So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

Posted on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 @ 09:07 AM

aspiring principalYou’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you certainly have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every administrator worth his or her salt must have. Now what? What should you do to make the prospect of becoming a principal a reality? To help answer these questions, we’d like to share a few tips from Peter Hall’s book, The First-Year Principal.

So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

Skip the resume—for now
Your first inclination may be to dust off your resume and start looking for open positions, but as Hall wryly notes, the “application” process begins long before resumes, long before you had the crazy idea that “13-hour days with no lunch sounded appealing,” and long before you even had the slightest inkling that you wanted to become a principal.

Hall suggests that you start with “those people with whom you have worked, the contacts you have made, the folks from whom you have earned support and respect.” Do you need to “schmooze” these people? Not at all, but keep in mind that “relationships with credible professionals” are a form of currency—and that currency is priceless.

Stay in the moment
Regardless of their career aspirations, aspiring principals should always “stay in the moment.” For Hall, this means that you must continue to “focus on students in your care and your current school organization as a whole.” In addition to this, it means aligning your “work practice and decision-making with the established school goals.”

For Hall, there is “no reason to focus on anything but excelling in your current position.” This means going where no teacher has gone before: Set and exceed new standards of excellence and watch as your name becomes associated with positive results.

Involve yourself in projects beyond your current position
So you’re continuing to perfect your craft and excel at what you do? Good. Now it’s time for you to do a little more. Start by participating in district activities, committees, panels, focus groups, and other school or district groups and organizations. Just don’t take on so much that you begin to shirk your current job responsibilities or your students; doing so will only undermine the benefits you are hoping to gain from joining these organizations.

Be respectful to everyone you meet
You’re an educator, so you already know that the job doesn’t end when the bell rings. This is especially applicable to teachers who live in small, rural towns, but even those of us who live in the city will run into students, parents, and colleagues at the mall, the grocery store, or in restaurants. We may not even see these people, but you better believe they see us and they take note of what we say, do, and how we behave when we’re out in the community. Eyes are always on us. Keep this in mind not only when you are in the classroom, but outside of it as well.

Find an experienced mentor
There are plenty of books offering advice for aspiring and first-year principals, but few are as wise as someone who has been doing what you hope to do for the last five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Seek out a mentor and learn from him or her. Hopefully, this relationship will not only reaffirm your passion for the position, but also help you become better prepared for the road ahead.



Click me

Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders, aspiring principals, First-Year Principal

The 3-Minute Classroom Walkthrough in 5 Steps

Posted on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 @ 09:11 AM

classroom walkthroughThere are several reasons principals should regularly conduct classroom walkthroughs.

  • First, they make it clear to teachers that teaching and learning are a priority to us.
  • Second, the more we know about the instructional decisions of our instructors, the more we know about the health of our schools.
  • Third, the more frequent the observations are, the more comfortable our teachers and students will be with the process.

Keep in mind that classroom walkthroughs do not need to be long, invasive or formal for them to be meaningful. If you simplify the observation process and stick to the five steps outlined in Countdown to the Principalship, your observation should really only take about three minutes.

The 3-Minute Classroom Walkthrough in 5 Steps

Observe student engagement
It only takes a split second to observe whether or not students are engaged in their work. Are they listening, writing, interacting with the teacher or other students, or working alone?

Observe the lesson and learning objectives
Assessing what is being taught and determining whether or not the objective of the lesson is aligned with curriculum and ethical standards is where you should spend most of the next couple of minutes. 

Observe teachers’ instructional strategies
Now that you understand the curricular focus, you are ready to look at the teacher’s instructional strategies. Is s/he using Socratic questioning or giving feedback? Are students working alone or in groups, are they taking notes, problem solving, etc.?

Always complete the first three steps and do your best to withhold judgment; you are simply gathering data and looking for patterns in classroom instruction.

If time permits, conclude your walkthrough with the following two steps:

Does the lesson connect?
During this step, you should be looking to see if you can make any connections between this lesson and previous learning objectives. Ideally, every lesson should build upon the preceding lesson. 

Observe safety and health Issues
Are there any noticeable safety or health issues that need to be addressed?

If you decide to make brief classroom walkthroughs a regular part of your routine, you’ll want to inform your staff first. Here are five things you might mention to your teachers:

  • How often you will be stopping by their classrooms and how long you will be there.
  • What the visits are not: Explain that three-minute walkthroughs are not a part of the formal evaluation process, nor will they be used to judge or critique teachers.  
  • What the visits are: Teaching and learning are the two most important things that happen in schools—walkthroughs are simply a way to honor their importance.

