A Positive School Culture: You Matter

It takes a village to oversee testing in a large district.  These sweet people below are amazingly gifted in what they do.  We just finished state tests and it feels real good...FANTASTIC!  For our last  meeting, we celebrated with a lunch.  Who doesn't love a meeting with food, right? 

 Creating a positive school culture is one of the most important aspects of any school leader.  It is considered the heart of improvement and growth.  The easiest way to create a positive campus or district is to show your appreciation for the hard work.  When people feel appreciated, connected, respected, and valued, they will continue to give 100% or more each day.  A positive school culture will also lead to retention of your staff...therefore, student achievement will also be impacted.  It's a win for the staff and a win for the students.
It all begins with building relationships and partnerships. If you do not take time to show appreciation, we are missing out on the opportunity to improve our schools, our students, our staff and our community. 

A big thanks to this team who NAILED IT!  You matter!


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Principals Preparing for the School Year

Currently this school year hasn't ended yet, but it is time to think about the next.  Yes, that's right.  I could list hundreds of reasons why principals plan so early...but that might be another blog post.  

A new principal asked me yesterday this question.  I have actually heard it before from various principals.  "How can I print large numbers of teacher binders in a cost efficient way?"  Well, I'm a solution-oriented kind of gal and created this ink saving binder just for you!
All the images are black and white.  Take your stack of colored paper and print your staff a binder all from the copy machine.  Since you have the liberty and flexibility to print on any color choice, you can customize it for your staff.  Why not try your school colors?  Organize sections by color!

Amazon has amazing colors and prices. 
I can't begin to tell you the number of male principals, assistant principals and directors urging me to get this binder created for them.  I have several female binders but this is the first male binder.  I struggled with the design for so long.  I wanted it to look appealing but not be girly.  When you're a girl, it's hard not to put my girl stamp on everything.  

If you need the binder customized with more dividers, simply email me. 

Other binders you might be wanting:


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Principals Helping Struggling Teachers

Evaluations are a crucial part of improving teacher quality.  However, teachers can tend to view principals in the classroom as "I must not be doing a good job."  That is not the mindset we want to set.  We are in the classrooms to see the entire picture, to fully understand student expectations, and to gain valuable information on curriculum and instruction and most importantly improve student success.  While doing so, we observe teachers who struggle with content or struggle with instructional strategies or struggle with classroom management, and so on...
Just as we have students who struggles.  We can struggle to teach certain content standards.  We can struggle to find the very best way to approach the skill to the students.  We can struggle to manage a classroom of rowdy students.   We can struggle to pace our lessons and get everything covered. 
It's totally understandable to hit roadblocks along our career paths.   

When that happens, what can principals do to help teachers succeed and overcome these obstacles?

One of the best things about life is that we have the opportunity to always learn and grow.  There is always room for improvement in everyone, including myself.  Education is always changing.  We discover new ways of teaching.  We have new programs being implemented.  We have new standards and accountability.  The list just goes on and on.  There is no way to know it all or a single way to focus on everything at once.  The best way to tackle it is to set goals.

Principals need to help teachers narrow down or fine tune their needs.  Assist teachers in discovering areas of strengths and weaknesses.  It could be as simple as fine tuning teaching strategies or as in depth as an overhaul of classroom management.  Visit the classroom and look for evidence related to that goal and provide feedback.  The feedback should be directly related to the goal.

Setting the goals on paper is great for accountability. 

A principal's most important role is instructional leader.  Coaching and mentoring is a powerful and effective option for teachers.  We all know evaluations and observations are necessary parts of our positions.  Coaching should be equally important.  They should go hand-in-hand.  Instead of principals "telling teachers what to do," we need to move toward a collaborative process of reflecting. We can help teachers identify ways to strengthen their lessons.  Coaching helps teachers move toward where they are to where they want to be.  Set the goals and help them achieve their goal through coaching.

After an evaluation or observation, what is your process for providing feedback?  Is it an efficient system that benefits the teacher?  Effective feedback is always immediate.  As adults, we still need that affirmation of our performance.  It's human nature.  Feedback also needs to be threat free.  A positive campus culture will help shape these conversations.  Set and send a positive message on campus. The best leaders all have one thing in common- They develop and support teachers in their schools.

New and struggling teachers need mentors.  We need to establish those mentors at the beginning of each year.  A campus culture of collaborative learning shouldn't just be set but be expected.  Just as students learn from each other- teachers can learn from each other.  Another teacher's classroom helps create a secure and nurturing environment for peer collaboration and instructional success.

When the campus culture is that of learning and development, our teachers will feel success.  When our teachers feel success, our students benefit.  It's a win-win.

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The Perfect Storm through the eyes of a Principal

Schools face many challenges.  Many of these challenges go unnoticed to anyone on the outside looking in.  For those inside the school, these things are real challenges.   What are they? What can we do about them?
There are 2 things that can create a storm for many schools.  These are my two.  No real research has been completed by me to validate this.  Your list may include these and then some or you may have something totally different.

1.  Poverty
2.  A stagnant school Culture

Students living in poverty must overcome many hurdles. These students face emotional and social challenges, daily stress, and often poor academic achievement. They have a higher risk of dropping out of school.  They are also less likely to attend college.  I have read many books dealing with the poverty topic.  However, really living in poverty as a child myself helped me understand the troubles our students face.  Eric Jensen is one of my favorite authors.  Jensen says, high poverty schools are more likely to struggle with school climate concerns such as absenteeism and truancy, bullying and trust and engagement issues that can weaken the learning environment.  So very true.  I don't think anyone would argue with that point.

POVERTY - What can we do?
1.  Create a positive school climate.
2.  Establish academic achievement expectations for all students. 
3.  Create effective risk prevention efforts- Be proactive.
4.  Provide for the whole child- social, emotional, academic, and physical needs

A stagnant school culture is defined as a school that is showing no activity, dull, and sluggish. In a school where the culture is stagnant, student performance is flat and teacher performance is lagging. Teachers feel isolated and disconnected. Collaboration and support are minimum or non-existent. The school culture is like shopping around for a new home. The minute you walk in you know that it's the right house because it feels like home. You know the minute you walk into a school whether or not you want to be there or not.  Passion is powerful.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Let's give off positive vibes.

SCHOOL CULTURE-What can we do?
1. Build leadership capacity on campus in students and teachers.
2. Give teachers time to connect and collaborate.
3. Communicate often.
4. Be a coach and cheerleader to students and teachers.
5. Roll up your sleeves and get involved. 

The bottomline is we don't need to see these as storms or roadblocks. We see them for what they are and work toward making it better. The first part is recognizing the need to improve our culture to benefit our students and our teachers. We cannot control the income levels of our families. However, we can make the level on the playing field fair to all students. That happens when we all provide the very best education every single day. It starts with the principal! 


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Teacher Evaluation and Walkthrough Tools

Texas is moving to a new teacher evaluation next year.  Some schools have piloted T-TESS for the last couple of years.  T-TESS stands for the Texas Teacher Evaluation Support System.  I have noticed that some states have TESS and some have RISE.  Both of these seem to be very similar or have similar procedures.

I took the TTESS flipbook that I made a couple of weeks ago to Staples for binding.  I think it came out great.  Sorry about the glare.

Interested in classroom observations in a digital format?  Check out all the designs here.


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