The Leadership Test

I shared this quote several years ago after attending a presentation by Nelson Coutler at our local service center.  He is the author of the book Leadership Tools for School Principals

It's called the Leadership Test.  
As you begin your year as a principal either for the first time or you are an experienced administrator, this Leadership Test quote is still valuable.  Our job as a school administrator is complex.  Everyone wants to give you their opinion or fuss at your decisions but little want to step into your shoes and do the job.  However, what you can fall back on is this...Am I doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.  If so, that is all that matters. 

Stay focused on what's important.  To me, my important pieces are student success and the quality of instruction.  Don't be a back seat driver on your campus.  Be the leader the campus needs this year.  Step up and lead your students to success.  The strongest message you can send to your faculty, parents and students is seen through your behaviors, words and actions.  If you want your teachers and students to perform, you must lead in such as way that they want to follow your lead. 

If you really want to start a movement on your campus, have the courage to lead and show others how to lead.  When you find someone doing something great, stand up and join in. 

Pledge today to stay focused on the right things this year!  Be a positive leader who sets the example for the campus through your actions and attitude. 

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A little video: Instructional Coaches!

How are your plans coming along as you get ready for back to school? I wanted to share a short video about the Instructional Coach binder with you today.  Please excuse my not-so-great presentation voice.  I don't claim to have a narrator voice.  I think I did this about 5 times and it still isn't perfect.  I'm okay with that!

If you are unfamiliar with having an academic coach on campus, here is a list of some of the roles the provide. 
Academic coaches can provide services to teachers in small groups, one on one or in large groups.  The purpose of a coach is to improve student achievement and teacher efficacy.  This is all through professional development between the coach and the other teachers on campus.  Instructional coaches provide teachers with support so they can meet the needs of the students.


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Principals or School Administrators on Periscope

I follow and read tons of blogs.  Most of them being teacher blogs.   I have learned so much through some fabulous teachers around the world.  Just recently I learned all about periscope.  Well, when I say "I learned all about it."  I mean I know how to download the app and locate my friends.  I have been viewing tons of Periscope videos and I have to say I love it. 

What is Periscope?  It is the closest thing to teleportation.  It gives users a way to watch a live video broadcast.  For example, I have viewed a teacher on her back porch giving a tutorial on how to create a product.  I have viewed another teacher sharing how to create a Terms of Use page in her products.   Just today I watched another teacher share her home office with her viewers.  It's fun and a great way to connect.  However, are there many "principal or school administrators using Periscope?  I would love to connect and we share ideas!  

I would love to discover your school through your eyes.  We can share experiences with each other.  Now I haven't been brave enough to make a "LIVE video" yet but I wouldn't mind if you did and I watched.  HAHA!  I would be more willing to make a video and then have the opportunity to redo it if it sounded corney or I totally made a mess of myself.  There is just something about going live that puts a little fear in me.   Let's give it a try administrators!

Follow me on Periscope @principalsteph1 and I will follow you too!


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That's the Way We Have Always Done It- The Most Dangerous Words in the School System

"That's the way it has always been done." "We've always done it this way."  These are the most dangerous phrases we could use in the workplace and school system.  You may have heard the story of five monkeys before today.  If not, here it is for you to read and share with others.

So why do we have a tenancy to follow the crowd and not raise questions along the way?  Our school's belief system determines "the way things are done."  Think about this in a school situation.  You are informed from your supervisor of a new rule, regulation or a new procedure.  You know the reasons "why" behind it.  You get it.  However, over time, we forget the "why" and how it all came about.  No one remembers why they are following it or doing it that way.  But we still follow the rule.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about breaking any rules.  I wouldn't lead you in that direction. The point being is try something new.  Think about the ways things are done and see if there is a better way.  Be innovative.  For my fellow principals- don't throw cold water on teachers if they have an idea.  Let's be willing to give it a try.

New ideas shouldn't be stifled.  If we stifle innovative ideas, teachers will stop "reaching for the banana."  Let's don't miss the opportunity to ask ourselves is there a different way to do things.  There will be newcomers on your campus this year.  We need to mentor and provide support to these newbies so we don't discourage them from reaching success.  Every teacher, principal, student etc... should actively seek ideas from each other.