    Many of us have taught at schools where there were months, maybe even years, when the principal did not step foot into the classroom. What this suggests to many teachers is that what they do is not important to the principal. Explain to your teachers that this is not the message you wish to send.

  • That you have a lot to learn from teachers: One of the best ways to learn about learning in schools is for you to be in classrooms regularly. You may be in charge, but that doesn’t mean you have all the answers.

  • What teachers should expect from the walkthrough: Explain to teachers that when you stop in, you will only be there for three minutes—unless the teacher indicates that s/he would like you to stay longer. During this time, explain that you will be observing three things: student engagement, content and the methods used to teach the content.

  • That teachers are welcome to talk to you after the visit if they want specific feedback.

Click me

Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Role of Principal in School, aspiring principals, classroom walkthrough

Planning for a College Fair: 10 Tips for Principals

Posted on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 14:10 PM

planning a college fairMany of our students are proactive, informed and self-driven enough to start planning for their college careers early, but navigating such big life choices can be overwhelming, even for the most organized and self-assured students. There are a variety of ways we can start preparing our students for this next stage in their lives, but one of the best ways is by bringing colleges and universities to them. To help you do this, we’d like to share 10 tips for planning your school’s next college fair.

We've adapted these tips from an original article by the Kentucky Association for College Admission Counseling

Planning for a College Fair: 10 Tips for Principals

  • If your student body is small, we suggest forming a regional or county-wide partnership with other schools. A partnership will not only ensure a big turnout of students, it may also cut down on your workload and increase the odds of more prestigious colleges and universities attending.

  • If your school is hosting the event, you’ll be in charge of inviting the institutions you want to attend. Invitations to colleges should go out at least six weeks before the event and should include:

  • Day, date, and time (start and finish)

  • Location

  • Program format

  • Anticipated number of students attending

  • The grade levels participating

  • Contact person at the sponsoring school(s) and the appropriate contact information

  • High schools participating in the program

  • Directions and a map to the program venue as well as parking information

  • Return card or form for representatives to RSVP

  • As you begin planning, gauge the level of student engagement and factor in how many will attend before you determine the length of the event. You want to ensure that each student has enough time to interact with college representatives without feeling rushed or creating backups. That said, an hour and a half should be enough time for a college fair.

  • We mentioned student engagement in the previous bullet point. While you may be tempted to make attendance necessary, we don’t recommend it. Forcing students to participate may distract those who genuinely want to be there. And while it can’t hurt to give students a list of questions to ask representatives, making it mandatory for them to fill out worksheets or get signatures from representatives can interfere with the process.

  • Determine the format of the program. Most sponsoring schools choose one of the following:

  • Arena Format:  Each college is assigned a table. The set-up should provide comfortable space for students to visit with college representatives while allowing for adequate traffic flow.  If representatives are located in several rooms, the sponsoring school should provide a list of the institutions’ locations. 

  • Session Format:  Each college is assigned an individual room for 20-30 minute information sessions. 

  • Combination Format:  Each institution is given the option of choosing their format.  Colleges that regularly receive a great deal of arena traffic may choose to hold sessions while colleges with lighter levels of traffic may choose the arena option.

  • It’s common for colleges to market their institution by giving away gifts—t-shirts, key chains, Frisbees—and hold giveaway drawings. Whether not you allow this is up to you, of course, but giveaways can become distracting and take away from the importance of the event.

  • Find creative ways to market the event. Use social media, contact parents and reach out to local radio and TV stations; they will often advertise your event at no cost.

  •  Skip registration fees. Free = more students.

  •  A meal for college representatives is a kind gesture, but not a mandatory one. A hospitality room with snacks and drinks should be plenty.

  •  Gather a few student volunteers to help assist representatives and other visiting students and families.

We’ve really only scratched the surface here. College fairs are only one way we can start preparing our students for the future. If you’re looking to put together a comprehensive college awareness program, we recommend checking out NACAC’s downloadable guide here.


Click me


Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Role of Principal in School, aspiring principals, planning a college fair

8 tips to reframe the way teachers see classroom walkthroughs

Posted on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 @ 15:09 PM

classroom walkthroughsClassroom walkthroughs aren’t designed to be punitive and although we never intend for them to create unnecessary anxiety, anxiety is often the result. To help you ease this tension and reframe the way teachers see classroom walkthroughs, we’d like to share eight tips from Engaging Teachers in Classroom Walkthroughs, a recently published book by Donald Kachur, Judith Stout, and Claudia L. Edwards.

