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The principal-leader checklist

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The role of the building principal continues to change at the pace of a whitewater current. In order to support teachers and student achievement in 2013 and beyond, the principal-leader will need to have a clear understanding of his or her role. Leadership books address vision, management, empowerment, modeling, coaching, rewarding and strategic planning. Each of these are essential for leaders in business, government and education. In 2013, the principal-leader will need to teach, help and guide in the following ways.

Assessing includes student assessment, reflecting on your leadership decisions, assessing the quality of instruction and assessing the school’s current reality. As we enter 2013, ask your staff, “What is our current reality?” Principals plan for implementing new standards, professional development, PTA meetings, student assemblies, 1:1 implementation and more. If principals fail to assess, then they may find that the school staff is working hard on the wrong things. Some principals have been declaring that we need 21st century schools for the past decade. Make 2013 a year that you move into the 21st century, rather than hoping your school changes. Principals understand that assessment is important to measure student understanding. The principal-leader will make assessing a priority.

The principal-leader should model collaboration for school staff. Do the staff see you sharing ideas with other principals, tweeting with educators, participating in book studies and seeking new ideas through journals, books, conferences and social media? Do you encourage group think and professional learning teams? Does the school schedule provide time for professional learning teams to collaborate or does the calendar look the same as it did in 1989? If you do not create a school where staff collaborate, it is unlikely that you will meet your goals. In “Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of leading,” J.C. Maxwell wrote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” As you reflect on the collaborative spirit in your school, analyze if your leadership is supporting or hindering collaboration.

Schools will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2013. Leading implementation requires a principal-leader who is willing to create short-term wins for the staff, provide time for the staff to reflect on the standards and to encourage risk-taking. Implementation of the new standards requires principal-leaders to honor the change process and to respect the emotions that staff will have during this change in teaching and learning. If you are still debating whether you agree with the standards, then you will struggle to lead implementation. Implementing requires teaching, helping and guiding.

Teacher-leaders are the linchpin of a school. Do you identify and develop future teacher-leaders? A principal-leader needs to empower multiple teachers with leadership roles. Do you have a curriculum mapping team? Do you need someone to lead a Tech Tuesday? Identifying teachers and providing them with opportunities to grow is one of the key roles of a principal-leader. In “The Five Levels of Leadership,” J.C. Maxwell wrote, “When you develop a follower, you gain a follower. When you develop a leader, you gain a leader and all his followers.” Are you promoting leaders or followers?

The Common Core State Standards outlined six instructional shifts. If you are not shifting in 2013, then you may be expecting different results with the same practices. Does this mean that teachers should abandon essential questions, vocabulary, units developed around key concepts or differentiated instruction? No. However, a principal-leader should wave a caution flag if teachers say, “This is how we have always taught.” The common core is just common sense. The role of the building principal as instructional leader means that he or she is an integral part of curriculum development and the alignment process. Are you prepared to make shift happen in 2013?

The principal should model lifelong learning. Twitter is a great way to grow as a learner. Teachers, principals, curriculum directors, assistant superintendents, education consultants and professors share ideas on Twitter. If you attend your annual state conference, you will grow as a leader. However, the state conference gives you access to leaders in your state. Twitter gives you access to educators around the world. Two of my favorite education chats are #atplc and #satchat.  #atplc focuses on Professional Learning Communities. Each Thursday night, a different educator facilitates the online conversation from 9-10 p.m. EST. #satchat is hosted on Saturday mornings. I enjoy participating in this group because it includes educators from all levels and across the U.S. If you try a Twitter Chat, you will be hooked.  Tweeting combines assessing, collaborating, implementing, promoting and shifting.

In 2013, you will have the opportunity to make a positive impact in your school. In “The Flat World and Education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future,” Linda Darling-Hammond wrote, “Creating schools that enable all children to learn requires the development of systems that enable all educators and schools to learn.” What kind of school are you trying to create and who are the leaders helping make your dream a reality? As you set goals for the new year, block off time for assessing, collaborating, implementing, promoting, shifting and tweeting.

Steven Weber is the principal at Hillsborough Elementary School located in Hillsborough, NC. He blogsat ASCD EDge. Recently, his blog titled A Bucket List for K-12 Students made the Top 10 Blogs of 2012 on ASCD Edge.Connect with Weber on Twitter @curriculumblog.