My 1st year as HS Principal–10 things that I’ve learned

learning

10. Being a principal is more challenging than I expected. I knew it was going to be challenging (and at times difficult), but the learning curve is much steeper than I anticipated. This is not a bad thing–in fact, in my case this is a very good thing. I like to push myself as hard as possible and enjoy being challenged and stretched to my limits.

9. I don’t like email anymore. Remember when you were a kid how it felt to see the mailman deliver your mail? You couldn’t wait to take it out of the box and see what was there. I used to sort of feel that way about email. That little AOL “You’ve got mail!” jingle would make me smile. I looked forward to the interesting things that I might find each day. I seriously enjoyed email as a form of communication. I would work to craft carefully-written messages to others, using complete sentences and my best writing techniques, then I’d sit back and admire the beautiful piece of communication I’d crafted. I couldn’t understand why others would always send such short, simple emails in response. They wouldn’t even include a salutation or signature. Well, I get it now. I have actually come to fear opening my email and discovering how many new messages await me. I feel terrible about having to sort through them all so very quickly and for having to write short responses, but I’ve also learned how very critical it is to time-manage this aspect of my job. In fact, I’m still learning how to manage that aspect of being a principal…

8. The law classes that I had in my principal license program only helped a little. When it comes to the legal aspects of being a principal, there is only so much you can prepare for. 90% of the time, it’s trial by fire. All the studying in the world still can’t prepare you for the stuff you are going to experience in the principal’s office.

7. I am much more patient at 39 than I was 10 years ago (even 5 years ago). This has served me well in two ways. First, I have been much more deliberative about change and pursuing a vision for the future. In the past, I pursued vision like a thoroughbred race horse. But I have learned to slow down a bit and appreciate the journey. Second, I am able to manage conflict much better than I used to. I have been able to de-escalate some very intense situations this year and help others feel better. I didn’t always possess the patience to do that. Yay for me!

However…

6. I need to do a better job of compartmentalizing things. So many things pop up during the day that I sometimes allow events to impact each other. It doesn’t happen often, but it still has happened more times than I’d like to admit: I’ve allowed a crisis or negative event to impact my interactions with others. I need to compartmentalize these things better and not allow one experience to impact another. Interruptions and disruptions are part of being a principal. I need to accept it and embrace it.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Change takes time. I know it…but I still want to move quickly. I’ve learned that in schools, some changes can happen quickly, but most take time. It is only by taking slow, deliberate, patient steps that the organization is able to move forward effectively.

4. I couldn’t have made it this year without the incredible supports around me. My two mentors, my coach, and my colleagues throughout the area have been incredibly helpful. And several individuals here at SkyView have been amazing as sounding boards, confidants, and a source of encouragement (you know who you are). My thoroughbred mentality makes me want to run alone at times, but I’ve learned to rely on and trust the support of others.

Speaking of which…

3. Behind every successful man is an incredible woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not learning this just now. I’ve always known that my wife is pretty darn great–that’s why I love her and married her. But in one of the toughest years of our marriage, as I began a new journey as principal and also started working on my doctorate, she took it to a whole new level. She is really unbelievable! In addition to having an incredibly successful year as a teacher (she is one of the few teachers in her district to get the “Innovative” rating and was observed several times by district personnel, then invited by the district to provide professional development for other teachers), she has also been a steady support and constant source of encouragement for me. Wow–she is amazing!

2. I miss teaching. I knew I would, but I just didn’t realize how much I’d really miss it. There is something incredibly special and indescribably rewarding about being able to touch the lives of students each and every day. I miss that direct, minute-by-minute connection. I miss the routine of greeting each student at the door, chit-chatting through “Good Things!” to start class, coaching students through math on their whiteboards, passing out mints at the start of each assessment, writing a dozen advisement passes for students each day, and grading papers on Sunday afternoon. I truly miss it.

But…

1. I LOVE MY NEW JOB! I always knew that I would enjoy being a principal, but I’ve truly learned that this job is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. I love working with the students and engaging in their lives. I love working with my incredible staff and watching them do amazing things! I love the opportunities to problem-solve, cast a vision for the future, and create a greater school each and every day. I’m already looking forward to next year and the great things that await us!

Now go have a wonderful summer break! Enjoy the downtime, get refreshed, do some hiking, go camping, visit Rocky Mountain National Park, … Just have a great couple of months off. We’ll see you again in August.

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 4 of 4

teacher appreciation heart

Teacher Appreciation week is next Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

So last week I left us wondering: what creates the kind of teacher stress that compromises wellbeing and leads to high attrition rates? The truth is, there are a plethora of factors that contribute to the issue and there are numerous ways that we might classify and evaluate these factors. But one of the themes that emerges is the lack of appreciation that teachers feel. That is an oversimplification, of course, but a real problem none-the-less. For the sake of this series and this particular post, I am going to break this down to two types of appreciation.