Be the cheerleader on campus encouraging those who want to climb the ladder (stairs).  Let's take a step in the right direction this year and take a close look at our ways.  Are we doing what's right for our students?  Are we moving in the right direction and aligned to our goals?  If we aren't aligned with our overall goals, it's time to make a change.  Change is good.  It's not easy, but it's good.  If you are doing "things" this year solely because that's the way its always been done, then that's a sure fire way to bring your success to a standstill.  


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Back to School Principal Ideas

Over the past several weeks, I have been updating some of my files.  When I look at some of them, I just cringe at the sight of some of them.  Hey, we all have a starting point, right? 

Yesterday I worked on my Parent Flipbook template. If you need a template, this is an easy to use format.  Just open the file and add your own information.  Then copy each page on a different color and assemble.  Easy Peasy. 

If you are starting this school year and need some ideas, I have several items to help you get started.


I know offer the teacher binder and matching principal binder in purple and gold.  

My newest item for principals and school leaders is the Classroom Observation Notepad.  If you want order one, you can get this on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy.  If you are ordering a large supply, please email me so I can get you the best deal on shipping.
Teachers Pay Teachers- Classroom Observation Notepad


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Monday Memo Template-Freebie

Are you needing a template for a Monday memo?  I was asked a few weeks ago to create one for a friend.  I totally forgot to share it on the blog with all of you so it's a little late getting here.  I have been so tied up with all the shipping orders for the new Classroom Observation Notepad.  That's a good thing.  No complaints here. 

The Monday Memo template has editable text boxes.  You can use the headers provided or I also have a Monday Memo without the headers.  Just type your own information.
Download Monday Memo on TpT

I have a tendency to share a lot of ideas and pictures on Instagram.  If you don't follow me there, here is a link to principalprincipals on IG.
Instagram circle picture thanks to Amy Lemons!


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Classroom Observations Notepad-Loving It!

I have had a great support for the Classroom Observation Notepad.  If you missed the blog post about it, read all about it here.  They are listed on two shops: Teachers Pay Teachers and my ETSY shop: Lovely Leaders.  I have several requests for multiple notepads.  While TpT is great, ETSY has a shipping calculator that allows you to purchase several notepads while keeping the costs down. 

I love waking up in the morning and seeing 10 orders to be filled! 
What a blessing.
I am very thankful to everyone who is supporting my small business.  I am flooded with emails and requests.  I love customizing orders for you and looking forward to sharing wonderful resources with all my blog friends. 

If you are interested in ordering a Classroom Observation Notepad, please head over to ETSY or TpT.  If order multiple copies, Etsy shipping will be the best. 

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How to Use Classroom Observations Effectively: Notepad

Classroom Observations: Purposeful and Focused Walkthrough notepads are now available.  Let's talk for a minute about classroom observations.  The teachers do not like them.  They dread them.  I have had a new teacher need her asthma inhaler just because I opened the door to her room.   Others are totally fine with be observed.  Then we have some who are "okay" with it but rather not know in advance.  Whatever the case is, I totally understand their pain and respect their feelings.  However, as administrators we are required to do classroom observations.  I just wish I had thought of this notepad idea years ago.  So here we are now...Classroom Observation Checklist Notepad.  Can I say I'm super proud of it?

So what does purposeful and focused mean? It's an organized classroom observation.  The evaluator looks for specific items.  It depends on your campus goals for the school year.  For example, do you have a goal that teachers will implement small group instruction? Or do you have a campus goal that we will devote more writing instruction in other core subject areas?  Whatever it maybe you are going in classrooms with those in mind.  You are looking to see if instructional practices are being implemented and seeing the impact on student achievement.  The notepad helps you go in and look for specific items and take notes. 

No more yellow legal pads for note taking.  My notepad had random notes all over it.  When I did this, I had to go back to my office and sift through my notes and try and make sense of it.  If you are like me, I didn't just leave my office and observe one class.  I observed several.  The notepad helps you keep all the note taking organized.

How you can use it: Take it with you.  Take notes.  If you use an electronic observation program, put in your notes and carry on as usual.  Tear off the notes for that teacher and either keep on file for the summative or allow the teacher to have it.  However you handle it, it is up to you.  If you give it to the teacher, it is a great reflection piece and gives them feedback.  Who doesn't want feedback?  The notepad saves you time.  Lots of time.  You know we could all use any extra time we can find.  It is clear and specific and has a common language.  It is easy to understand and easy to get started.

