After spending several years questioning the use of social media and believing it was a distraction, I changed my opinion. I spoke with several administrators that helped me look at this using a very different lens. My good friend Bill Burkhead @BurkheadBill gave me exposure to the benefits of twitter and blogs and how they can improve professional communication and educational growth. I now use these along with Linkedin, edWeb, and Flickr. I can honestly say this has been the fastest way I have acquired information and connected with professionals in my career. So how can this help your students? Using technology like social media in classes helps to engage students, differentiates materials, helps with collaboration, improves knowledge in a rapid manner, improves student interactions with peers and teachers, helps many special education students filter out distractions using certain web tools and APS like @Socrative and QR Reader. These tools also improve family and community engagement, and administrators can quickly showcase their school by uploading and sharing out pictures via Twitter. Professionals also create and share many educational documents via the Internet using social media @Edutopia. Although I have jumped in with both feet and really believe in the importance of blended learning, I still do also believe students need to be well-rounded, and they need to learn balance and responsibility, so putting down the electronics and using old-fashioned reading and writing has merit. Students also need real-time face-to-face interactions to improve social skills. Finland does this with much success. Basic skills should always be maintained and enhanced for true student development. For more pros and cons visit this link http://sjmagazine.net/2013/plugged
What tips can I give an aspiring school administrator? This is my third year as a high school assistant principal. I taught for about twenty years before deciding to become a school administrator. This was not a decision I took lightly and understood that making this transition from a teacher/coach would be challenging but worthwhile. As a teacher, I was fortunate to work with many professional school leaders.There seemed to be a growing divide between many teachers and administrators. Was this because expectations and demands had changed? Was it because many new administrators didn’t have the teaching background that was once the norm, a series of state mandated rollouts that put more pressure on day-to-day teaching, or a break down in communication and collaboration which inevitably negatively impacts student success? My own personal opinion is it varies but most likely involves all of these components.
So why jump into the fire? Just for more pay, advancing up the ranks, professional posturing, or control? If your answer is yes to these questions, you may want to reconsider becoming an administrator. I see it as an opportunity to truly help teachers improve student learning and improve school culture. Both of these tasks can be herculean at times, because along with improvement comes that dreaded word “CHANGE.” When I was in my graduate program, I read an excellent book called Who Moved My Cheese. The shortest book I ever read and also one of the best. Truly made me rethink CHANGE. Several administrators believe one should assess the new school before making significant changes and I agree, to a point. In what business fields do CEO’s say we will make necessary changes several years down the line? They would lose money. I realize schools are guided by a vision and a school improvement plan, but please make immediate changes that directly impact student learning and or safety. Why wait until a 9th grader is a senior to make small but impactful changes just so you don’t ruffle a few feathers? At the end of the day, you have to make decisions that are ethical, impactful, fair, and are in the best interest of students. These decisions may be unfavorable to some students, parents, and staff, but you were not hired to be popular. A veteran administrator jokingly once told me that you know you made it as an Assistant principal by how many times your name ends up on the mens room walls. If that is the case, then I am a made man! Hear that Tony Soprano! Leaders must make tough decisions even if they are unfavorable.
Another important point is lead according to your own style not someone else’s. You can steal ideas and educational strategies from other administrators but use them according to your own personality. I would never want to hire myself, I would drive myself nuts! What good is having a bunch of yes people who don’t push back a little to make you a better leader? One other thing I think a new AP should know is never forget your teaching hat, and you are not as important as you may think. Everyone has a role to play, and you can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen.
“Too many kings can ruin an army” ~Homer
Here is my top 10 list
- Be visible
- Be honest and fair
- Be consistent
- Be a good listener (still working at this myself)
- Delegate, delegate, delegate
- Stay current/relevant
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. I make mistakes every day and try to fix them. Just as it takes time to become a good teacher, it takes time to be an effective administrator. Need a good mentor!
- Look at and create data to help make some administrative decisions. Data shouldn’t drive all of them.
- Remember there are actual students on a data sheet, know the kids. Can’t just be numbers!
- Have fun working with your teachers and students. Why do it if it isn’t worthwhile?
Assistant Principal’s Corner
We have now gone through several weeks of school for the 2014-2015 school year, and I am very pleased with the student body and how well they have worked with their peers and teachers to set the tone for a great year. Schools are very complicated today with many moving parts, and it takes everyone’s help and cooperation in order for them to work like a well-oiled machine. No pun intended! As the high school assistant principal, it has been my pleasure watching several of our students excel in extracurricular events like sports and after school clubs. Our club advisors and coaches do a wonderful job making sure these students not only learn about the activity they are involved in but also give back to their community and take pride in representing their school in a positive way. Students that get involved with after school activities also learn valuable skills like collaboration, time management, hard work, strong supportive relationships, responsibility, and social skills. With families having both parents working these days, it is critical students are busy right after school to help prevent them from getting into trouble. There is much data to prove that students involved in extra curricular activities are better prepared for college. http://professionals.collegeboard.com/guidance/prepare/extracurricular
As the 2014-2015 school year quickly moves along, I look forward to seeing many more of our students doing well in both the classroom and in their school-related activities. Remember, what you do in and out of school is a reflection of you, your family, your school, and your community. Make great choices and have fun!
So what makes an effective school leader? This is my Top Ten list!
- Being Trustworthy #1
- Is Ethical and has Integrity
- Leads by example
- Makes decisions in best interest of students even if unpopular
- Is an instructional leader
- Knows how to delegate
- Must be Visible
- Has good communication skills and collaborates
- Determined to work towards success – No status quo!
Bonus: Has a sense of humor
In a day and age where there are so many thoughts on how students learn and why the US has fallen farther behind in the world, maybe we should examine not what we do but how we do it? Many countries have moved away from using many standardized tests and infused more of a well-rounded and balanced curriculum that stresses the mastery of real-life skills. The PISA study sheds some light on this. I agree data is needed to help drive instruction and can both formatively and summatively assess students, but should we sacrifice time in learning for several standardized tests? http://www.nea.org/home/38711.htm Maybe we should try a more balanced approach where teacher input from their own assessments combined with some standardized exams will help maximize student learning and growth. Look to Finland’s educational growth as an exemplar. I wouldn’t say any country has the complete answer, but it would be foolish not to examine success stories from around the world and possibly infuse them into our best practices.