21st Century Principal Leadership     
  APRIL 2014
In This Issue
Help! My Principal is Trying to Help!
Magnificent Moments in Mentoring
Role Models -- Powerful
Yoga Balls and Brain Breaks

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Dr. Christine Mason and Dr. Kathleen Sciarappa have published an article in The InternationalJournal
of Mentoring and Coaching in Education.
The article focuses on NAESP's Principal Mentoring Program and is titled "National Principal Mentoring: Does It Achieve Its Purpose?"



Want more
STEM information?
Check the newsletter from the CEI archives on STEM and School Resources.



Dear Educators,


Principals. Could you imagine a school without one?  Could you imagine a ship without a captain? A plane without a pilot? A train without an engineer?  Now, perhaps some things are easier to put on "autopilot."  But schools?


In this issue of Wow!, principal mentors and mentor trainers, Dr. Kathleen Sciarappa and Mary Woods describe strategies used by experienced mentors, and George White considers how school leadership impacts STEM and project based learning, through a reflective interview with Freeman Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland (Baltimore County) and Chair of Obama's Initiative on Excellence in Education for African Americans. 


Also in the April Wow!, Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy, a new CEI associate, brings the incredible lightness of fun and play to the forefront as we consider the need for balance. Balancing the serious with the playful, the difficult challenges, with the gains of a positive school community.


As we continue to march down the road, going further and further into the 21st century, schools will continue to evolve.  However, the need for role models, for community, for mentors, and for play continues. 


Help! My Principal is Trying to Help!
by Kathleen Sciarappa, EdD

Principals are notorious "helpers!" Committed to lives of public service, principals are many things to many people. Striking the leadership and management balance is a challenge for principals; consequently, mentor training for principals offered by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) devotes ample attention to principals strengthening their instructional leadership skills. Trained principal mentors employ reflective questioning techniques when conferencing with their principal protégés. In turn, these very same techniques may be utilized by principals to create reflective opportunities for teachers as they engage in instructional coaching. Good questions provide the foundation for good coaching.


Principals as Artists -- Creating Something from Nothing. Recent generations of principals have been expected to manage all the details of running schools while simultaneously prioritizing instructional leadership, building teacher capacity, and improving student achievement. Hess (2004) noted a decade ago successful principals relied on their own strong personalities, charm, excessive energy and creativity to cajole or push teachers and parents into cooperating with school reform. He found principals to be artists conjuring school improvement without money, incentives or support as they hurtled numerous barriers.  

Instructional Coaches for Troubled Schools. Today, as scrutiny of schools by both government and the public intensifies, more rigid measures have been put in place to rate educators. Highly structured accountability systems for teachers, warned Hess, promoted petty micromanagement by evaluators who lacked the skills and time to spark creativity and higher-level forms of collaboration. Hess argued that principals could personally coach teachers in high functioning schools, but in troubled schools, instructional coaches were necessary. Unfortunately, not all schools can afford layers of supervisors, so coaching duties frequently fall to already overburdened principals.



Coaches or Coaching? Coaching experts Steibacher-Reed and Powers (2012) make the distinction between coach as a noun and coach as a verb. Budget limitations may restrict the noun version of coach, meaning schools can't afford to hire or retain individual instructional coaches. Yet, resourceful principals can enhance coaching as a collaborative process involving themselves and other key personnel, including talented teachers, without impacting the budget. Principals can integrate coaching into their own evaluation process, while simultaneously encouraging peer coaching and relying on reading specialists and other quasi-administrative personnel to engage in instructional coaching.   


What Does It Look Like When Principals Coach?


Principals who are trained mentors already have the foundational skills for coaching, provided they know how to listen and how to craft questions that cause reflective thinking. Coaching depends on careful observation, intelligent analysis, and artful questioning (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2012.)


Specifically, coaching principals must offer feedback regarding the highest leverage action steps teachers can take. Actions need to be measurable. Role playing "teacher feedback" sessions prior to conducting them, or even watching and critiquing personal videos of teacher conferences strengthens principal coaching. Similarly, role playing sessions on the teachers' units and lesson planning or classroom data analysis provides coaching practice. Often the question arises regarding whether a principal can successfully coach without having personal expertise in a discipline or grade level. Inevitably, the answer is always yes. It is not so much curriculum expertise that is required as it is deep understanding of coaching principles.


Crafting instructional improvement questions for the teacher to think about between coaching sessions is useful. Questions modified from the NAESP National Mentor Training can be used:


Questions to Get Things Started

  • What were you expecting to......?
  • How aware were you of ......?
  • What experiences have you had with....?
  • What was the basis for the action you took on....?
  • What led you to draw the conclusion or make the decision that you did on ... ? 

Questions to Support Planning

  • As you think about this unit, what are surrounding dynamics that influence you?
  • What are your perceptions about what is going on with ______?
  • As we start to think about ____, what are the perspectives that will help us see a fuller view?
  • Given the opportunity to think about this unit, what are some specific actions you will take?
  • What are some variables that might influence your actions and outcomes?
  • How does this teaching/learning experience connect with previous experiences?