It is 8.5x11 and printed on 50 sheets of 70lb smooth white paper.  It has a colorful background.  If you love Lilly Pulitzer designs, you will love this.  As soon as I get your order, it will ship within one or two days.  This notepad is great for principals, instructional coaches, campus and district leaders.  It would be a big help to any new principal or assistant principal. 

Another great reason to start using the Classroom Observation Checklist:
Even if you don't have campus goals identified or if you don't want to have "purposeful and focused" walkthroughs.  You can still use the notepad to take your notes and keep documentation on file.  There is nothing wrong with that.  All of the other "stuff" can come later as you get to it.

Some key points as you move into your position as a principal or if you have been one for awhile.
1.  Make walkthroughs routine.
2.  Have a purpose in mind.  (even if you don't have something set in ink in your campus plan)
3.  Reflect after the classroom observation.  Have conversations with the teacher about what you observed or did not observe.  They want feedback.
4.  Be respectful of the teacher and the nervousness they have when being observed.  I tell my teachers to tell me this is not a good day.  I will come another day.  
5.  Classroom observations are not "got-ya's" on the teacher.  They are used to know what is working or not working in the school.
6.  Create a calendar for the week or even an excel file to keep up with who you plan to observe or who has been observed.  This will keep you on track so you don't keep going to the same people over and over.  An observation schedule is so important.  I had mine on a clipboard.  Every Monday, my Assistant Principal and I would sit down and pick our classrooms.  We were required to do 5 observations a week.  He would observe five and I would observe five.  Organizing like this helps us not go into the same classrooms during the week.

Classroom observations can improve instruction.  It can be used to determine the next professional development.  Using something a bit more systematic, like a checklist, allows you to see the strengths and weaknesses of instruction.  For example, if you're never seeing instruction move past memorization on Blooms or technology is never being used even though it is available.  This will let you know we need more professional development in those areas.
The notepad can allow you to look at data in all the right places.  

It's time to rethink the traditional classroom observations.  If you want to be organized this year with classroom observations, then order your Classroom Observation Checklist notepad today.

Please note that Teachers Pay Teachers does not have advanced shipping options as Etsy.  If you are ordering multiple copies, Etsy would be the best shipping preference. 


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Leadership Quotes for Principal Office

If you are getting ready for back to school and you want to freshen up your office, here are so colorful quotes to help you out.  The theme is called Positive Vibes Only.  The three posters are 8x10 and are navy, coral, and gold foil. 

Maybe you like a more subtle look- Take a look at these Core Value Posters. Core Value posters are simple but great colors in gray, soft pink and gold foil.  Core Values are passion, commit, inspire and trust. 

My files are all 300 dpi which means they are clear and crisp.  They are all digital downloads so no shipping and waiting on them to arrive.  You can also have the pdf to all the files too. 

Have fun getting your offices ready for the school year. 

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8 common traits in successful schools

After serving in an administrative capacity for 10 years, I have had the opportunity to meet many leaders from other schools.  I'm constantly reading books, articles and blogs from well-known authors on school leadership and applying what I read.  I do my own research and spend countless hours in "self development" to find the very best strategies to have a successful school.  The 8 common traits in successful school were complied by me through my experiences but no official research, studies or surveys done.  So with that being said, your common traits could be slightly different from mine.
Here are my eight common traits found in successful schools:

 Number 1 is strong leadership.  Hopefully, the strong leadership is coming from the principal in the form of a solid instructional leader who provides the vision for the school.  A strong leader must have strong knowledge of school programs, data, schedules, children and teacher needs.  A strong leader is involved and present.  He/she also supports the teachers.  Teachers have tough jobs and they need our support to take risks and be motivated.   Don't ask your teachers to do something you wouldn't do yourself.  A strong leader is not separate from the team but more of a cheerleader and coach of the team. 
I shared a lot about data analysis yesterday.  You can read more about data just by clicking here.  I shared tons of tips to use data to monitor progress.
We all know it takes more knowledge and skill to teach students who struggle in learning than it does to teach students who do not.  We must have a plethora of strategies ready to tackle any given situation or subject area.  That all takes a well designed professional development plan for the campus.  I would love to see more differentiated professional development experiences for teachers.   For example, do you really feel an 18 year teacher needs the same professional development as a first and second year teacher?  I don't.  However, I'm guilty of doing it as a principal.  Professional development is a critical  component to the overall performance of a school.  Let's try and refocus on professional development this school year on current, research-based programs and strategies that help our teachers and students.  Let's don't put more on their plates.  Ask teachers what they need.  One thing that I did a couple years ago was I created stations in different classrooms.  Teachers rotated to different rooms.  I had asked a few teachers and my literacy coach to share ideas with the other teachers.  To me, it was a successful training experience because it was coming from people in the trenches.  It was relevant to them and since it was from another teacher or literacy coach it was also practical and easy to implement.

