PODCAST

The Assistant Principal Podcast

Frederick Buskey

A bi-weekly podcast to improve the quality of life and leadership for assistant principals.

Why is Instructional Leadership so Hard?
Show Notes, Episode 2: Why is Instructional Leadership so Hard?About this show:Have you noticed how many first-year teachers have trouble managing their classrooms? And if they never receive really good support, they become 5 and 10-year teachers who can’t manage their classrooms. And then they leave the profession. But guess what? We have a similar problem in the principalship. Most (not all) principals are not fully prepared to meet the challenges of instructional leadership. And if they never get really good support, their trajectories can mirror that f the teachers I just mentioned. This issue is the reason I started this podcast, the reason I do a daily leadership email, it is the focus of my trainings and courses, and it is at the heart of my APEx program. If you’ve been listening for a while, you know that instructional leadership is a common focus. Today, we are going to look at the problem of developing instructional leaders and some things I think we can do about it.Notable QuotesFrederick: “In a perfect organization, which does not exist, the people, the structures, and the resources are all aligned to the purpose, and to each other. And a perfectly aligned organization is a great place to work. Unfortunately, it is the nature of organizations to be in disalignment rather than alignment” “You have two basic responsibilities… Your primary job is to keep everybody safe. Number two is to improve student learning and outcomes for students. Now, you don’t teach students, so the way that you do that is by growing your teachers. In other words, you have two responsibilities: keep everybody safe and help your teachers get better.” “We can’t manage time, time is finite, there is only so much of it, there is nothing to manage. What we have to manage is priorities” “Really good instructional leadership is also about systems alignment” Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
6d ago
26 mins
Courage with Dr. Mary HemphillParents and Community with Dr. Leigh Ann Alford-Keith
Show Notes, Episode 25: Parents and Community About this show:“We need to increase family engagement.” I hear this all the time. We know what we want from families, but do we know what families want from us? Today’s episode will take us beyond reading rallies and pizza nights and even beyond my favorite parent event - donuts for dads. Today we focus on what teachers can do to build stronger parent partnerships and how school leaders can support those partnerships. Notable QuotesDr. Leigh Ann Alford-Keith“We need to be addressing power dynamics that are present in the ways that our schools are set up. When we focus on events and when we focus on what we can do for families instead of what families can do for us, we are perpetuating the typical power dynamics in a school and that excludes a lot of our diverse families” “we want to provide culturally relevant instruction, but we don’t necessarily know about their cultures. And their families do know about their cultures, so if we engage their families as partners and there is information available to us, information that the family has about the way that their children learn or what is culturally important to them, that is not information we are able to have on our own” “If we aren’t seeing families as partners, we are missing out on really important information that could help us better educate their children” “We talk a lot about social emotional learning and the whole child, but the whole child includes the family” “Research tells us that effective family engagement increases teachers’ efficacy and they feel that they are better able to do their jobs” “Sometimes the parents come to us in a combative way because of their past experiences. Because they did not have the best experience in school, because they experienced being ostracized” “Even teachers who would never say ‘those kids’ will say ‘those families’. In fact, there are interesting studies that indicate that teachers’ perceptions of families become more negative in their first year of teaching because it is something that we indoctrinate each other into.” “There is a lack of trust between schools and families” “We want our schools to be community centers, and that’s why it hurts us when nobody comes to our events… if our events were surrounded around something related to a community goal… those events are well attended because they relate to community goals and what is important to the community” “Families know who respects them, who is coming from a place of genuine inquiry, who views them as a partner and who doesn’t.” Frederick“When we think about events, we are thinking about tasks. Partnerships are first and foremost about working with people in ways that grow all of the participants” “When parents come in and they are combative, they are advocating for their kid, and they are doing what they think they should be doing as parents... If we can see those actions as advocacy, then we are flipping the script from “this is an angry, uneducated parent” to “this is a parent who really cares about their kid”” “Looking at the school as a part of the community more than just the community being a part of the school is so important and is just a mind-shift” “Change begins inside and how we look at these things. And I think that is a message we don’t really like to hear because it feels kind of squishy… but that inner work is doing something, and sometimes that is the hardest work. And if you can’t flip your inner narrative about how you view families, then all of the other stuff, won’t be wasted, but it won’t have the impact” “Teachers have to be willing to be vulnerable. We have to be willing to say ‘I don’t have all of the answers’” Links:Leigh Ann's resources link: https://bit.ly/efe_docsMy email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
May 5 2022
44 mins
The Four Patterns of ObservationTesting Coordination with Carrie Prochaska
Show Notes, Episode 23: Testing Coordination with Carrie Prochaska About this show:April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring…. Testing in schools! Many of the assistant principals I work with also serve double duty as test coordinators. It is a challenging job, but today’s show should contain some tips that make the job a bit easier. Notable Quotes Carrie Prochaska“I think it is super important that we are positive and supportive. We know how everyone feels about testing and we don’t make the rules, but we have to play by them.” “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A lot of the processes we do, work for every test” “Stay organized and don’t wait until the last minute to prepare” “Plan time during your workday that is going to be devoted to preparation, where you are not interrupted” “Give yourself some grace on testing days” “There is a purpose for this. We aren’t just testing these kids to death for no reasons. We use our state test scores to really delve into school wide strengths and weaknesses, grade level strengths and weaknesses, teacher grades and weaknesses, we use them to set our goals for the schools, teachers, and grade levels.” “I can’t think of anything that can’t be fixed”  Frederick“When we talk about prioritizing purpose over urgency, we are also talking about systems, because without good systems we are trapped on the treadmill of the urgent. Systems allow us to work more quickly and with greater accuracy” “So many of us are used to multi-tasking and thinking we can multi-task. Multi-tasking erodes your ability to work effectively. If you can talk to your principle and close your door for an hour, hour and a half, you’re going to get three hours of work done.” “Test coordination is one way that we leverage our skills to help the school” Links:Carrie’s email: cprochas@greenville.k12.sc.usMy email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Apr 28 2022
52 mins
Growth Mindset with Becca Silver
Show Notes, Episode 22: Growth Mindset About this show:If you have ever played buzz-word bingo, and had “growth mindset” on your card, you knew you odds of winning were good. But what is “growth mindset” all about? As an assistant principal, you probably already know where this is going. Yes, we want our kids to have a growth mindset, but if we can get our teachers to also have that growth mindset, then we will be in great shape!Notable Quotes Becca Silver“once we use the word ‘have’ we make it a fixed quality, no matter what we are talking about” “people have equated growth mindset with being enlightened and demonized fixed mindset” “we all operate in a fixed mindset sometimes and the goal is to start noticing when we do it” “Just because a teacher is doing well in their classroom and their classroom is under control doesn’t mean they are operating under a growth mindset. How do we know someone’s mindset? We listen to their language”  “Mindsets are incredibly personal and they can be tied to our core identity. we are dealing with the way people think about themselves” “our neurons, when we struggle and persist, and eventually succeed, they actually get stronger… our brains get stronger when we persist through struggle” “We want to create a space where people feel safe to make mistakes… you want to ask yourself ‘do you as a coach or assistant principal create a psychologically safe space for people to struggle and make mistakes in your presence?” “There are three things that I always recommend if you want to create a growth mindset culture that need to be normalized… Those three things are: mistakes, struggle, and feedback.” “One of the most damaging things I see administrative teams do is only give feedback during formal observations… that builds a compliance culture.” Frederick“There are a lot of people that have built this whole narrative to convince themselves that they are worthy and they are good teachers and to open up and question that would be devastating for them” “When you’re working with somebody, especially when it is hard for them, you have to keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces” “The structures of schools really aren’t set to nurture growth mindset in teachers and so if an administrator wants to change the culture to support growth mindsets, they have to change the system… First, we have to model what we are preaching, so we have to have that growth mindset. And I think we have to have accountability.” “Observation doesn’t mean the same thing to you as it does the person being observed” “If we want other people to be operating under a growth mindset, we need to be doing that as well” Links:Becca’s Website: www.thewholeeducator.comBecca’s Instagram: @thewholeeducatorBecca’s Twitter: beccasilver_eduMy email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlSign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialeditionWebsite: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Apr 21 2022
48 mins
Meeting the Needs of New Teachers
Show Notes, Episode 21: Meeting the Needs of New Teachers About this show:In today’s episode, guest host Mara Buskey leads us through a discussion with two relatively new teachers about what they need from their assistant principals, how they view leadership, and what kind of feedback and style of coaching best meets their needs. This is an inspiring episode that may yield some surprising but valuable insights. Notable QuotesMara Buskey “I can very much remember being a student and the intense feeling that would occur when an administrator would walk in the room. It was like immediately everything was on edge” Frederick Buskey “I think our default is collaborative; as educators we want to help people grow and we want that dialogue. I think that we need to be more directive more often, especially with newer teachers. And I don’t mean directive in a way of ‘you have to do this’ but directive in a way that ‘oh, I see that you’re struggling with this. Here, here are some things that can help you. Let me help you with this.” “your generation is fundamentally different in that you view feedback as something that is there to help you grow” “we can give feedback in different ways: just saying ‘oh you’re doing a great job’ doesn’t really tell me much… the most powerful feedback is very specific” “whether we are an administrator or a teacher, when someone makes a suggestion or has an idea, the first step is really to consider the perspective and to not say ‘oh no, that won’t work based on my perspective’ but to seek out the other perspectives” Kemberly Merritt “for teachers that come in, if they can have the support of someone that is going to give them a step by step guidance, it would give them a more secure feeling” “It is more resourceful to me if you come in and express to me ‘this is what you need to do, this is how this needs to be done, this is what you can use to do better’ versus telling me at a later time or at the end of the year… if you tell me now, I can correct it now.”  “this year when [my AP] came in… he would come in and he wouldn’t even worry about me. He would talk to the students, he would sit at the table with the students… he would sit there and work with the students on what they were doing to make the students be more comfortable with him being in the classroom, and I didn’t see someone sitting in the back with a pen and paper writing, I saw someone that was engaging in the lessons with the students which made it a lot easier for me” “you have to have a relationship with your students to have a good year. That’s one of the things that I have expounded on. I start off my first week of school building a relationship with my students and then everything else follows” “I think all teachers are leaders because you are leading the students in your classrooms. They are looking at us as leaders, so I would say anyone that is teaching or guiding anybody I would consider them to be a leader.” “Leadership comes in all shapes, forms, sizes, and personalities, but the leadership that is given has to be accepted so that you can grow.” Leah Downing “tell me the things that I’m doing great, and then the things I need to work on and I can do better on, and then finish up with another way that I’m awesome” “one area I want to grow is looking at curriculum more big picture. What I mean by that is that I know my third grade standards, the things I need to teach them, and where they need to be at the end of the year. But I really have no clue what they do in 4th grade or what they do in 3nd grade… I know that if I have that big understanding of their math curriculum and their reading curriculum, I would be so much better able to support my students because I would better be able to pinpoint exactly where they’re learning the things that they have gaps in” “one important thing about leadership, particularly with classroom teachers or people who aren’t necessarily in a leadership position at a school, sometimes it can just be seen that there is a need and being the person to fill it or being willing to fill it” “its all about relationships. At the end of the day, all of us in a school building are working to build contributing members of society and relationships are at the heart of that.” Links:Frederick email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com Mara email: mara@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Apr 14 2022
43 mins
Change Starts from Within with Gabby Grant
Show Notes, Episode 20: Change Starts from Within About this show:The topic of this show is restorative practices, but the show title is the key to implementing such practices: Change starts from within. In this episode we take a detour from the common one-two-three approaches to kicking off a restorative justice program in your school. Instead, we focus on you. Or more accurately, we focus on getting you to focus on you? If the discipline approaches you are relying on aren’t working, then this podcast is for you. Just don’t expect a magic bullet or paint-by-numbers approach. The change will start from within. Notable Quotes  Gabby Grant “Restorative practices in schools really focus on relationship building, a sense of community, while centering on accountability while repairing wrongdoing and harm. Versus a punitive punishment-based system that really focuses on individualized behavior that is rooted in punishment around shame and judgement that isn’t really focused on future behavior.” “One of the biggest pieces of a school that is implementing restorative practices is that there is a culture of trust and value that everyone present is a valued member of that community and school, therefore everyone has a voice in what happens to them in the discipline process” “The first step in understanding and implementing restorative practices is understanding how you handle conflict yourself” “If you want students to have open conversations, you need to be able to have them amongst yourselves first” “It isn’t authentic if the transformation doesn’t start from within and then spread out, it isn’t going to be sustainable” “This type of work transforms all facets of your life” “Change starts from within” Frederick “If punishment worked, you wouldn’t be inundated with referrals” “The system is really designed to extract student compliance” “The change will begin with you, Assistant Principals”  “If you’re not willing to follow up on it, or don’t have the capacity to follow up on whatever you’re doing, don’t do it… If you can’t follow up on it and help them, all you did was put pressure on them” Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlSign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialeditionWebsite: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Apr 7 2022
40 mins
Exceptional Student Support with Elizabeth Schumpert
Show Notes, Episode X: Title About this show:Serving exceptional students can be one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of school leadership. In this episode Elizabeth Schumpert, Director of Student Support Services for Saluda County Schools, helps us gain some insights into supporting exceptional students and their families, and working with the variety of support services and personnel that make up part of the team that cares for exceptional students. Notable Quotes Elizabeth Schumpert“When the conversation turns tough, a lot of times the administrator should be the one to step in and help guide back towards smoother waters” “The more we support our special education teachers, the more effective they can be in the classroom” “Always keep in the forefront, that the student is first a general education student who just happens to qualify for specialized instruction” “Nobody wants to get that phone call that their child has a discipline referral, but a lot of times you just have to listen. And you’re going to hear that parent take a deep breath. And when they take that deep breath, now they’re ready to have that conversation” “You’re going to hear me use this word a lot, because it’s all about Relationships” “Its your job to represent what is best for that student and as long as that is in the forefront of any conversation, you can’t go wrong” “Remember that children with disabilities may have one or two disabilities, but they have hundreds of abilities, so focus on the abilities” Frederick“If we could get our APs to embrace the idea that we get into the meeting, and before we start the official stuff, let’s say something really positive about that kid and about the relationship we have with the kid. I think that would go a long way.” “Use the behavior intervention plan to get to the problem, instead of just the symptom” “Once we figure out the triggers, then we’re pretty close to figuring out what the root problem is and then we can start doing things” “It’s only punishment if it decreases the behavior” “Every IEP doesn’t have to end with a signed document. There can be good reasons and healthy reasons even to say, ‘you know what, we need more information, or we need to think more about this, lets come back and revisit this.’” Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlSign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialeditionWebsite: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Apr 1 2022
47 mins
The Math of Leverage
Show Notes, Episode 18: The Math of Leverage About this show:The four principles of leverage, described last week in episode 17, can guide us to creating progress in our organizations. A key to progress is focusing on incremental progress as opposed to big changes to fix things. In today’s episode, we will apply leverage to a real school situation. Notable Quotes Frederick“If you invest 5 minutes a day in one of these teachers, over the course of a week we can probably make a difference” “One of the reasons that students are tardy to class is because class doesn’t start on time. Or you check into class and there’s nothing going on, so why hurry up to be there? So starting work at the beginning of class gives students more reason to get to class” “in the course of a day, if you get one less referral, that’s another 20-45 minutes that you get back… now imagine what we can do to support those teachers” “I would challenge you to go around and look at the classrooms that you get the most referrals from. I am going to bet that in most cases, 70-80% of those cases, those teachers do not teach bell to bell. That’s when problems are happening, during the beginning of class and end of class.” “We can’t necessarily make a teacher love kids and we can’t turn a teacher into a charismatic kid magnet, but we can give them very simple, concrete strategies to start building rapport with their kids” “Don’t go after it unless you’re willing to invest the time to follow up” “I want things to be immediately better for me, which means I get more time to invest in teachers” “There are problems all over our schools, there are teachers that need to get better, there are opportunities for growth, but our time is so limited. There are so many tasks facing you, just focus on one teacher and just focus on one thing for that teacher. Just make it a little bit better, and then once you’ve got that, then figure out where the next place is to go” “One teacher, one change”   Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlSign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialeditionWebsite: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Mar 24 2022
27 mins
The Four Principles of LeverageBecoming Strategically Reactive!
Show Intro Hello colleagues and welcome to the Assistant Principal Podcast. I’m your host Frederick Buskey. The goal of this podcast is to help improve the life and leadership of assistant principals. This podcast compliments APEx, the Assistant Principal Exceleration program, but you certainly don’t need to be an APEx member to find value in the podcast. It’s just me today talking about the transition to being driven by the important, instead of the urgent. The beginning of today’s show will recap a couple of the frameworks of strategic leaderships. We will then dive into five strategies for being strategically reactive. Before we do that, I want to celebrate. The first episode of this podcast released in August 2021, with six additional episodes released sporadically prior to the new year. Beginning in mid-January we have released a new episode every Thursday and last week the show topped 1000 total downloads! We have listeners in 41 states and nine countries, so thanks to everyone for becoming a part of this community.  I also need to give a big shoutout to the podcast team, which is a family affair. Editing each episode, uploading it and then working on the website is a lot of work and I could not produce a weekly podcast without Lance Buskey, who assumed all of those duties at the beginning of this year. Lance, your help not only makes this show possible, but the quality of your work brings something else – peace of mind. If you found this show via the daily email, Instagram, or LinkedIn, then you have Mara Buskey to thank. Mara has been instrumental in helping to spread the word. She brings a creativity and energy to our social media posts that I cannot match. And if you subscribe to our daily leadership email, you can thank Mara for that as well. She is also coordinating a special episode of this podcast that will feature a panel of first-year teachers discussing what they need from their APs, so you’ll get to hear her voice soon. Okay, to today’s topic. Back in episode 1 we talked about the Six Dimensions of organizations:PurposePeople, structures, resourcesExternal forcesInternal forces (culture) The degree of alignment within the organization determines how successful the organization is in fulfilling its purpose. The work of leaders is to increase organizational alignment. Increasing alignment leads to achieving purpose. It also improves internal forces, or culture.A fundamental challenge to doing the purposeful work of alignment is the way urgency drives our actions. In episode 14 we talked about the Eisenhower Matrix, which divides tasks into four quadrants:  When we are driven by urgency, we focus on quadrants 1 and 3, at the expense of quadrant 2, which is the work of aligning systems and supporting teacher growth. This brings us to the two most important responsibilities of school administrators:1.     Keep everyone safe2.     Improve outcomes for students by helping teachers grow And since growth activities are primarily q2, in order for APs to become strategic leaders, they need to be able to escape the treadmill of the urgent. There are four keys to getting off the treadmill. The first of those is to act with intention on a daily basis. At the end of today’s podcast, I’ll encourage you to sign up for my daily leadership email, specifically because it helps you to set a leadership intention each day. But I digress. Ideally being intentional means being proactive, but even when we are reacting, we can become intentional by applying five strategies to become strategically reactive. Strategic reaction, applied consistently, will help us to slowly recapture some time to devote to quadrant two. More importantly, applying the five strategies conditions us to be intentional.  