Two of the nicest, most inspiring principals ever contributed to today’s question. I am honored to call them friend, and ALWAYS able to call on them for great ideas, reassurance, and innovative ideas! Thank you Sanee Bell and Ben Gilpin for an answer to today’s tough question…How do I become the instructional leader? You’ve probably have teaching experience…maybe even in a couple of grades, but as the principal, all grades and all subjects look to YOU to guide the way. Going into year three, this is STILL the area I need to grow in the most, just cause of its vastness!
Here’s what these rockstars suggest…
#askanadmin Q6: How do I become the instructional leader?
The terms “Lead Learner” and “Instructional Leader” can sometimes be misinterpreted as ‘experts‘. My view of instructional leadership is a mission. It is my mission to help create a building wide culture of learning. It is my mission to model risk taking, grit, collaboration and continuous learning. Finally, it is my mission to dream about the possibilities, rather than the barriers. To me this is what an Instructional Leader is about.
As a principal, or assistant principal, your number one focus should be leading your campus instructionally. We are in the business of learning, and learning means learning for all-including administrators. If you are a an instructional leader, then you are a learner. I have four fundamental practices that I hold to as an instructional leader.
- Identify and Focus. In order to know what we need to focus on as a campus, we must identify our instructional focus areas of need and design professional learning that will help us grow in those areas. For example, when I was an elementary principal, we were focusing on implementing the workshop model in reading. Although we were working on implementing all of the elements of the workshop model with fidelity, I identified two of the elements to really hone in on as a campus. This helped the instructional coach to identify areas where teachers needed support and resources. Having an instructional focus kept our learning and discussions on topic, which helped us to achieve our learning goals.
- Coaching and Feedback. An instructional leader should see him or herself as a coach.You don’t have to know the content at the same depth level as the teacher, but you can certainly coach and give teachers feedback that will help inform their instructional practice. Giving teachers specific, targeted feedback will help them make immediate adjustments. Feedback doesn’t always have to be formal. I like to use Voxer to give teachers feedback. Not all of my teachers have Voxer, so I record my message in the my notes section and email it to them if they don’t have the app.Not sure where to begin? Ask your teachers where they would like to grow professionally and in what areas would they like to receive feedback. They will be honest with you about their growth needs and appreciate you asking them for input.
- Create a Community of Learners. The most important thing you can do as an instructional leader is to learn alongside your teachers. Just because you were a language arts teacher doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about best practices in math instruction. Whatever the teachers are learning, you should be learning as well. Actively participate in the same book studies, trainings, dialogue, learning walks, etc. as the teachers so that you will know how to support them. Last year my math department wanted to real focus on small group instruction and quality learning stations. I arranged for us to visit one of our feeder elementary schools and a middle school located in a nearby town. Not only did I arrange the visit, I also went with the team of teachers to observe. We engaged in rich dialogue over lunch and developed an action plan. By learning with them, I knew where to give specific feedback and support when I visited their classrooms, and it also helped us to grow together as learners. By learning together, there was a sense of accountability to the learners in the group. The team continued to learn from one another throughout the school year.
- Provide Resources and Time for Reflection. As the instructional leader, I do all that I can to remove barriers that prevent teachers from providing students with optimal learning experiences. It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that teachers have the resources they need to do their jobs. By identifying and focusing on the instructional needs of the campus, the resources needed to implement new learning will become evident. Lastly, providing teachers with time to reflect on their learning is vital. Independent and group reflection can help teachers and teams see where they are in relation to where they need to be. Modeling reflective practices as a leader shows teachers that the key to deep learning and growth begins with reflection.
The role of administrators is to guide the instructional ship. Chart the vision. Stay the course. Get results!
From veteran to pro…to detailed suggestions to an overview…whatever style you are those two answers have to resonate with you! These two admin are doing incredible things, I encourage you to find their blogs and add them to your list! (Ben’s is here, Sanee’s is here…) Look how easy I made that for you!
Missed my other posts in this series?