My honest belief is that children perform at higher levels when they have familial support and or after school support.  Parents need to feel welcomed at the school.  They also need to know they are vital to their child's success.  We need parents to be involved in the school.  One of the best ways is to begin building a relationship with the parent.  The first time a teacher makes contact with the parent it needs to be a positive one.  Don't always call with negative issues such as discipline.  Call when their child has done something good or you are proud of them.  This sets the stage and let's parents know you care.  As a principal, I made home visits.  Lots of them.  If a parent did not show up for a meeting, we got in my car and went to the house.  The parents started coming to the school because they knew I would come to them.  Another idea to get parents involved is give them a monthly calendar of what's happening on campus.  This allows them to look ahead and make arrangements so they can be involved.  Parents don't have to have a physical presence at the school to be involved.  Being involved, is also in the form of signing papers, reading with their child, helping with homework and even helping with projects.  This is parent involvement too. 
Your model of targeted intervention may differ from another school.  There are so many factors to consider such as budget, campus size, personnel, resources, scheduling, etc...  However, providing intervention targeted to student's needs is critical to the success of the student and the overall success of the school.  If you do not have interventionists or instructional coaches, it can be done.  It just might have to be accomplished inside the classroom.  Determine the best combination or model of intervention to use with your student population and your resources.  Target specific skills by honing in on the students needs.  Again, look at yesterday's blog post regarding Targeted Data.  It has some great ideas.
If we don't know where we're going, we will all end up in different places.  Set a goal or goals for the year.  The overall goal for all schools should be: sustained systemic success in student achievement.  That's the bottom-line of all schools.  In order for schools to improve, significantly and systemically improve, we must take responsibility for focusing our efforts on building and sustaining commitment to a set of shared principles and beliefs throughout the school.  When you set a goal for the campus, do you have the support and commitment of all the staff?  Do you all share the same belief systems about student success?  Do you feel you reflect and model high expectations?  Provide support to the teachers as they meet the goals.  Let's add more motivation along the way to drive their success. 
In our profession, we are naturally social people. We crave friendship and positive interactions with each other.  It just makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we're going to be.  As a principal, there needs to be mutual respect.  You respect the teachers, parents, and students and they respect you back.  When you respect the people, you value their input and ideas and they will value yours.  Communicate all day whether in an email, instant message or face to face.  Effectively communicating with those around you will help build your relationship with them.  Have trust.  If you hired a teacher to do a job, trust them enough to do the job.  Actively listen.  Be positive.  Avoid gossip.  Devote time to your staff, students and parents. 
This is number 8 but these are in no particular order.  Empowerment is one of my favorites on the list.  Empowerment can come in the form of a voice or come in the form of an action or even both.  Provide experiences for your teachers to grow as leaders.  When teachers have a voice or have the liberty to make decisions, the impact on the success of the campus can be greatly felt.  This is only doable when everyone on the team is working for the same goals and mission.  Create a safe environment for teachers-an environment where teachers feel they can make decisions that matter in their classrooms and the school.  If they don't feel comfortable actually making a decision, at least they feel comfortable to voice their input.  Not everyone has a strong personality to speak up or take a stand but everyone has an opinion. 

If you could add a few of your own, what would you add to the list?

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Using Data to Track Progress: Targeted Data

Do you track data at your school?  Do you have a data room where you hold consistent data meetings?  I'm going to be honest and straight up with you.  If you don't use data on your campus, you must start this year.  One of our most critical needs as a principal is to improve the effectiveness of instruction.  Teaching all students to read, perform math calculations, etc... requires a school level system for identifying students in need.  Targeted Data: Tracking Our Progress is available to you if your school does not have a system already in place. 

Targeted Data uses your own assessments, benchmarks and classroom data to determine the students in each level of performance.   This is important because we no longer need to only focus on our lower performing students.  Each student is identified and then you can design lessons based on their level of performance.  Teachers place their students on the target chart and refer to it during their small group instruction or the charts can be placed on the data wall to observe over time. 