When forced to react to a situation, you have five options for action. The actions are arranged hierarchically. Think of them as a sorting method. Try to apply the first action. If you can’t, move to the second option and so on.  1.     Give it up. Ask yourself whether this is a necessary task. You may be surprised how many tasks are not important (quadrant 3). If it is not important, let it go. Items in this category include lots of email, especially the FYI types, some meetings, and paperwork. This is also an effective strategy for dealing with requests the appear mundane or capricious.  2.     Give it back. Some issues are important to others but not to you or the organization. These shouldn’t be ignored as they can impact the invested party’s motivation. Think of these issues as monkeys. When someone tries to give you their monkey, give it back to them! You don’t need to care for other people’s monkeys. You can give monkeys back by:a.     Acknowledging the concern and emotions of the monkey ownerb.     Rephrasing the concern as you understand itc.     Providing them with a task as a next step. This task could include:                                               i.     Further reflection on the root problem                                             ii.     Developing a list of options                                            iii.     Talking with others                                            iv.     Doing some research                                              v.     Scheduling a future meetingThese steps help assure the person that you have heard them and validated their concern, but they also put the onus on the person to solve their own problem, or care for their own monkey.  Some people will never bring that monkey back to you again. That’s good, because if they aren’t willing to work for their own monkey, why should you? Others may spend some energy in the task you asked them to do and come back. That’s a sign that they are invested in taking care of their own monkey and you can respond appropriately. 3.     Give it away. Ideally, you should spend most of your time doing what only you can do. That may mean doing what only you have the skill for, but it can also mean doing only what you have the uniqueresponsibility to do. If the task isn’t dependent on your unique talent or position, can you give it (delegate) to someone else?  This is important as leaders often hang onto or own issues that could be given to others. There are a couple of barriers to giving the issue away that you should be mindful of. Each of these barriers can be dealt with proactively (see below) with some planning and investment. The three barriers to giving away a task are:a.     They won’t do it the way you would do itb.     They are capable but don’t yet have the skills or capacityc.     The task is complex, and others don’t know the process Developing strong standard operating processes (SOPs) can help others to do things that you don’t have to do, and to do them consistently and well.  The other thing to be aware of is that we often don’t let go of things that we enjoy doing even if we shouldn’t be doing them. I knew an assistant principal who spent two hours a month doing the bulletin board opposite the main office door. She loved doing the bulletin board and she did a great job. But this AP was too busy to follow-up on her observations of teachers. That was two hours a month, 30 minutes every week, that she selfishly indulged in something she liked to do at the expense of growing teachers. 4.     Give it a C. If you must be the one to do the task, give it your minimal effort and be done with it. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to anything that is mission critical, but do you really need to spend three hours preparing a weekly update? This is very difficult for many people, but remember the three epiphanies:a.     I can’t do everythingb.     I choose what doesn’t get donec.     My choices reflect my values This means that when you choose to spend extra time making sure something is perfect, you are valuing the appearance of your professionalism over investing that time into helping a teacher improve their craft. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, and you may disagree with me, but be aware next time you are investing precious time into making sure the email is just right or the document formatting is perfect. Yes, you must get the schedule changes out to teachers, but does the table really need to be pretty? Does clip art improve the information? Are the extra paragraphs you have included to justify your thinking necessary?  In the extra minutes you spent being perfect, you could have done a five-minute coaching session. Which one would have a bigger impact on your school? And there is this: by definition, a C is good enough. 5.     Give it a bounce. If it is complex and requires your attention, take the minimal action that will allow you to bounce it to someone else for the next step. This gets it off your plate so you don’t need to worry about it. If it comes back to you later, that’s fine. Dealing with small tasks is easier than dealing with big ones and a minimal response may be better than a detailed but delayed response. The Minimally Viable Approach I want to focus more on the last two items because they are closely related. How might your job be different if instead of trying to be great, you took an MVP approach to everything? This may sound insane but think about it for a minute. ·      Is an MVP newsletter any less valuable than a fancy one?·      Is an email that says “yes” in response to a question any less valuable than one that includes three paragraphs about why the answer is yes? Does anyone even read those three paragraphs?·      Is an MVP report any less valuable than a flowery one? There are all kinds of short-cuts we can – and should – take. Part of this is becoming more aware of the types of interactions we have with people. If a teacher comes to us with a concern over a scheduling change, we need to understand the purpose of the conversation:·      If they aren’t happy and just want to vent, then we listen.·      If they have a question, then we answer the question.·      If they have an idea, then we listen and process the idea. Too many times we don’t stop to assess what the person needs form the conversation. We begin explaining, justifying, convincing. This is a problem because if we are doing all the talking then we aren’t really listening. People are more concerned with the answer to the question than the rationale behind the answer. If they want the rationale, they will ask. I’ll have a copy of these five strategies for being strategically reactive on my website at The Assistant Principal Podcast tab. If you want to put these strategies into practice, try this: Over the course of the next week, take a few minutes to reflect at the end of each day:1.     Was there anything you did that was unnecessary?2.     Did you accept any monkeys?3.     Did you do things that other people could have done equally as well, or at least good enough?4.     Did you spend more time on something because you wanted it to be “just right”?5.     Did you fixate or delay on something because you wanted it to be better? Remember, you have two jobs: Keep people safe and help teachers become better. Everything else is a distraction. They may be important, mandatory, or even essential, but they still distract from your core jobs. Put your core responsibilities first, then fill in the rest of your time. Be strategically reactive to help protect the time you invest into teacher development. Show Outro We began the show by celebrating 1,000 downloads. Being a listener makes you a part of this growing community. That’s really important because school leadership can be a very isolating job. If you are happy listening to the podcast and that’s all you need, then thank you, please subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. Consider reviewing and rating the podcast to help other APs find it or recommending it to your contacts. If you think the podcast is great but would like to become more connected, you can do the following, all for free:·      Look for The Assistant Principal group on LinkedIn and request to join. You can also connect with both Mara and I on LinkedIn and Instagram.·      Subscribe to our daily leadership email – 300 words or less delivered to your inbox every morning at 6. Imagine reading something that will help you set a leadership intention each day. That’s how we grow. You can find a link in the show notes or on my website homepage, frederickbuskey.com·      Give me some feedback! Please! I develop shows around topics that the APs I work with talk to me about. As our audience grows beyond my home base of the Carolinas, I need to hear from more people in other places. Please consider dropping me an email to share your thoughts at frederick@frederickbuskey.com.·      If you know an educator who would make a great guest, consider connect us. Just email them and CC me. You can say something like, “Hey, you would be a great guest for this guy’s podcast. You could talk about X. I’m copying him on this email.” If you do want to spend money, you can always join APEx. Right now, I’m running a 4-month special (April-July) for $200. Just use the code “listener” when you check out. Just choose the four-month option as there will be some big changes coming to APEx in August when we kick off the 2022-23 year. An Apex membership gets you a weekly content email, and access to online webinars and group coaching. I hope you enjoyed the show and are able to implement these five strategies for being strategically reactive:1.     Give it up2.     Give it back3.     Give it away4.     Give it a C5.     Give it a bounce That wraps up today’s show! I’m Frederick Buskey and I hope you’ll join me next time for the Assistant Principal Podcast.  Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlSign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialeditionWebsite: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/strategicleadershipconsulting/The Assistant Principal Group on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12562712/APEx: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/apex.html
Mar 10 2022
17 mins
Teacher Leadership with Melissa Burns
Show Notes, Episode X: Title About this show:Dr. Melissa Burns is the principal at Sara Collins Elementary School in Greenville, South Carolina. Melissa is a remarkable principal and leader who balances wisdom and practicality. One of Melissa’s many superpowers is developing other people’s leadership. In the first half of this episode, we discuss the importance of developing teacher-leaders and how to do it. In the second half of the episode, Melissa provides some practical advice for how busy assistant principals can hone their instructional leadership skills. Notable QuotesDr. Melissa Burns“Teachers really listen to other teachers” “It is important to take the characteristics of particular teachers and help push them with their strengths” “day to day, we are provided so many opportunities and challenges that we just don’t know of and we can’t anticipate, but being calm and focused in the moment is important” 3 ways to stay calm under pressure: “I try to take deep breathes and stay calm myself, I try to involve others around me… and lastly, just know what you know and then what you need to figure out and learn” “Be in the classroom” “There are some things, at times, that I have to do that only I can do, and [I need to] let other people grow their leadership around me” “Put students first. That’s why we are here in schools. If you love your focus of the students being first and foremost for your priorities, then you might need to look at doing something else for your career or intentions” Frederick “Having Assistant Principals actually talk through with teachers what they’re thinking and their thinking process is so that they are making that leadership behavior and leadership decision making that more transparent to teachers and in turn help them understand leadership” “we tend to think sometimes that leaders have to be able to do it all, but especially when we’re talking about teacher leadership, they don’t have to do it all. So that idea that somebody can be a niche leader and can be really good at one thing… that doesn’t mean they can’t lead in the area they’re good at.” “teachers coming into classrooms now are coming into very different situations. The classrooms are more complex, they’re more diverse, but also there are social issues that they are being impacted with that we didn’t have to face when we were beginning teachers” “Melissa, you’ve been talking about other people and how you rely on other people. And when there is a tough situation, you don’t try to handle it all yourself, one of your first responses is “Who else do I need to involve in this?” and that’s why you’re a great principal. Because you nurture people so that they can step in and support those situations.” “Develop other people’s leadership and then when you are in a tough situation, make sure that one of your top strategies is getting help from other people. Its not designed so that you do it alone” Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Mar 3 2022
