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You Don't Need a Title to Impact School Culture (5 Ways)

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Who's the leader? Who makes improvements on your campus? Is it the principal? How about the instructional coaches? What about the paraprofessionals? Here are 5 reasons you don't need a title to impact school culture and make a vast improvement in your school!




Dr. Amy Fast (follow her here) hit a home run when she wrote about the 5 ways to impact school culture (read her article here).

1.) Assume Best Intent
2.) Surround Yourself With Greatness
3.) Elicit Feedback From Those You Trust
4.) Know Your Sphere of Influence (Read more on Context Switching for School Leaders)
5.) Make Your WHY Transparent

If you step back and think about what these all have in common, you'll find one common thread - personal awareness.

The first four ways to impact school culture deal with being aware of the persons around you - listening, trusting, gauging, and building your circles.

The fifth way to impact school culture is not focused on outer awareness but self-awareness - knowing your own inte…

School Leaders, 17 Quotes from 2017

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Your Vision and School Culture "When we think we need to solve problems all the time, we forget to focus on and celebrate what's already working!" From @Jennifer_Hogan "The problem with passion...I was too invested in the process...prohibiting me from seeing things through the teacher's eyes." From @matthew_arend
"I believe it's the duty of the educator to prepare students to maneuver in the world regardless of the world's obstacles. Ss determine their position in this world, and this begins with a school's culture." From @calewis1975

Professional Learning and Relationships "When a campus culture lives and breathes professional growth, the principal must clear paths for the teachers that work to improve themselves and their teams." From @GlennWilly "Reflection is a state of mind. It’s a mental habit. It’s a necessity for outlier teachers." From @mafost
"If you want superficial relationships, then don't dev…

The Talker, the Shaker, and the Faker

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Three principals go to their schools one day, and each one faces a series of problems, challenges, and frustrations with staff members.

The first principal, the Talker, decides to summon the courage and talk candidly with two teachers that she is concerned about. It's not a pleasant thing for the Talker, but she believes transparency and truthfulness build trust and respect.

The Faker believes being kind and positive will create the conditions for her campus to thrive. She also has two teachers that she's concerned about, but is fearful of holding an uncomfortable conversation - instead, she fakes a smile and brings in heavy doses of nice.

The Shaker also has two teachers that seem to be causing problems on her campus. She shakes things up by deciding to move these two teachers into positions that they will dislike, and she hopes they get the message.

The Talker Without a doubt, the Talker tackles discomfort with courage and honesty. If this approach is couched in empathy, th…

Making Assessment Work for Learning and Evaluation

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Assessment often falls under the hate mail category, standardized testing. And rightfully so. Here are three ways that you can improve assessment practices on your campus.

What will these ideas in this post do for you?

improve reliabilitydata sets that are simpler to interpretdata that's actionable, quicklyreporting that details learning, not just a gradeinformation that can lead to highly-reliable evaluations of curricular programs Data Dashboards A data dashboard is a simple way to combine the most important metrics in ways that improve reflective practice. The data on a dashboard need to vary from sensitive data that show weekly student growth to qualitative results from parent surveys.
Read more on Data is Not the Solution for Teachers
A defining characteristic of effective dashboards is the combination of district/campus determined metrics and teacher-developed metrics. This increases involvement in the assessment and evaluation process by both administrators and instructiona…

Climate Conflicts: Uncertainty Among Teachers

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It's Rose's first year on your campus. She has promise to be a great teacher and only has 2 years of experience. The students love her, you like what you see in walk-throughs, and she gets along with her team. However, there's a problem, and it's going to impact your entire school climate - uncertainty.

Innovation Misinterpreted Rose attended the last team meeting and offered some great ideas about improving students' math computation skills. She listened to the feedback on her team and decided to implement her ideas with the adjustments suggested by her teammates. Sound good, right?

Well, it is good.

The problem is the uncertainty on the team about your expectations for innovation.

At a recent staff meeting, you made it clear that you expect everyone to work together. Your exact words were, "Every teacher on your team needs to be on the same page."

The Problem with Your Solution You were addressing a problem that was arising on a 2nd-grade team where ea…

The Growth Problem with Evaluations

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Many teacher and principal evaluation systems are evolving more and more into growth vehicles. And that's a good trend.

However, there's a major problem haunting evaluation systems.

Evaluation systems will never equal growth systems.

I know that's superlative, and there's no room for mistake in my claim. So let me explain.

Evaluation Does Not Equal Growth Evaluation is judgment. It's a stamp in time on your performance.

Evaluation is a rating. A score. It's not a discussion that promotes thought, reflection, or creativity. Therefore, it does not equal growth.

That's not to say evaluation is unnecessary. Of course, it's needed for many reasons. But it's not to be confused with growth tools.

Evaluation is about Employment An evaluation measures your performance as an employee. It doesn't gauge you as a professional or as a person.

It compares you to the expectations of an organization. It's used to make employment decisions and formalize deci…

Context Switching, How it Impacts Your School!

You do it and great leaders do it. Context switching.

Not every scenario, team, or individual should be approached exactly the same. There are unique forms, functions, and frames of mind required of school leadership throughout the day.

Great leaders understand this. Good leaders do it. And...well, we've all worked for someone who made mistakes with this...or was unable to execute the context switch.

And yes, it's easier to see in your boss than in the mirror (oh, the power of reflective practice).

In this post, I will show:

How three different school leaders do or don't context switch.The positive and negative effects of each leader.Steps to effectively context switch and lead your school to greater learning outcomes!
The Promoted Manager The context for this school leader is managing up. They intuitively know relationships above in the chain of command are vital.

This leader places an imbalanced effort in managing up. The efforts in this context often result in promotions…

How Long Should Direct Instruction Be?

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How Long Should Direct Instruction Be? Direct instruction is great, but how long should it be - based on brain research? This is a great reminder from Eric Jensen about the length that most students can cognitively engage (in direct instruction, that is).

Thanks @DavidJHuber, for sharing this as we go back to school.

But what can be done in only 8-12 minutes? Here are 5 high-yielding strategies that fit perfectly in this short direct instruction window.

1. Expand Prior Knowledge in Direct Instruction Part of the challenge in teaching classes of students (instead of individual students) is the range of background knowledge. Each student comes to class at a different starting point.

Direct instruction can very efficiently build prior knowledge for all students. Present visuals, videos, quick reads, or graphic organizers. Fill in prerequisite background knowledge and push the limits on enriching background knowledge.

This will allow all students to make richer connections and build sche…

Word Study Warm-Ups

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I'm proud to watch our team at TeamTom Education lead into another area of curriculum and instruction...Word Study!

They are hard at work developing a free spiraling warm-up resource for reading teachers in grades 2-8. In just 10 days we've had almost 300 teachers sign up, and the list is growing by 5-20% per day.

If you know a reading teacher, team, or department that could benefit from a streamlined approach to teaching word knowledge to young readers and writers, this free membership may be for them.



The power in this resource is in the research-based video instruction and the spiraling curriculum. Daily word study warm-ups guarantee each student has hands-on practice and direct instruction with the following skills and concepts: consonant clustersvowel soundsvowel combinationsmultiple syllable wordssentence fluencyacademic vocabularyword partsroot words Our authors are at work developing the curriculum into all areas of word study to build stronger readers and writers.  💪?…