 Posters are included to help explain each group. 
 Track students using their history.  When did problems first begin to occur?  Is the student making any changes or progress?  If not, intervention needs to change for this student.  As per one of my quotes: "Giving the intervention students MORE OF what didn't work is rarely the right intervention."  Looking at a student from grade level to grade level can help you see a historical connection.

Another way to track is looking at specific questions.  Students have a strip of numbers during their review.  Students color in each question missed.  Do you see a connection in the classroom? For example, do you see which questions the majority of the class missed?  If so, we need to reteach that question in a different way with different resources. 
 Data analysis is a critical component in using assessment to deliver effect instruction.  There have been studies done that show high performing schools had regular data meetings with systems in place to help them effectively use the data to deliver instruction, accurately identify children as needing intervention, and regularly monitor the students.  Principals need to be at these meetings, as well as, need to be knowledgeable about the children on your campus.

Use the Data Wall pencils to create your own data wall room.
Quote Posters are included to display on the data wall or inside the room.  Just a great reminder to all of us.

 Probably the best part of this file: Lesson Plan template for Small Group Instruction.  You have several different formats to choose. What I think is so helpful, is that it gives teachers the template to create lessons for each group.  Yes, each group.  We cannot forget the green and blue students.  The green group needs lessons at an enrichment level to allow them to excel.  The bubble or blue group is equally important.  Their status in the blue group is all depending on the quality of instruction. This group has the opportunity to move up or could lower in level all based on effective instruction targeted to their needs.  This is the group my teachers on campus tend to lose sleep over.  This group is so unpredictable.

I truly hope you find this all helpful in your classroom, campus or even be used in professional development.  We must begin to focus on targeted skills for these students.  It's all about effective, targeted small group instruction.  It's the key!

If you really don't know where to begin or know the best way to get started using data, reach out to me or any other principal.  I'm always happy to help.

Download Targeted Data today.

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My New Journey

I took the ETSY plunge recently, like really recently!  I decided to put some of my ideas on ETSY and create a store.  As of right now, I only have 7 items.  Hey, that's a start, right?  I'll get a stock of items in there a little each day.  My store is called Lovely Leaders.  Right now I have all digital downloads but I will have my line of notepads.  I will share all of that with you in a few days.  They are still in production.  Let's take a look.

I hope all my items are uplifting and great for your home or office.

I will share a little on my blog and hope you follow me along this journey.  I will be happy to take custom orders.  Feel free to contact me at principalprinciples(at)gmail(dot)com.  I hope you enjoy being a part of this adventure with me. 

Head over to Lovely Leaders on ETSY.  Follow me on Pinterest.

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Leadership Posters and a Text Message

 I love helping others out and creating products.  I also love to give something away each month.  For July, I have two items for you.  Make sure you follow me so you can see what's going on and get a little gift along the way.

In April, I shared 5 Things Principals Must Know Now.  I had a great response from it and was asked if I would share the posters/quotes from it.

You can download these posters here today. They are pdf to protect the clipart as per the artist.  

Download Text Message and Write-FREE

Enjoy!  If you love it, feel free to comment below.

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What is an Instructional Coach?

What is an instructional coach?  Do you have one on campus?
An instructional coach is someone who supports the teachers by providing evidence-based practices in the classrooms through professional development trainings and modeling in the classrooms.  The goal of an instructional coach is to improve student achievement.  An instructional coach is valuable and a big asset to the campus.  I love the idea of someone devoting their day teaching teachers.  Their presence on campus impacts hundreds of children.  Just imagine having one on campus and the impact on instruction.  It's a win-win.

A while back I asked some of my friends on Instagram and Twitter what products do they need this year to make their lives easier and productive too.  Several asked for anything to help our Instructional Coaches.  Therefore, the Instructional Coach Binder was born.
 Three different binder covers included
 16 Divider Covers
Professional Development, Notes, Campus//District Goals, Calendars, Coaching Schedule, Classroom Observations, RTI, Passwords, Trainings, State Standards, Classroom Schedules, My Checklists, Teacher Meeting log, Best Practices Strategies, Plan of Services and a Coaching Log
 Calendars (with dates) August-July Several Forms Included too!
Coaching Log, Notes, Agenda, Checklist, Professional Development Log, Passwords, Team Goals/Data Meeting 

If you're an instructional coach, feel free to comment below more about your job.  If you are starting out in this career path, I hope you find this Instructional Coach Binder helpful. 

If you like this product, you will also find this product helpful. 


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