I challenged myself to read 10 different books in 18 days. While I didn’t quite hit my timing goal, I did manage to read the ten and reflect…as well as an added bonus book, “Kids Deserve It”.
To ensure that I was able to reflect and process, I am going to share my one (er, or two…) BIG take aways from the book. ONE (or two!) action applicable items that if you weren’t able to read the book, that you would still be able to take away and apply along your leadership journey. Please know there is SO MUCH MORE to offer than just my one big idea, but, I’m hoping by articulating ONE, I am able to “see” more clearly where it can become a way I do “business”. Melinda Miller over at The Principal Blog is doing the same! (Special thanks to Dewawn Wiest for her “how to share” idea!)
- Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes Get eight hours of sleep, no excuses. Ask yourself if every bite you put into your mouth is helping you…or hurting you. Get up and move. Plan ahead a way to add activity to your day. This book was FULL of gems like this. I REALLY enjoyed reading it and think there were a variety of ways that you can improve your long-term quality of life by implementing even 1/4th of what he offers.
- Transforming School Culture– When looking at new teachers (referred to as “tweeners” in this text”, utilize a multifaceted approach to mentorship. A committee of campus veterans is able to able to assist on a more regular basis and is able to cover ALL the bases for a new educator. The counselor can help with SPED/student services, a master organizer can speak to classroom systems, someone strong with behavior management and relationships can share their best practices, etc. This committee spreads the wealth of expertise at your campus, and if you have multiple new team members, it doesn’t allow anyone to fall through the cracks. This is a MUST DO in my mind this year!
- Leading With Trust: How to Build Strong School Teams– I sure wish I had read this at the BEGINNING of my first year, instead of the end. While I, the queen of culture building activities (12 days of Christmas & Fab Fridays as examples) as a new administrator, I definitely came in two steps ahead of where I needed to be. Even if my ideas and thoughts were RIGHT, my timing and approach were SO WRONG. Huge humbling realization. Vision is important. It is great..it literally is like a magnet pulling me forward, but when your staff is dealing with basic trust issues, it’s way too early for a grand vision.
- Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom– EVERY Teacher deserves the focus and intentionality to address any instructional concerns. That seems very common sense, but in the hustle bustle of ALL the things, it’s an easy thing to let lapse. In the same way that you wouldn’t accept a student’s lack of success, it should also be applied to your staff. Her skill/will checklist and a matrix will help define exactly where to start and how to make it happen.
- How to Plan Rigorous Instruction (Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching) – If you have any teachers who are struggling with the concept of rigorous instruction, this would be a great text to help kickstart the mindset that they need. It walks teachers through developing and applying a framework to an existing curriculum. Each chapter has a “your turn” section that can be easily applied to a teacher’s next unit. Practical! Chapter three, “Choosing Instructional Strategies” in particular is a good one for admin to share with leadership teams.
- Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement– RTI- Be proactive, not reactive with RTI. We have a TON of data at our disposal but if we’re only using it AFTER a student fail, it doesn’t do anyone any good. I am really excited about the creation of an RTI team this year. One that will help identify struggling learners BEFORE they fail a big assessment or grading period. One of our focal points? This quote! “If educators continue to view assessments as a tool for assigning grades based on abilities rather than a process for addressing student needs and improving professional practice, an intervention will have little impact on enhancing student learning.” We have to get past “This student isn’t doing well in math” to “This student can’t add two-digit numbers with regrouping.”.
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business– Good grief. You read a book every once in while that is so easy to understand and makes you wonder why in the world you aren’t doing everything in it. This is that book. The focus on building relationships and focusing on culture. “Building a cohesive leadership team” is an important facet of any strong, effective team. The only way for teams to build real trust is for team members to come clean about who they are, warts and all.
- The Ten-Minute Inservice: 40 Quick Training Sessions that Build Teacher Effectiveness– One of my BIG todo’s this year is to empower and build teacher leaders. I am blessed with a pretty incredible staff, many who are ready to take the next step into administration in their career. I need to up my due diligence in providing opportunities for them to grow and to learn. I will have on my calendar (Before teachers come back to school!) meeting dates for my team leaders and my PLC leaders. I am also going to commit to monthly staff meetings, so that everyone feels included, informed, and given the chance to be involved. This book ensures that I will always have high-quality options at my disposal to share and to grow my team. Better teaching leads to better student learning and improved student outcomes. A particular favorite? Effective teaching, Part 1. (page 43) This allows your teacher to reflect on their own best practices and identify areas where they could improve. It’s personal, it’s prescriptive, and it’s easy. All good things!
- Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 5) – This was an especially timely reread as I am thinking and planning for back to school PD. Hank #9 is on “collaborate and learn”. Sanfelippo and Sinanis share “If educators feel passionately about an idea and see value in it, the chances of their using it as a focal point for future learning— both individually and collectively—increases exponentially.” It should be exhilarating to leave our PD not exhausting. Our brains should be full, but not weary. As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide those kinds of opportunities for our staff. We need to get past the old way of doing things where everyone sits and everyone gets…to a better place. This book is FULL of easy, implementable, strategies to “hack” your leadership.
- The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity – This is a book that you need to read multiple times in order to maximize what it has to offer. Challenging the status quo and being able to effectively communicate what and why you’re asking for changes is crucial for making a difference. Students can and should be encouraged to be leaders TODAY…not just assume we are only preparing them for leadership tomorrow. (That’s a George line, not an Amber line.)
BONUS BOOK: Kids Deserve It: Mrs. Wiest suggested I read this and it was a quick read! Many of the ideas are fun and easy and if you’re looking for a way to some fun into your year, this book would be a good choice!
I hope that you are able to take and apply even one of these big ideas this next year. In my handy dandy notebook, I have a laminated little insert with some keywords that will help me remember and stay on track with these leadership principles. Knowing that I’ll have it with me at all times, hopefully ensuring I will be able to reread and remember these points all year.
Have you read any of these books? What are your strategies for reflecting and applying what you’ve learned as an administrator?