Questions to Support Reflection

  • As you reflect on this teaching/learning, where does it fit in the big picture?
  • Given your impressions of this unit, what would be most useful to you for our discussion?
  • Describe some of the differences between what you planned and what occurred.
  • What are some inferences you are making about ___?
  • What are some of the variables that might have affected the teaching/learning outcome?
  • What are some new connections you are making?
  • What advice would you give to someone about to teach something very similar?
  • What are you taking away from this experience that will influence your future practice?
A key element of successful coaching is to properly frame the feedback for teachers. All professionals need to hear about their strengths as well as about areas for growth. Coaching well takes a lot of reflection itself, but it can have wide benefits.

John Quincy Adams stated "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more, you are a leader." Principals who coach are touching the single most influential person in a young person's life outside the home: the teacher. Much as there is room for false starts, rocky roads, and fuzzy finish lines, the help a principal can offer in the form of coaching has the potential to teach and inspire teachers to ever greater heights.



Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2012). Leading leaders. Phi Delta Kappan, 94 (3), 70-71.

Heen, S., & Stone, D. (2014). Find the coaching in criticism: The right ways to receive feedback.Harvard Business Review, 92, 1-2.

Hess, F. (2004). Treating principals like leaders. American School Board Journal, 191, 32-35.          

Steinbacher-Reed, C. & Powers, E. (2012). Coaching without a coach. Educational Leadership,69 (4), 68-72.




Magnificent Moments in Mentoring
by Mary Woods

Mentoring is a heart centered experience, modeled by leaders who create a positive learning environment for children. Mentors must have excellent leadership skills to inspire others, skills that include being caring, courageous, and careful.

  • Caring about the learning experience of others
  • Courage to speak out and do what is in the best interest of the child and his/her learning
  • Taking care not to damage the students' self-esteem

Mentoring and guiding educators to become successful leaders, and become effective administrators, is very rewarding. As addressed in a previous article: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader"--John Quincy Adams.


Mentoring is Proactive. The need for principal mentoring exists in small and large districts across the U.S. A principal mentor provides advice and support to educators who continue to help teachers, support staff, and students in his/her school. A mentor also provides a proactive approach for managing school situations. Sometimes principals turn to mentors for support and advice when they: Lack self-confidence, need assistance in moving from a low-achieving school to a high-performing school, are confused about how to interpret test data, need to develop courage about how to speak out about difficult situations when it is in the child's best interest, and lack understanding about a school's budget or school law.


During the mentoring process, some focus areas may include:

  • The school climate
  • Building confidence
  • Leadership practices
  • Professional development

Resources. Recommended sources for school leaders include "The American School Climate Inventory" by Brian Perkins  The inventory is an excellent tool for assessing and comprehending school climate. This effective instrument can be used from your iPhone. Another powerful source is Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership by Steve Faber. Watch a four-minute preview by the author here. 


In leadership practices and building self-confidence, principals may complete the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) and focus on Encouraging the Heart, Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, and Challenging the Process. These practices have been very successful across numerous schools and districts.


To enhance professional development in schools, book talks are extremely important for faculty members. Suggested books include Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Jenny Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, which aids in recognizing the challenges of communication when stakes are high. Eric Brun summarizes the high points well here.  Another excellent book for a faculty group is The Power of Talk: How Words Change Our Lives by Felecia Briscoe, Gilberto Ariaza, and Rosemary Hense. Each chapter explores the uses and power of language in issues such as democratization, inclusion, and inquiry. Both of these books are filled with ideas on building school morale and provide information and resources for exploring professional development opportunities.


Principal Mentors are Creative Thinkers. Usually they generate many questions, seek what might work better, bust paradigms, and take action. The best way to get great ideas is to stuff your brain, keep pumping ideas into it, then sort the good from the best, according to Bobbi DePorter, author of Quantum Success. Paradigms are the frames for ideas to function in our world, the author adds, and taking action is the distinguishing factor between those who merely dream and those who succeed.


To build the capacity of schools, CEI urges you to continue to model magnificent moments in mentoring!

 Role Models -- the Power of Influence for Pursuing STEM Courses  
by George White, CEI Education Policy Associate

In the wake of President Obama's recent appointments of managers and commissioners for two new initiatives designed to help improve the education and life prospects for young men of color, one of those appointees reflected thoughtfully last month* on ways these initiatives can achieve their goals.




"It's important for many black students to have examples of people who have excelled in math...and school leadership is also important," said Freeman Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and chair of the newly-created White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The commission is composed for 14 leaders in the fields of education, philanthropy and law.


The White House Initiative. The White House initiative, originally announced in 2012, is now being launched as President Obama also seeks to rally support from foundations and businesses for "My Brother's Keeper," a campaign he announced on February 27 as part of a dual push to improve the education and life prospects of young Latinos and African Americans.


The White House hopes to help close the achievement gap in reading and math during a challenging period of change. School districts in 45 states are, this year, beginning to implement the more demanding Common Core standards for reading and math. In math, the new standards require more critical thinking and more project-based learning and real-world applications, such as creating gadgets or drafting designs for bridges.


