  As a principal, it is my goal to always be a lead learner in the building.  I must be able to take my staff in the direction they need to go.  The only way to do that is to continue to learn and grow through reading, researching, and attending relevant professional learning opportunities.

I'm sharing some of my favorite books that have been a wealth of help to me over the years.

Escaping the School Leader's Dunk Tank 

Amazon Summary:
No school leader is immune to the dunk tank- the effects of discrimination, bad politics, revenge, or ego-driven coworkers.  In Escaping the School Leader's Dunk Tank, Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter share real life stories and insightful research to equip school leaders with the practical knowledge and emotional tools necessary to survive and, better yet, avoid getting "dunked.

Lead Like a Pirate: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff

Amazon Summary: 
Are You a Treasure Seeker?

Pirates are on a constant quest for riches, but PIRATE leaders seek even greater rewards: amazing schools, engaged students, and empowered educators who know they are making a difference. In Lead Like a PIRATE, education leaders Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf map out the character traits necessary to captain a school or district. You'll learn where to find the treasure that's already in your classrooms and schools--and how to bring out the very best in your educators.

What does it take to be a PIRATE Leader?
Passion--both professional and personal
A willingness to Immerse yourself in your work
Good Rapport with your staff, students, and community
The courage to Ask questions and Analyze what is and isn't working
The determination to seek positive Transformation
And the kind of Enthusiasm that gets others excited about education

The ultimate goal for any education leader is to create schools and districts where students and staff are knocking down the doors to get in rather than out. This book will equip and encourage you to be relentless in your quest to make school amazing for your students, staff, parents, and communities.

Are you ready to set sail?

The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Amazon Summary:
The Energy Bus, an international best seller by Jon Gordon, takes readers on an enlightening and inspiring ride that reveals 10 secrets for approaching life and work with the kind of positive, forward thinking that leads to true accomplishment - at work and at home. Jon infuses this engaging story with keen insights as he provides a powerful roadmap to overcome adversity and bring out the best in yourself and your team. When you get on The Energy Bus you’ll enjoy the ride of your life!

Dealing with Difficult Teachers (3rd Edition)

Amazon Summary:
This book provides tips and strategies to help school leaders improve, neutralize, or eliminate resistant and negative teachers.  Learn how to handle staff members who gossip in the teacher's lounge, consistently say "it won't work" when any new idea is suggested, send an excessive number o students to the office, undermine your efforts toward school improvement, or negatively influence other staff members.

Winning with Accountability

Amazon Summary:
Success can't happen without accountability. It is that simple. For over 10 years, Henry Evans has worked with hundreds of organizations around the world, teaching, and building accountability. This book offers that same guidance to you, your colleagues and your team to reach new levels of excellence and success. In Winning with Accountability, Henry offers a step-by-step guide to help any organization improve performance by creating a culture of accountability. The strategies in this book are simple, easy to implement...and the results are immediate! It should be required reading for every member of every team. Read, enjoy, and win with accountability!

The Multiplier Effect

Amazon Summary:

Why do some leaders double their team’s effectiveness, while others seem to drain the energy right out of the room? Using insights gained from more than 100 interviews with school leaders, this book pinpoints the five disciplines that define how Multipliers bring out the best across their schools. By practicing these disciplines, you’ll learn how to:
  • Attract top teachers to your school 
  • Create an intense environment that demands people’s best thinking 
  • Drive sound decisions by constructing debate and decision-making forums 
  • Give your team a sense of ownership for responsibilities and results

Kids Deserve It! Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking

Amazon Summary:
What if learning was exciting?
What if students felt important and empowered every time they walked into the building?
What if parents looked forward to calls from their children’s teachers and principals, instead of cringing when the school’s number popped up on their phones?

To Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, those aren’t far-fetched what ifs; they can (and should) be a reality for every teacher, school, parent, and student.

In Kids Deserve It!, Todd and Adam encourage you to think big and make learning fun and meaningful for students. While you’re at it, you just might rediscover why you became an educator in the first place.

- Learn why you should be calling parents to praise your students (and employees).
- Discover ways to promote family interaction and improve relationships for kids at school and at home.
- Be inspired to take risks, shake up the status quo, and be a champion for your students.

Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life

Amazon Summary:
New York Times bestselling author and award-winning educator Ron Clark applies his successful leadership principles to the business world in this effective and accessible guidebook, perfect for any manager looking to inspire and motivate his or her team. Includes a foreword by bestselling author and FranklinCovey executive Sean Covey.

Teamwork is crucial to the success of any business, and as acclaimed author and speaker Ron Clark illustrates, the members of any team are the key to unlocking success. Imagine a company as a bus filled with people who either help or hinder a team’s ability to move it forward: drivers (who steer the organization), runners (who consistently go above and beyond for the good of the organization), joggers (who do their jobs without pushing themselves), walkers (who are just getting pulled along), and riders (who hinder success and drag the team down). It’s the team leader’s job to recognize how members fall into these categories, encourage them to keep the “bus” moving by working together, and know when it’s time to kick the riders off.

How To Be a Happy First Year School Leader

Written by me!

Amazon Summary:
You have just been hired to lead a school and handed the keys to the building. First-year principals are expected to assume the same tasks and responsibilities as the most seasoned administrators. Embrace the challenge. You can do it with the right tools in your hands and knowledge of your support system.

Statistics and research reports the following:
Only about half of newly hired school principals stay on the job at least three years. If you are in a high-poverty school, principals leave even sooner.

The principal position is hard. There is no sugar-coating it.

However, having the right start during year one, will give you the motivation and spark to keep going. In this book, Stephanie will share with you 12 easy, highly practical strategies to help you have a happy first year as a school leader.

If you are a first-year school leader or inspiring leader, this book is for you.
Follow these strategies and you will be well on your way to having a happy first year.

I decided to start purchasing the Kindle versions of all my favorite books.  This just allows me to have my resources at my fingertips.  Even though I may have the hardcopy of the book, I went ahead and purchased some of my favorites for the iPad.

Principal Principles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy for details.  See Disclosure Policy.

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Family and Community Engagement- Integral Part of School Improvement

Family and Community Engagement is essential.  It is important to involve the entire school in creating an environment that supports parents.  We can easily create a welcoming school atmosphere and plan activities throughout the year.  But it is more than that.  It is also about changing attitudes and beliefs.  The attitude and belief system encourages shared responsibility with both school and family.

 It is a collaborative partnership between all stakeholders.

All parents want the best for their children.  Parents and school staff should be equal partners in support their child's learning.  In order to build this parentership, it rests primarily with the school.  Recognizing and investing in family engagement is key to closing the achievement gap and supporting the success of all students.

The number one reason why schools should invest in family and community engagement:

Research shows us that students whose families are involved in their learning earn better grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school.

The number two reason why schools should invest in family and community engagement:

Families and teachers both benefit from the collaboration and support.  We cannot do this alone. 

Integral Part of School Improvement

Did you know the PTA organization has National Standards for Family-School Partnerships?

Take a look.

Standard 1: Welcoming all families into the school community—Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.

A family friendly school strives to forge partnerships with ALL families, not just those that are most involved.

Standard 2: Communicating effectively—Families and school staff engage in regular, two-way, meaningful communication about student learning.

Standard 3: Supporting student success—Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively.

Standard 4: Speaking up for every child—Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.

Standard 5: Sharing power—Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.

Standard 6: Collaborating with community—Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.

Are you interested in downloading the Family and Community Engagment Checklist?  

Engaging families is key to improving student achievement in school.- McConnell

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