28 mins
The Teacher Tracking Document
The Assistant Principal PodcastEpisode X: Tracking Teacher DevelopmentWhy does it always feel like improving teacher quality is an uphill battle? One big reason is that our schools are not structured to facilitate consistent teacher growth. Focusing on helping teachers to grow requires us to focus on the structures that can support growth first. In this episode we look at on important structure, the teacher tracking document. The teacher tracking document helps us to develop and document a coherent and consistent approach to helping individual and groups of teachers grow.Hello colleagues and welcome to the Assistant Principal Podcast. I’m your host Frederick Buskey. The goal of this podcast is to help improve the life and leadership of assistant principals. Today, I will walk us through how to use a teacher tracking document as part of a systems approach to teacher development.After listening to this podcast, you might want to head over to my website, frederickbuskey.com/appodcast, to watch the video. There are several key graphics that go along with today’s show that should help you. I will also include images in the show notes. Back in episode one I talked about the six dimensions of organizations. If we think about a three-sided pyramid representing an organization, the pinnacle is the organizational purpose. The three points along the pyramid’s base are people, structures, and resources. In the perfect organization, which doesn’t exist, the people, structures, and resources are perfectly aligned with the organization’s purpose.In the simplest terms, the work of leadership is improving alignment between the purpose, the people, the structures and the resources.Structures include buildings, the arrangement of space within those buildings, but also the rules, policies, expectations, and practices that shape our actions. A block schedule is a structure that is fundamentally different than an 8-period day. They exist for different purposes and if we try and teach during a block the way we did when we had 8 periods, it doesn’t work. Our skills need to align with our structures, and both need to be aligned to our purpose. When we ask people to work towards a specific purpose, yet we have structures that aren’t aligned with that purpose, it creates a situation in which people feel like they are constantly swimming up stream. Teachers experience this misalignment often:Teachers are expected to plan rich and powerful lessons, yet they have 30-minutes a day to plan.Teachers are expected to use formative assessments to inform their focus, yet we have pacing guides and benchmark tests.Teachers are expected to become masters of pedagogy, yet they work under pressure and expectations that make risk-taking difficult and reflection almost impossible.This misalignment makes it harder for teachers to excel at their core job and it increases pressure and frustration.As assistant principals, you are experiencing a congruent set of circumstances. The purpose of schools is to help young people develop agency over their lives and to become responsible democratic citizens. Or something like that.The roles of the principal and assistant principal are integral structures. School administrators have tow primary functions that are core to the purpose of the school: Keep everyone safeCreate better outcomes for kidsHowever, we don’t teach kids and the #1 Influence on student achievement is the classroom teacher. So, the formula is simple:Better teachers = better student learning.Logically then, once we make sure that everyone is safe, our next priority is to focus on teacher development. If better teachers = better student learning then, outside of safety, the most important things we do are the things that help our teacher to continually grow.The challenge is that there is all kinds of stuff that gets in the way.Why does this happen? Because our structures are not aligned to our purpose.What has happened in many schools, is that while the stated purpose of the assistant principal is to contribute to the quality of instruction in the building, the unstated purpose has become to deal with all the issues that come up in day-to-day operations. Our school structures have followed suit:We communicate via email, which demands our constant attention.We carry walkie talkies so we can always be reached.We accept that interrupting what we are working on is part of the job.We use a narrow set of observation practices that are more aligned to accountability than to teacher development.The cumulative impact of these mis-aligned structures and purpose has a profound impact on how we lead:We mistake urgency for purpose in our day-to-day behaviors, so the important purposeful work of teacher development gets displaced by urgent tasks. There are tasks that are both urgent and important- especially those dealing with safety. However, there are many urgent tasks that are less-important or not important. For example, the parent newsletter, school social media posts, or the report to the school board. I can hear you saying “wait, these things are important!” Yes and no. None of these things will improve student learning as much as helping a teacher to get better.The problem is that all these things are urgent, so they feel important, even though – compared to safety and teacher growth, they are not. The tool that has helped me with this concept is the Eisenhower Matrix. The EM as I affectionately call it has four quadrants. The two upper quadrants are important, and the two lower quadrants are un-important, or less important. The two left quadrants are urgent, and the two right quadrants are not urgent.What tends to happen is that school leaders focus on the two left quadrants – the urgent work, instead of the two upper quadrants – the important work.Teacher development is quadrant 2 work. Quadrant 2 is important but not urgent.This focus on urgency happens for many reasons, and someday I will do a deep dive on the Eisenhower Matrix and break it down. But for now, it is enough to know that there are three large barriers to working in quadrant 2:Mindset. We need to move from prioritizing the urgent to prioritizing the important.Processes. There are many urgent but less-important things that can be systematized and streamlined so that they require less time.Structures. If we build structures into our work that support quadrant two activity, then we are more likely to engage in quadrant 2 activity. This podcast is about one of those structures.  If you are familiar with the flywheel concept, then you’ll be familiar with this structural approach to teacher development. If you aren’t familiar with the flywheel, I’ll give an MVP (minimally viable product) description now. The flywheel is the one thing in your work that, if executed consistently, over time will create momentum in your school and will propel you to the school purpose (better out comes for kids).The flywheel in schools consists of:Providing professional development for teachersEvaluating implementation of the PD focusUsing the evaluation results to drive the next step in PD When we do this repeatedly, always using implementation results to inform subsequent growth opportunities, we create positive forward momentum because teachers are consistently getting better.There are two significant challenges with trying to improve your school using the flywheel concept. First, flywheels are hard to get started. It is like pushing a big tire up hill. Until you get to a place where you can build some momentum, every step takes work. Secondly, using a flywheel requires specific structures to be in place.The flywheel structures that work for you may not be identical to the structures I’m sharing. That’s fine. What is critical is that you do have a flywheel, that you build the structures to support the flywheel, and that your structures work.We can only have a working flywheel if we have structures in place to support it. There are multiple structures that we need to build, but today we are focusing on just one: the teacher tracking document. We are starting with the tracking document because, honestly, that is the focus of our APEx work this month. It isn’t the best place to start, but it is where we are right now. As you listen to this podcast it may get a bit complicated, but I encourage you to stick with it and when you watch the video or even just look at the images, it will all make sense.The teacher tracking document is a fundamental component of instructional team meetings. The instructional team meeting is yet another topic I need to cover for you, but it is a set time every week where administrators and instructional support staff meet to analyze data from teacher observations and to use that data to inform the next round of teacher development.When I talk about teacher development, that can take multiple forms. We might be looking at the entire teaching staff, if for example we are emphasizing student engagement strategies. We may be talking about a specific group of teachers such as grade level, topic area, or new teachers. For example, phasing in a new 6th grade ELA curriculum or implementing classroom procedures with four beginning teachers. We might also be talking about the needs of a single teacher.The instruments we use and the data we gather will look different depending on who our focus is on. The data we collect for a school-wide implementation is very different from small-group and individual development. The teacher tracking document is designed to support small groups and individuals.In the weekly instructional leadership team meeting, leaders will discuss what they have seen in weekly observations. They will discuss the implications of that observation data for professional development and plan future PD according to what the data suggests. This PD can be for the whole staff, but using this document we are more likely to focus on groups or individuals.The first time we use the teacher tracking document we need to add some basic information. Before we proceed, I offer you a word of caution. If you do not currently have anything like this in place, please do not try and complete the whole document for your whole staff! You won’t be able to do it, will burn multiple hours and, in the end it won’t work for you. Start with just one teacher. This version of the form is not the only or even the “right” way to do it. You might want to change the form by deleting or adding. You might want to use a spreadsheet or data base, or something altogether different. The format is not as important as the purpose – to consistently monitor implementation of professional development. Free to make changes as you see fit. Okay, let’s look at the form.The teacher tracking form is a table with 14 columns and a row for each teacher.  The first six columns compose a baseline for the teacher. The information in these columns may change over time, but not week-to-week.Column 1 contains the teacher’s name, column 2 their 9-box rating, and columns 3-6 capture their strengths and weaknesses in some key areas.Column 1, the teachers name, is simple enough.Column 2 is the teachers 9-box rating. That’s another show, but 9-box is a really handy tool for getting your team onto the same page regarding a teacher’s potential versus their performance. 9-box can help guide the type of professional development and the coaching styles that will work best for each teacher. If you don’t do 9-box you could substitute your state teacher evaluation rating or some other metric. The importance of column 2 is that it provides guidance on overall performance level of a teacher, and the type of support that is likely to be most helpful for them.The next block of columns, 3-6, relate to key teaching areas. This is an optional section of the tracking chart, but many schools have specific points of emphasis, and these columns allow us to be mindful o how each teacher is doing in those areas. In my example, column 3 has rows for classroom management, student relationships, curriculum, and pedagogy. For each of these areas, there is a rating in column 4. You could use your state evaluation instrument here or something else. Column 5 is the strengths for each area, and column six is the weaknesses. I like having this block because it helps as a reference point when we are talking about multiple facets of teacher performance and it can help us think more strategically about the most important PD topics for each teacher.You can change the topics in the rows to suit your specific school needs. For example, maybe you are emphasizing literacy across all subject areas, so you want that to be one of your areas.If this seems daunting, then skip it for now. Again, don’t feel tied ot the format I have. The critical thing is that you begin tracking teacher performance and documenting your work and commitment related to helping your teachers grow.  