Project-Based Instruction. Hrabowski said project-based instruction can actually make it easier for many students to learn STEM-related subjects, as opposed to simply mastering abstract concepts. However, he said, school districts should make a special effort to bring under-performing students up to grade level as Common Core is adopted. A disproportionate percentage of those under-performing in math are Latino and African American students, he noted.


Hrabowski's Path. The commission chair's views on black achievement in STEM-related classes are widely sought because he is credited for making UMBC a top national source of African-American postgraduate degrees in science and engineering. Born in 1950 in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Hrabowski has an M.A. in math and a Ph.D. in higher education and statistics. He said he excelled because he had role models -- a savvy high school principal among them.


Hrabowski said his parents, though, were his original role models. His mother was a math teacher and his father taught math until he decided to opt for higher pay as a steel mill worker. However, he also credits his high school principal, George Bell, who is the uncle of Alma Powell, wife of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Principal Bell, said Hrabowski, would make surprise visits to his math class, write a math problem on the blackboard and offer prizes -- a nickel or dime -- to students who responded with the correct answers. The real incentive, said Hrabowski, was the "prestige" a student gained from solving Bell's challenges.


"I've seen posters of famous mathematicians of color," said Hrabowski. "It's great to have role models -- not just famous people, but local models who can connect with students and help them realize the possibilities. It might simply be a college (math) student visiting a [K-12] class."


But the principal's stopping by and engaging with students obviously had a large impact. 


"It taught me a lesson -- that schools can offer incentives," said Hrabowski, "and that school leaders can set the tone."



* Freeman Hrabowski's comments were made during a March telephone interview with George White.
Building Positive School Climate and A Sense of Belonging
by Michele M. Rivers Murphy, Ph.D.
Showcasing the best of ideas all in one place  
is Jessica Bazinet, a 1st grade teacher and a leader of a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Group at Allendale Elementary School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, sharing four great ideas to help students, relax, self-regulate and focus!
Yoga Balls help students physically and psychologically.

Jessica is a firm believer that kids need to be able to move. Students sit on their yoga balls and move freely as long as their feet remain on the floor. They are allowed to earn "bounces" when they show they are focusing and making positive choices. Jessica has used yoga balls every year and plans to continue using them in the future. She reports that when her students are sitting on yoga balls, they are "more relaxed and able to focus their attention on their academics."



Brain Breaks / Mind at Rest 


Students take a "brain break" about every 10 minutes in Jessica's class. These breaks consist of dancing, yoga, team building, singing, stretching...basically anything to get the kids moving and getting their excess energy flowing. When Jessica presents a new topic or lesson using manipulatives, she ALWAYS lets her students "play" for 1-2 minutes before beginning. She notes, "If I let them explore, play and be excited, when the time comes for the lesson they give me more of their attention. They also know they will be using the manipulatives throughout the lesson and will have another chance to 'play' at the end of the lesson."


Every single day Jessica asks her students to "tell her about themselves" and they say out loud, "I AM SMART, I AM IMPORTANT, I CAN DO ANYTHING IF I TRY, I WILL GRADUATE, AND I WILL BE SOMEBODY!!!" Before they take any type of assessment she has them sing, "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, saying aaaaaaaaaaooooooo I CAN DO THIS!!!" (It goes along with a popular tune; her class changed the words to help pump them up!)


In addition, Jessica celebrates every single student's attempt at an answer by having the class acknowledge them in some way. She says, "We love the word PERSEVERE! I try to establish a community where students encourage each other to persevere and keep trying until they get it. I ask them, 'Is my hair going to turn purple if you answer incorrectly? NO! Is the school going to fall over? NO' and so on. I don't want any of my students afraid of answering a question incorrectly. When they do answer correctly, I'm sure the whole school hears us celebrate!"


Celebrating Students' Test Preparedness Through Pep Rallies!

At Allendale, they work hard to promote positive choices emotionally and academically. Jessica reports, "We have pep rallies for the entire school before the MCAS tests every year, where our principal and staff jump right in and become part of the show. We sing and cheer for each other and leave with a great sense of community."


Bring smiles and laughter to your students. Take a look at Jessica's Pep Rally video (if you can sit still, you really need this video) and get motivated to do something different, something fun, and something that relieves stress associated with test overload!





Recent blogs at CEI:   

Learning with Portals  

Who Needs Evaluation?

Preparing Yearlong for Spring Assessments

Check them out! 

Planning for 21st Century Schools


If you are starting to realize that this year is almost over and it is time to begin planning for next year, we urge you to plan with the 21st Century in mind. CEI has included many blogs and newsletters focused on 21st Century leadership. If you are searching for examples of leadership for technology, STEM, heart centered learning, neuroscience, or global competence, check out our archives on the CEI website.  We believe you and your instructional leadership team will find resources and inspiration for your planning, and for your future.


Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
CEI is collaboraating with the NAESP Foundation to bring innovations to school leaders.
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