8 tips to reframe the way teachers see classroom walkthroughs

Ensure that you have the support of leadership first
Having the support of your teacher leaders and the school leadership team is critical, so start by meeting with them, explore their ideas, and ask for feedback on your own ideas. Their buy-in and enthusiasm for the process will motivate them to inform, educate and inspire their colleagues to become involved in the walkthrough process.

Clearly communicate the purpose of walkthroughs with leadership
As we mentioned above, many teachers are threatened by walkthroughs, so you will need to explicitly communicate their purpose. This will not only quell anxiety, but also help you and your team decide whether to develop a unique walkthrough model or select an existing one.

Address walkthroughs with your teachers carefully and in detail
For your walkthroughs to be effective, it is important that you earn your teachers’ trust. To do so, ensure that every step of the walkthrough process is transparent. Teachers should know the purpose of walkthroughs and understand the process from inception to evaluation.

Prepare a schedule so that teachers know when you are coming
Your teachers should know when you are going to conduct the classroom. No surprise attacks!

Encourage teachers to volunteer as participants in the teacher walkthrough process
This strategy begins the process of building trust, works out the issues in the early implementation, and allows volunteers to influence their peers’ involvement.

Focus on student learning
We’re here for the students—that’s why we must make student learning, not teachers, the primary target of observations during walkthroughs.

Schedule post-observation meetings
Post-observation meetings are an important part of the process, one that you don’t want to rush through in the hallway or ten minutes before a teacher’s class begins. If you can, schedule these meetings after school or during a planning period—or at the very least, give teachers enough time so they can find a substitute or an administrator to cover their class.`

Post-observation meetings should be open and non-judgmental
When you meet with teachers to discuss observation data, refrain from using evaluative or judgmental comments. The real objective is to allow promising practices, ideas and resources from walkthroughs to be shared among the staff.  


Click me

Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Role of Principal in School, aspiring principals, classroom walkthroughs

5 tips for aspiring principals

Posted on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

aspiring principalsIf you’ve browsed our blog, you’ll find no shortage of entries geared towards both veteran and aspiring principals. But we’d like to present an alternative perspective from one of our favorite educators, Larry Ferlazzo. Larry is an incessant blogger and has a knack for finding the best free education resources amongst a haystack of clutter. Below you’ll find a short section from an ongoing series of his called “Advice for Educators Wanting to be Principals.” We encourage you to read the rest of the article here since you’ll find more advice from leadership coaches as well as current and former principals.

5 tips for aspiring principals

Listen most
Too often school principals are hired and feel a sense of urgency from upper administration, the school board, community and/or the teaching staff that kindles a fire from within to make change and immediately show that "we can do the job" as the new principal. The fire should certainly burn as the new leader, but channel this energy into listening to your stakeholders, take good notes and learn the history, culture and present state of the school and community. By investing in a "learner-first" mentality, you will role model a reflective approach to teaching, learning and leadership.

Attend school board and home & school / PTA / PTO meetings
To fully understand the state of the home-school partnership you are entering, you must put your toe in the water. Attend, participate, share stories, read past minutes and accomplishments. Ask honest questions such as "What have been the greatest challenges you've faced over the years and how did you approach them?" Look for the percentage of community diversity represented across parent leadership groups.

Set up your long range calendar for home and school
When you take on the principalship, it is one of those jobs that has the immediate ability to consume both you and your family. If your school district expects you to be at every evening function like mine, share your calendar and find events that you can include your own family. Sharing your family with school families helps build the important relationships you will leverage throughout the year.

See through a staff lens of school culture
When talking to staff, ask them to capture the school culture in their own words. Speak with teachers from all levels of experience across all departments, take the time to research your new school, and meet face to face with stakeholders. This will not only be educational for you, it will show that you are willing to learn from others.

Understand how staff and families like to communicate
There has never been more ways to communicate. Aside from face to face, many school principals are texting, emailing, snail-mailing, using newsletters and more. Set some communication guidelines as a proactive measure (hours available, return correspondence, etc.) but commit to face to face as the number one and most effective means of communication between you and anyone. Set up multiple nights, days where parents can come and meet with you. Consider starting a blog and using social media to transparently share your vision, progress and brand your school as a student-centered organization that is constantly learning and recognizing the work of those inside it.

Click me

Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Role of Principal in School, aspiring principals

Subscribe via E-mail


Our Latest Guide

Most Popular Posts

On Demand Webinar

Latest Posts

Posts by category

Follow Me

New Programs