Columns 7-11 are for planning the specifics of professional development.Column 7 is for the focus area. For example, classroom procedures. We could be more specific – say, the entering class procedure. More specific is better, but it may take some time to get into the habit of thinking in terms of small incremental changes for the focus area.Column 8 is the goal. The goal should address the impact that the focus will have. For example, implementing an entering class routine should increase available instructional time and decrease student off-task behavior.Column 9 is the A-B step that the next professional development cycle needs to focus on. The concept of A-B is that incremental changes are more likely to lead to success than big changes. An A-B step should be able to be completed in one week or less. “Implement five classroom routines” is not an A-B step. Observing students entering Ms. Smith’s and Mr. Garrot’s classes once each is an A-B step.Column 10 is for who is responsible for the A-B step. It is common to have more than one person responsible. My teacher is responsible for doing the observations, but maybe I am responsible for letting Ms. Smith and Mr. Garrot know what’s going on, or for covering the first 10 minutes of the teacher’s class.Column 11 is the type of support being given. This relates to another framework called the cube of development, but for now you can just indicate whether this is an individual or small group form of support. If I am only working with one teacher on the entering class routine, then it is individual coaching. If I am working with three of our first- and second-year teachers, then it could be coaching or group PD. Columns 12-14 constitute the final part of the document, the observations section. This is an essential element because it is where we hold each other accountable for conducting meaningful classroom observations. This mutual accountability is one way that we focus ourselves on the work of quadrant 2. The data we gather from our observations is also what helps us to identify the next A-B step.Column 12 is who will be doing the observation. If more than one of us will be observing, and that is good practice, then we will include multiple names.Column 13 is when. Observations should be scheduled for a specific time and we should know when our colleagues are doing observations so that we can cover those things that will invariably “come up” when someone is scheduled to be in a classroom.Column 14 is where we summarize the data we gather from an observation. Now that we have reviewed the entire tracking sheet, let’s talk about implementation.The first consideration is the context. If you are the principal or if your principal is on board, then schedule your instructional leadership team meeting, throw the teacher tracking document from my website into a google doc or other shared platform, and dive right in.If this isn’t going to happen right now at the school level, then at least use it yourself. Create your own structures to support your instructional leadership. This will work if you are the assistant principal, instructional coach, or in another teacher support role. An advantage of starting on your own is that you can figure out what works and doesn’t work for you and then make changes accordingly. You will still need to schedule an instructional leadership meeting with yourself and adhere to it. Maybe Fridays at 3:30?The first time we use this document we only want to do it for ONE teacher. Not ten, not two, ONE. This is an A-B approach. If something in the format doesn’t work or isn’t essential for you, you will find out before you invest a lot of time. One teacher.Let’s use Ms. Franks as an example. Ms. Franks is a third-year teacher. Her growth as a teacher has been understandably disrupted by the pandemic. Ms. Franks did well pivoting to online instruction her first year and worked hard to build relationships with students. She went beyond expectations in being available to students and in encouraging them to contact her.Ms. Franks did well in her second year when students were on an A-B schedule and class sizes were small. She struggled this fall, along with many other teachers, with the return to full size classrooms and the period of adjustment that saw a large increase in discipline issues. During this time Ms. Franks had referral numbers similar to other teachers, but observations showed high numbers of students off task and Ms. Franks was asking students to be quiet multiple times during each instructional segment.It has become clear that Ms. Franks has not established classroom procedures. Though she has good relationships with students and they are rarely disrespectful, there are often multiple students talking at once, even when Ms. Franks is trying to speak. There are also students frequently moving around the room with no clear purpose and student discussion during group tasks has a high rate of off-task content.  In your conversations with Ms. Franks, she admits that the students are loud but says that is due to the pandemic and expects it will get better soon. She says that she has classroom routines, but that students don’t always follow them. She insists that she taught the routines at the beginning of the year.Ms. Franks is committed to group work and wants high levels of student engagement. She is frustrated that students frequently aren’t able to demonstrate meaningful outcomes from group work and she wants to improve that area.In her efforts to keep students engaged, Ms. Franks uses lots of activities, some of which she purchases on Teachers Pay Teachers. As designed, most of the activities in her room are engaging, but they often are misaligned to either that standard or the depth of knowledge.You have heard from another teacher that Ms. Franks is discouraged and questioning whether she is cut out for teaching.Now, in the ideal school, every teacher is in the tracking document and receives appropriate PD based on the data. But we know that most schools exist in a real, not ideal world. We also know that administrators, especially assistant principals, may be hard pressed to consistently support even one teacher or one group of teachers. So, if you haven’t gone far on the journey of teacher support, then choose just one teacher to work with. If you are only coaching one teacher, then you better choose the right teacher! I did a whole episode of The Assistant Principal Podcast on how to select the right teacher to work with. Look for episode 8 if you haven’t listened already. Assuming you aren’t going to pause and dial up that episode, here are three reasons why I think Ms. Franks is a good person to coach:She is willing and wants to get better.There is big bang for the buck – she could be much better if we can take care of some little things, AND my life might be easier as referral rates should decrease.She needs help in some areas that I know well enough to be helpful with.  So let’s look at how we’re going to get Ms. Franks into our tracking document. I first add her name, her 9-box rating, and the ratings, strengths, and weaknesses in four areas: classroom management, where I scored her as 1/4, Student relationships (4/4), curriculum (2/4) and pedagogy (2/4).The ratings should be based on evidence. Those could be formal or informal observations, discussions with Ms. Franks or other instructional leaders, or anecdotal data such as hearing students say how much they like Ms. Franks. If you are working alone, you will drop this information in by yourself. However, a really powerful thing happens when we complete this as a team. It is likely that we will disagree in some places on the ratings we give teachers. Working on the form together enables us to come to consensus and provides for rich discussions on these different teaching areas. It is common for us to observe teachers through our own biases, and when we talk with others it can help us better understand these biases.You may also see through Ms. Frank’s ratings – a 1 in classroom management, 2s in curriculum and pedagogy, and a 4 in student relationships, that there appears to be a clear area that we should emphasize, in this case classroom management. So, is classroom management what we will focus on. The clear answer is that it depends.In the situation where a teacher is either oblivious to their needs, or is completely drowning, it is appropriate for us to determine the area of focus. If someone is drowning, we don’t ask them whether they would like a blue or brown rope. We look for the most expedient way to get them out of the water. It is the same for a teacher that is crashing and burning.In this case however, Ms. Franks is aware of at least some of her problems and she is not on fire yet – though we can smell smoke. In a situation like this, my preference is to allow teachers to choose the area of focus for these reasons:If the teacher chooses it, the teacher owns the results. If you choose it, you own the results.The teacher will probably be more motivated to work on their own problem than on your problem.The teacher might actually have a better understanding of their needs than we do – ouch!When the teacher chooses, it is crystal clear that we are serving the teacher’s needs, not our own.A successful collaboration will build trust, which will lead to more successful collaborations.Finally, an improvement in any area is a win. In Ms. Frank’s case, she might achieve better classroom management, or get better outcomes for group work, or align her activities better with her curricular objectives. All these are wins!My first conversation with Ms. Franks is going to be about her perceptions and her priorities. If I already have observation data, I can bring that into the conversation where appropriate. In this situation I am serving Ms. Franks so I want this conversation to be about her and her needs. If she asks for my input, I will give it and point to the data that I’m using as the basis for my thoughts.Let’s play with a couple of options for her focus. In terms of needs, classroom management is a priority with needs being “clear structures and reinforcing routines.” Curriculum activities don’t align to the standards – that is important, and for pedagogy Ms. Franks has stated that she wants to improve her prompts and procedures for group work. If there were five APs on this show trying to decide what the best area of focus was, we would get at least two different answers, so don’t be surprised when Ms. Franks chooses a different area than you would and don’t be overly confident that your idea is the best.What is obvious to me is not obvious to you and vice versa. Remember, no matter which one of these things she picks, if we are successful, the kids – and Ms. Franks – will benefit.So, let’s imagine that Ms. Franks wants to use better prompts for group work. This isn’t what I would have chosen, but it is more important for her to be invested than for me to be right. Remember that columns 7-11 are where we document our specific coaching plan and teacher support.In column 7, I am going to put the focus area. Narrower is better. For Ms. Franks we will put “Use prompts that lead to answers that align to the curricular focus.”Column 8 is our goal. It is helpful to think about impact here – what do we want to happen as a result of our work? Ms. Franks wants students to come up with meaningful answers as a result of group work.Column 9 is our A-B step. This is where it gets complicated. I have gotten tripped up many times. My inclination for Ms. Frank’s goal would be to hand her some guidelines on writing good prompts and ask her to try them out, but that probably would not work. Part of the issue is that her group procedures are weak, so even with good prompts she may not get the results she wants. If I simply ask her to try some prompts and they fail, then what?If Ms. Franks doesn’t really understand how to create good prompts, then – if group work fails – she won’t know whether it is the prompt or something else. So maybe the A-B step is that she reads something on prompts, and that she takes five prompts she has previously used, and thinks about how to change them. In column 10, we record who is responsible for the A-B step. In this case Ms. Franks is responsible for reading, pulling five old prompts, and reflecting. I am responsible for following up with the IC to make sure there is a good reading available.In column 11, I put the type of support being given, in this case coaching. If I was working with three of our new teachers on the same thing, this might be small-group PD instead and that would change the nature of the conversations and tasks.In my example, the “observation” is actually a review of her updated prompts. I reviewed Ms. Franks on March 3rd and noted that the prompts were aligned to the standards and that the type of task was appropriate to the standard. In another week, when we start using new prompts, then I will want to observe what happens in groups with the new prompts and I will schedule times to observe. I have included that in the example, noting that I observed on March 10th and that answers were related to the standards, but that off-task discussion was still high and that a single student did most of the talking.As Ms. Franks and I work through the process, the teacher tracking sheet will get updated with new A-B steps.Okay, I hope this all makes sense. In wrapping up, let’s reiterate some key points:Ideally, we use this document as part of an instructional leadership team meeting, but you can use it on your own.There is nothing magical about what I have included and excluded in the chart. Change it to fit your needs.If you are just beginning, use it on just ONE teacher. You can listen to episode 8 of the Assistant principal Podcast to help you decide which teacher.As a general rule of thumb, let the teacher choose the focus area.Break down the desired outcome into incremental, A-B steps.Plan and document your observations.Remember that there is a video on my website, frederickbuskey.com/appodcast, and that there are visuals in the show notes. I may also develop a handout but can’t promise that right now. At this point I have invested about six hours into developing this podcast and you have invested about 30 minutes in listening to it. If you are inspired to try a teacher tracking document, or to take better advantage of something you have in place, then the time that both of us have spent on this is well worth it.However, if this podcast episode didn’t help you, then it was a lost opportunity – for both of us.The only way I know whether or not I am hitting the mark is by getting feedback from you. The hardest part of producing a podcast is not knowing how you are doing. Our download numbers are going up each episode, but every episode is different and I can’t tell what’s working and what’s not just from the numbers.Please. Help me make this podcast better. Are these deep, sort of nerdy dives into a specific tool or choice helpful? Would you rather just have interviews of other people? What topics do you really need to hear right now?You can email me at frederick@frederickbuskey.com. I would love to hear from you.If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe and rate this podcast. This is the only show in world (that I can find) that is devoted to assistant principals. Subscribing and rating will help your colleagues find this series.If you’d like more content tailored towards the needs of assistant principals, you can head over to my website at frederickbuskey.com. You might want to consider looking into APEx, the Assistant Principal Exceleration program. You’ll get weekly emails, tools, and be able to participate in monthly group coaching and webinars. I’d love to get to know you through APEx, but no worries if now is not the right time.That wraps up today’s show! I’m Frederick Buskey and I hope you’ll join me next time for the Assistant Principal Podcast. Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html
Feb 24 2022
35 mins
What Makes a Great AP with Brenda Byrd
Show Notes, Episode 13: What Makes a Great APToday I’m joined by Brenda Byrd, an Assistant Superintendent for School Leadership (and a former South Carolina Elementary Principal of the Year and a National Distinguished Principal). Brenda works for Greenville County School District in Greenville South Carolina. Brenda is here with us to talk about what makes an AP great. Notable QuotesBrenda Byrd“Gone are the days where you are mandating new initiatives across the board. It needs to be few and far between when we take that approach. We really need to start looking for those teacher leaders, those early adopters, who may be interested in doing work like that, and let them help you work out the kinks and look for those success opportunities.” “You do have to have effective practices with operational and management to be able to transition more into that instructional leadership.” “I think time management is one of the most important skill sets that effective leaders need to have, and that is so true for assistant principals” “You really have to manage your time well because if you don’t, then you are just in response mode all the time, you are just being reactive. You have to plan proactively to schedule your responsibilities. Start by scheduling the most important tasks because if you don’t, if those are left as an afterthought, like classroom observations, they’re not going to happen consistently” “Good intentions are just the beginning… you’ve gotta have develop systems to plan and execute your responsibilities” “A good portion of our job as administrators is responding to whatever the immediate needs are and we have to realize that those aren’t interruptions, that’s part of our job… and we have to be able to adapt and respond to those needs when appropriate.” “We need school leaders who model their own desire for professional learning” “Children who are willing to invest in them. Adults need people who genuinely care about them and who take the time to develop relationships.” “I was a principal at a large school, and I wanted to be sure that at some point during the year that at some point during the year that all of my staff members got a handwritten note. They didn’t know it, but I kept a little checklist of that just so I could keep up with that and make sure that I had shared some love and appreciation with each person through a handwritten note.” “Assistant principals need to ask for what they need” “You cannot underestimate the power of the relationship… if we don’t have relationships with students and the adults we serve, we can’t do the work” Frederick“When we think about our pipelines and our gap between assistant principals and principals, it’s that managing change and instructional leadership are two of the biggest pieces” “One of the things I see from assistant principals is that they are so eager to help everybody, that they overcommit and then they can’t follow through” “Lots of people have good ideas. But who is willing to do the work?” “Positivity is “it’s going great” when it’s not, optimism is “We’re going to get through this”” “the message to all assistant principals out there is: you’re interviewing everyday.” “The best people in our business are still working on their craft and still trying to get better and they are taking risks to get better… every AP and principal out there should be willing to take some risks to continue to grow and improve their craft” Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Feb 17 2022
56 mins
Episode 12: Becca Silver and Instructional Coach Relationships
Show Notes, Episode X: Title About this show:Today I’m joined by Becca Silver the founder and lead consultant at The Whole Educator. Becca has been posting some great stuff on LinkedIn, which is where we met. Becca is here to help us explore the AP – Instructional coach relationship.  Notable Quotes  Becca Silvers“Teachers are diverse learners, just like their students, we should not be giving out blanket coaching strategies” “Don’t treat people the way you would want to be treated, treat people the way they want to be treated. And that takes skill! It takes skill to understand how people want to be treated, right, listening skills, an ability to read people, emotional intelligence” “Some coaches don’t see themselves as leaders” “[instructional coaches] are not formal observers and evaluators, they are the champions of teachers, standing for teachers to be at their highest potential” “we need coaches to be able to work with people that aren’t necessarily like them” “during the pandemic and especially this year, you are seeing instructional coaches being pulled all over the place, they are covering classes, any catch all jobs that need get done… and it’s a total misuse of talent in the building.” “Brown’s definition of leadership: ‘A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential.’ And I see the coaches’ role being that.” “I think that coaches job is to help[ teachers reflect, be a partner in reflection, and there can be vulnerability in that… be the safe space for teachers to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, its safe to take risks here, and there is no formal evaluation at all” “how wonderful would it be for an AP to say “hey look, I am your thought partner here and when we are helping to grow teachers, we do this together, and I am here to support you and you are here to support me right? We are different parts of the body that surrounds and supports teachers” “Adults also operate on a growth and fixed mindset. A lot of the times when we have a teacher that is stuck. many times it is because they are operating under a fixed mindset” “Part of building trust is being transparent about our intentions, motive, and agendas”“Underlying all human behaviors are peoples’ mindsets and motivations, and we want to be sure that we are being trained ourselves to address people’s underlying mindsets and motivations when we want teachers’ behaviors to change” Frederick“One of the things that I am trying to help administrators come to the place on is that their role is to support teachers. As a principal or assistant principal, you have two jobs: keep everyone safe and improve student learning” “This is the problem right? That we can’t easily access models. We can talk about coaching models, teaching models, but when it comes to what should this relationship look like, it gets harder because there isn’t that stuff out there.” “Teach your teachers that you are there to support them” “people were promoted and put in these roles (instructional coaches) and not only did we not do a great job at telling the coaches what their job is, but we didn’t tell the administrators how to use them either, so there is this big disconnect” “the essential problem is that we don’t take a systems approach to growing teachers” “Traditional coaching is about doing, transformational coaching is about seeing” Links:Becca Silver at The Whole Educator: https://www.thewholeeducator.com/My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Feb 10 2022
39 mins
Episode 11: O is for Omicron with Meagan Tarbert
Show Notes, Episode X: Title This podcast is being recorded in mid-January of 2022 and disruption from the Omicron variant of COVID 19 is intense. I don’t know that there are any solutions that school leaders can take at the local level, but finding a few minutes to reflect on our experiences, to learn from each other, and to feel more connected with our peers is important. This will be the last of three podcasts released in quick succession. Each podcast will focus on how a different assistant principal is navigating this current moment. I’m not sure if these episodes will shape your practice, but I think they will be cathartic, and right now that seems good enough. Notable QuotesMegan Tarbert One of the things that I can do for them that tells me how they’re doing when I attend their planning meetings is just visiting, and listening, and getting to know them, and sharing, it goes back to just keeping it real We got a new student last week that hasn’t been in a classroom setting since September, there are challenges, and this is different, but I think it will lend itself to making them stronger and better We’re all human, this is a hard time, it isn’t supposed to be easy. I don’t want to say that this is the new normal, but it’s just hard. And education has never been easy. This is just an extra added layer. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, we all want to cry, we all want to die laughing, but we can do this, and we’ve got this All those teachers out there, they’re killing it. Nobody is appreciating them as much as we should be, and they just have to know in their hearts that they are doing much more important work than anyone will understand, and they need to rest assured in that Frederick The reality is, safety first, so if you have to cover a class, you have to cover a class and all of those other things pile up, and we just aren’t doing a lot of coaching right now As principals, we always walk around with our “Fix-it” hat on. So to understand that sometimes teachers just need to be listened to… just staying focused and being with them and listening is a great gift as well  Links:Ed Weekly: https://www.edweek.org/ John Bordon: My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Feb 3 2022
24 mins
Episode 10: O is for Omicron with Emily Parks
Show Notes, Episode X: Title Today’s guest is Emily Parks, the Assistant Principal at Ford Elementary School in Laurens, South Carolina. This podcast is being recorded in late-January of 2022 and disruption from the Omicron variant of COVID 19 is still intense. I don’t know that there are any solutions that school leaders can take at the local level, but finding a few minutes to reflect on our experiences, to learn from each other, and to feel more connected with our peers is important. This is the second of three podcasts released in quick succession. Each one focuses on how a different assistant principal is navigating this current moment. I’m not sure if these episodes will shape your practice, but I think they will be cathartic, and right now that seems good enough. Notable Quotes  Emily Parks Our staff are resilient, I think teachers in general are resilient, and we monitor, and we adjust, we’re flexible and we just keep forging on Teachers are notorious for feeling bad about being absent or not wanting to stay home when they’re sick and that’s had to be a shift in our own mindsets that “you cannot be here, you have to go home, and no apology is needed” I think we just need to shift the way we grow teachers. It may not be a 3-day conference in myrtle beach or 2 days in a workshop somewhere. I think we just have to be creative in the way we grow our teachers and I think 5-minute coaching is perfect. Change, a lot of time, forces growth There has been organic growth, that we have had to grow to adapt to the changing times we are in right now Meeting in small groups allows us to have more intimate conversations but also focus on each one of their needs to support them better Big change comes from small steps With the way things have been and the obstacles we have faced, and the new situations that are coming about, I feel like I have to continue to grow. Like I said earlier, it may look a little different at this day in time. It is tough sometimes to focus on myself when there are so many other people in the building that need me, so it has just been being more intentional of focusing on my role and what I am doing. I tell teachers “you don’t have to do all the things, let me help you” and then i turn around and don’t follow my own advice, so I am working on relying on and depending on some other people around me. I’ve got a great team and I am only as strong as the people around me. Plans really don’t matter sometimes when you’re battling a pandemic, so my takeaway from what has happened recently is plan for today. Tomorrow will come and it will have its own challenges What has really helped me is being able to connect with other principles and assistant principles  Frederick We need to meet people where they are now, not where they were 18 months ago, or before covid. I think now more than ever, it really comes down to that reflection because you don’t have those big hour long chunks of time, that if you can take 5 minutes in the morning… that is your time to reflect and right now that is the vehicle for growth   Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Jan 27 2022
34 mins
Episode 9: O is for Omicron with Libba Mattison
Show Notes, Episode 9: O is for OmicronAbout this show:This podcast is being recorded in mid-January of 2022 and disruption from the Omicron variant of COVID 19 is intense. I don’t know that there are any solutions that school leaders can take at the local level, but finding a few minutes to reflect on our experiences, to learn from each other, and to feel more connected with our peers is important. This will be the first of three podcasts released in quick succession. Each podcast will focus on how a different assistant principal is navigating this current moment. I’m not sure if these episodes will shape your practice, but I think they will be cathartic, and right now that seems good enough.  Notable Quotes  Guest“We have to be mindful about what is in our control, because there are so many things that aren’t. So we have to remain thoughtful. At times, we are under so much pressure and stress. In the heat of the moment, we have to put safety and supervision above all” “There are times where people just simply want to vent. They don’t necessarily come with a problem and they don’t necessarily want to be a part of solving that problem, but sometimes they just want to say “this is how my day is going”. Sometimes they ask for advice, but sometimes we are just there to listen” “How do we draw the line between the positivity and what it means to truly be an educator and called to this profession and then them hearing the negativity and all of the downsides. I can definitely see why it is the way it is as far as young folks wanting or not wanting to go into the profession” “We don’t always need to jump in and say “I can solve your problem”, I think we need to involve them. Say “okay you brought this problem to me, lets solve it together”” “I think that despite everything that is going on, teachers are still going in their classrooms and they’re closing their doors, and there is learning happening, regardless of all of the talk about “there’s a huge gap, students aren’t where they’re supposed to be”. That might be true, but we have to meet them where they are.” “Being extremely thoughtful and reflective is key right now because there are areas that I am growing in that I didn’t know that I needed to grow in until this pandemic.” “we do need to hear from each other so that we don’t feel so alone and don’t feel like it is just us and just our school. This is a nationwide pandemic and we are all living this.” Frederick“I desperately want to believe that even now we can be helping teachers to grow, especially by just being reflective. Be really honest with me. Am I out of my mind?” “We’re not trying to get a teacher from where they were 3 years ago to the next level, we’re recognizing people aren’t there. So it is “where are you today and how can we support you”” “The four points you made about supporting teachers are worth repeating: Spending time working side by side and being visible than ever is critical, really listening and not feeling like you have to fix problems, third being human, which is walking that dance of being positive and trying to uplift people, but also being vulnerable and acknowledging where we’re all at, and fourth is really involving teachers in the problem solving when they bring something forward. There is a lot we don’t control right now, but all of us can control those 4 things.”     Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.com The Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.html Sign up for the daily leadership email: https://mailchi.mp/c15c68e6df32/specialedition Website: www.frederickbuskey.comBlog: www.frederickbuskey.com/blog (reposts of the daily email)
Jan 20 2022
38 mins
Episode 8: Who Should I Coach?
The Assistant Principal PodcastEpisode 8: Who Should I Coach? In this episode we look into the surprisingly complex question of “Who should I coach?” We examine the five ways that teachers grow, we overview what a systemic approach to teacher growth looks like in a school, and we answer the question. If you only have time to coach one or two people, then you can’t afford to choose the wrong person to coach. This podcast should help.  If I can only coach one teacher, who should I coach? I’ve been working with the APEx assistant principals on coaching this fall. Knowing that people are very busy, we’ve been focusing on coaching just one person. In all honesty, it hasn’t gone that well. There have been some successes, but lots of stumbling blocks as well. What I am learning from this is just how complex coaching is. Of course, we can do very basic coaching without needing a ton of training, but every step carries its own complexities. Hello colleagues and welcome to the Assistant Principal Podcast. I’m your host Frederick Buskey. The goal of this podcast is to help improve the life and leadership of assistant principals. Today, we are taking a deep dive into one simple question – who should I coach? After listening to this podcast, you might want to head over to my website, frederickbuskey.com, to watch the video. There are several key graphics that go along with today’s show and watching this show after listening to it should increase the value many fold. I will also include images in the show notes. Before going further, please know that most of this podcast was written before I listened to Jennifer Gonzales’ Cult of Pedagogy podcast from October 19, 2021. I’ll include a link in the show notes, but her main point is that teachers are in an extra fragile state right now… now being the 2021-22 school year which, for many people, has been even more disruptive and challenging than 2020-21. Jennifer’s podcast has forced me to reflect on my message of growing people. So, I am going to go through the podcast as I had originally intended. At the end, I will share my current thinking on how to adapt the content to this unique and, I hope, temporary context. Okay, on with the show. There are three main things we need to consider to identify that one teacher to focus on:·      First, what are the other avenues of professional development that teachers have open to them?·      What system of supports does the instructional team provide for teachers?·      What do you hope to gain from coaching? We’ll explore these questions and at the end of the podcast I’ll provide my generic answer to the primary question, “who should I coach?”  Coaching does not happen in a vacuum. Coaching is just one strategy to help teachers grow. In the ideal world where resources are infinite, every teacher would benefit from highly personalized intense coaching. However, in the real world we need to view coaching as just one way to help teachers grow. To better understand this, let’s look at what I call the cube of development.   The cube of development is simply a metaphor for the multiple ways that teachers can grow. While a cube has six sides, I’ve only identified five paths for teacher growth. Maybe I should call it the pentagram of development, but cube sounds much cooler and I’m sure there is one thing that I have missed. Feel free to email me if you know what the missing side is! The most common, and most powerful, way that teachers get better is through self-reflection and individual initiative. Self-reflection is the top of the cube. Good teachers routinely reflect on their practice and when they find things they want to improve, they look for resources, learn from those resources, and work to implement that new learning. However, many teachers are not as self-reflective as we would like. Let’s be clear though, that lack of self-reflection is usually not their fault. In fact, we could say the same thing about ourselves: most school leaders aren’t as self-reflective as we should be. And again, it’s not really our fault.I might dedicate a future podcast to helping teachers become more reflective, but for today I will just enumerate the challenges to being reflective:·      Lack of time. If there is a magic bullet in education, providing more time for teachers to learn, plan, assess, and design is it.·      Pressure and fear both inhibit reflection and there is lots of that going around.·      The work that teachers do has become very fragmented. It isn’t simply a matter of prepping for three sections of English 10. There are so many other demands that not only cost time but which also fragment thinking and erode the concentration and focus required for deep reflection.·      There is often little to no accountability or follow-up support for implementation beyond what the teachers can do for themselves. When I say accountability, I mean that in a positive sense. If we are going to put energy into learning something, then we should also put energy into supporting full implementation. Internal training and workshops is the second side of the cube. Professional learning communities, or PLCs, are the most common example of this, but there are also book studies, lunch and learns, and a plethora of other formats. Instructional coaches and school district personnel may also lead small or whole group training. Topics may be identified by teachers, but more frequently someone else, an instructional expert or administrator, has determined the topic. It is also important to understand that these are group trainings and are rarely individualized for the needs of a specific teacher. An advantage of internal PD is that follow-up and implementation support are much more likely to exist. External trainers and workshops are similar to internal ones except they may happen either on or offsite and the trainer is not a district employee. This allows for bringing in trainers who are true experts on a specific topic. When the trainings occur onsite, they are for a group of teachers. Typically, an expert will come to the school during a PD day or for an afternoon and do a training. The expert may also work with small teams of teachers during the school day, but when trainings occurs offsite they can serve as individualized professional development for teachers who chose to go. The biggest downsides to external PD is cost and the lack of follow-up support. Mentoring and peer networks are the fifth side of the cube. Mentoring typically occurs when veteran teachers are paired with entry year teachers, but mentoring can happen in multiple other situations both formally and informally. Peer networks involve more than two teachers and are usually collaborative in nature. In these PD forms, teachers generally take the lead. Because they are teacher led, and often teacher initiated, mentoring and peer networks can be extremely responsive to both group and individual teacher needs. They also offer a safe environment and encourage experimentation. The challenge with mentoring and networking stems from their strength. They are teacher led, so if teachers are too busy to lead them, they don’t happen. They also require a supportive administration that conveys a high degree of trust in its teachers. Finally, the fifth side of the cube consists of coaching. The beauty of coaching is that it is completely individualized. When done well, coaching provides support for implementation as well as accountability. There are a couple of things to understand here:·      Coaching is an intentional and ongoing endeavor. Doing a twenty-minute observation and giving a teacher an “I wonder” statement is not coaching. ·      Coaching has a specific performance goal, and ·      it consists of multiple cycles of learning, implementation, observation, and analyzing results.·      There are four stances of coaching. The stance describes the relationship between the coach and the coachee:o   In the directive stance, the coach takes the lead. The coach determines the focus of the coaching, leads in developing the specific elements of support, and leads in evaluating progress. An example of directive coaching is what we generally see in athletics in which coaches provide very specific feedback on skills that the coach identifies. The athletic coach also structures the learning (drills) and does most of the evaluation.o   In the collaborative stance, the coach and the coachee take turns leading. The focus of the coaching, learning activities, and evaluation measures can all be jointly identified.o   In the reflective stance, the coachee takes the lead. The job of the coach is to listen, to ask questions that lead to deeper understanding, and to provide support as determined by the coachee.o   Finally, there is the transformative stance, which I don’t talk about often. The transformative stance focuses on creating fundamental changes to how the coachee sees the world. The transformative stance is about changing how we think more than how we act. For example, when you as an assistant principal help a teacher with strong leadership potential grow out of their classroom and begin to see the school as a whole, rather than a collection of classrooms, that’s getting at a transformative experience. Another example would be bringing teachers from a deficit mindset to an asset mindset. Following the transformation, we are likely to engage in other stances to drive skill development, but the transformative stance drives these fundamental shifts in how we perceive the world. So back to our topic. In thinking about how we should choose a person to coach, I am going to assume that your time is extremely limited. If you live in an alternate reality where you have lots of time and can-do in-depth coaching with multiple people, then who you choose becomes a much less important decision. However, if you are like most school leaders and struggle just to get into classrooms to do observations, let alone engage in meaningful coaching cycles, then who to target for coaching is a high-stakes decision. If you can only coach one person, you better choose the right person. So we’ve looked at how coaching is just one way to help teachers grow. In my work with school leaders, I advocate for the development of a system of teacher growth in which every teacher has growth goals and corresponding opportunities and support to meet those goals. I know that many of you listening may say that’s not possible, but I have been in schools that have such systems in place. I’m not talking about wealthy suburban schools; I’m talking about poor rural schools. With the logistical challenges and disruption of COVID, building this system is more difficult now than it was three years ago, but building it is still possible. Here is a sobering thought. If I have no goal to get better, and I have no plan to get better, then any improvement is a coincidence. That is true for you and I as leaders, it is true for our principals, and it is true for our teachers. Understanding that coaching is a part of a system is so important that we will take just a few minutes here to describe that system. Don’t worry though because we will also consider who to coach in the absence of such a system. The system has three parts:1.     We need to know what teachers need. To do that we need to know how well each teacher’s students are learning, we need to have accurate data from teacher observations, and we need to know what the teacher’s goals and perceptions are. This last point is critical. Teachers need to be the drivers of their own improvement, so they should be the ones that take the lead in setting their growth goals.2.     Once we know what our teachers need, we must develop the structures to support meeting those needs. This begins by establishing an instructional leadership team that meets weekly to support teacher growth. Members of that team collect data, mostly in the form of teacher observation, and use that data to plan for, deliver, or identify professional development opportunities for teachers. Remember that according to our cube, these “professional development activities” can take any of five forms (self-reflection, internal or external training, peer and mentoring, and coaching).3.     The final part of the system is evaluation. To know whether we’ve met our goals, we need to evaluate them. Evaluation then leads to the next cycle of identifying need. Were we successful? Great, let’s figure our what our next growth goal was. Were we unsuccessful? Okay, let’s figure what’s not working and why. In this systems approach, coaching will usually come up as the answer to the question I just asked. “Were we unsuccessful? Okay, let’s figure what’s not working and why.” Coaching is a high-cost development option. It is high cost because your time is extremely limited and therefore extremely valuable. If participating in a PLC will lead to the desired growth, then we don’t need coaching. However, when PLCs and other sides of the cube either haven’t worked or aren’t available, then coaching becomes an important option.  So, the first things to consider in choosing someone to coach are:·      What are the teacher’s goals for growth?·      What PD options does the teacher have and what have they tried?·      Have they been successful using those other options? If teachers are meeting their growth goals without coaching, then they don’t need coaching. If you are working in a school that takes a systemic approach to teacher development, like what I described easier, then it will probably become clear who would make a good candidate for coaching. If you aren’t in such a system, or if it still isn’t clear, then we move to the next factor. If we are limited in the time we have to invest in coaching, then it is crucial that we identify a teacher with whom we can have the biggest impact for the least effort.  For example, if we can help a new teacher improve their classroom management with three weeks of coaching support, that might be a higher priority than six months of coaching to help a different teacher learn to design authentic performance assessments. It’s not that authentic performance assessments aren’t important, but an immediate improvement in classroom management for a new teacher might be more valuable in the current moment. Another way to think of this is investing the least effort, or E, for the most value, or V. The equation is V/e, and if you can achieve a big V with a little e, then that’s a good equation. This is true for both you and for the teacher. In fact, V/E=M is one of the most important equations in leadership. That M stands for motivation, and motivation is the function of perceived value, or V, divided by perceived effort, or E. Greater value and lower effort lead to increased motivation. So, what constitutes value, or V? There are different things, but here are some forms of V that you should consider:·      Future savings of your time. In the example above, helping a teacher to better manage their classroom may save you time dealing with disciplinary referrals later. If you had one less referral each week, that would be 20-40 minutes that you could invest back into supporting your teachers. That’s huge.·      Short time to improvement. A small improvement today is worth much more than a large improvement a month from now. Strategic leaders prioritize consistent incremental gains, so if you can help someone grow in just a few coaching sessions, that’s critical.·      The teacher’s health, mental, emotional, and physical. Teachers are under more stress than ever before, and if our coaching can help them feel better about their performance or feel less stressed, then that is a win.·      Student learning and safety – because that’s what we are all about. On the flip side of V, we need to consider e:·      Is the teacher’s goal one that you can help with, either directly or indirectly? Supporting development of something you know well is much easier than going outside your wheelhouse.·      Is there a reasonable chance of quick success? Or any success?·      And perhaps the biggest one, does the teacher want coaching? It may be that the chance for the most gain lies with someone who is resistant to coaching, but if you can only coach one person, do you want to roll the dice and hope that you can break through? Not if there is lower hanging fruit. This goes back to something I think I said in episode 6’s coaching grab bag – coach for gain, manage for pain. We coach people so that they will grow. People who are unlikely to grow need to be managed, not coached. Woof. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground today, so let’s do a quick recap:1.     There are five ways that teachers grow, and coaching is one of those ways.2.     If we take a systems approach to teacher development, we work with teachers to identify goals (that is its own podcast topic) and we work as a leadership team to monitor and provide support so our teachers can be successful.3.     Coaching is a high-cost support strategy so choosing correctly is high-stakes choice because – your time is valuable.4.     We want to increase V by choosing a teacher whose:a.     success will save us timeb.     will experience immediate improvementsc.     will positively impact that teacher’s healthd.     and will improve student safety and learning5.     We want to decrease E by having a teacher whose:a.     goal aligns with our strengthsb.     has a good chance of making quick improvementsc.     Wants coaching The biggest trap I’ve seen APs fall into is trying to coach someone who is either resistant, or who needs more support than the AP can give. Remember, coach for gain, manage for pain. At the front end of this show I mentioned Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast on teacher’s emotional health, and that it has impacted my thinking.·      I really believe that we always need to be getting better. If we aren’t growing, then we are decaying.·      I have been advocating for meeting teachers where they are today, not where they were pre-pandemic. Most adults I talk with feel like they are not doing as well at their work as they were before March 2020. Still, we should be helping our teachers grow.·      However, Jennifer’s podcast has me reconsidering. I equate growth with support, so when I say teachers need to grow, I’m also saying we need to support them. I can’t bring myself to say that it is okay that a teacher has no growth goal and we should just be satisfied with letting them hang on. I can’t bring myself to say that because I believe that when we get better at our craft, it helps us feel better about ourselves. Honestly though, I’m not sure. In fact, I’m rethinking the emphasis on coaching that we’ve had in APEx this year. I think that it is really important for you to get better at coaching this year. It will help your students and your teachers, but also bring value to your own soul. In a year that seems to be consumed with discipline and logistics, being able to walk out of the building knowing you helped a teacher get better seems more valuable than gold. I think, but I don’t know. I’d love to hear from you. Should we still be focusing on coaching? Should we stay committed to teacher growth? Or does the nature of the pandemic and other stressors dictate a different set of priorities? You can email me at frederick@frederickbuskey.com If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe and rate this podcast. This is the only show in world (that I can find) that is devoted to assistant principals. Subscribing and rating will help your colleagues find this series. If you’d like more content tailored towards the needs of assistant principals, you can head over to my website at frederickbuskey.com. You might want to consider looking into APEx, the Assistant Principal Exceleration program. You’ll get weekly emails, tools, and be able to participate in monthly group coaching and webinars. I’d love to get to know you through APEx, but no worries if now is not the right time. That wraps up today’s show! I’m Frederick Buskey and I hope you’ll join me next time for the Assistant Principal Podcast.  Links:My email: frederick@frederickbuskey.comThe Assistant Principal Podcast website: https://www.frederickbuskey.com/appodcast.htmlJennifer Gonzalez, The Cult of Pedagogy, episode 179: The apple podcast link is here, Spotify here, and the link to her webpage is here. Elena Aguilar, The art of Coaching, https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-art-of-coaching-effective-strategies-for-school-transformation_elena-aguilar/8984956/?resultid=4908afea-0d19-4a8d-adb5-3f2c69e8a81d#edition=8265430&idiq=5291743
Jan 10 2022
23 mins