The first type of appreciation relates primarily to “me” (school and district leaders) and the ways that I can help my teachers to know and understand that they are appreciated. This includes a variety of variables such as autonomy, empowerment, decision making processes, distributed leadership, opportunities for collaboration and peer feedback, work environment, professional development, pedagogical support, flexibility, peer connections, and student relationships.

The other type of appreciation relates to you the parents (and maybe even the students who are reading this). A number of authors have written about the important role that parents play in promoting teachers’ wellbeing. Here are two pieces that especially caught my attention:

One research project in particular explored teacher-pupil, teacher-teacher, and teacher-parent relationships and the impact of each on teachers’ pedagogical wellbeing–specifically, the frequency that teachers viewed each relationship to be either (a) empowering and engaging or (b) stressful and burdensome. The authors concluded that student relationships have the greatest influence on teachers’ wellbeing, student and colleague relationships have the greatest positive impact on teachers wellbeing, and parent interactions tend to be more stressful than empowering for teachers (Soini et al. 2010). More specifically, “If parents were not interested in their child’s education or questioned the teacher’s pedagogical efforts and authority, the situation was considered problematic and burdensome by the teachers” (Soini et al., 2010, p. 743).

Yildirim (2014) noted that parent appreciation was a key component of teachers’ professional wellbeing and concluded that “Initiatives to develop teachers’ professional well-being should focus on … opportunities to appreciate them for their efforts” (p. 74).

So what might this mean for parents?

Well, I would suggest that teachers definitely need something from parents. First, teachers need you to be involved in your child’s education. This can be tricky. Over-involvement can not only be counterproductive to your child’s education and growth but also might drive teachers nuts. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of involvement can be frustrating for teachers and leave them feeling very alone and unappreciated. So please be involved in your child’s education.

But in addition to your involvement, teachers also need to know that you understand, respect, value, and appreciate the work that they do each day. They bring an incredible amount of heart to the hours of education, study, and ongoing professional development that it takes to be a teacher in the 21st century. They need to hear, see, and feel your appreciation in tangible ways. I believe (and research suggests) that in so doing, you will help to promote the wellbeing of teachers. This, in turn, will benefit your children, leading to better relationships with their teachers and improved achievement (there is actually research to document that).

Next week is teacher appreciation week. Please take a second to show our teachers some heartfelt appreciation with a sincere note, a gift card to Starbucks or a restaurant, a Caribbean cruise (wait a minute…that might be a bit much), or some other honest heartfelt gesture. Even just taking the time to look them in the eye, shake their hand, and say “thank you” can go a very, very long way.

Cheers!

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References

American Federation of Teaches (2015). Quality of Worklife Survey. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

Acton, R., & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal contexts: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40(40), doi:10.14221/ajte.2015v40n8.6

Banerjee, N., Stearns, E., Moller, S., & Mickelson, R. A. (2017). Teacher Job Satisfaction and Student Achievement: The Roles of Teacher Professional Community and Teacher Collaboration in Schools. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 203-241. doi:10.1086/689932

Bermejo-Toro, L., Prieto-Ursua, M., & Hernandez, V. (2016). Towards a model of teacher well-being: Personal and job resources involved in teacher burnout and engagement. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 481-501.

Cahill, H., Coffey, J., McLean Davies, L., Kriewaldt, J., Freeman, E., Acquaro, D., & Archdall, V. (2016). Learning with and from: Positioning school students as advisors in pre-service teacher education. Teacher Development, 20(3), 295–312. doi:10.1080/13664530.2016.1155478

Collie, R. J., Shapka, J. D., Perry, N. E., & Martin, A. J. (2015). Teacher Well-Being: Exploring Its Components and a Practice-Oriented Scale. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment,33(8), 744-756. doi:10.1177/0734282915587990

Crown, K. M. (2009). Do interactions between mentors and mentees decrease levels of new teacher attrition? (Order No. 3340918). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305179238). Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/ docview/305179238?accountid=14506

Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-Up Survey. First Look. NCES 2014-077. National Center for Education Statistics.

Grenville-Cleave, B., & Boniwell, I. (2012). Surviving or thriving? Do teachers have lower perceived control and well-being than other professions? Management in Education, 26(1), 3–5. doi:10.1177/0892020611429252

Helms-Lorenz, M., & Maulana, R. (2016). Influencing the psychological well-being of beginning teachers across three years of teaching: Self-efficacy, stress causes, job tension, and job discontent. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 569-594.

Hills, K., & Robinson, A. (2010). Enhancing teacher well-being: Put on your oxygen masks! Communique, 39(4), 1.

Hudson, P. (2012). How Can Schools Support Beginning Teachers? A Call for Timely Induction And Mentoring for Effective Teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(7).

Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499–534. doi:10.3102/00028312038003499

Ingersoll, R. M., & May, H. (2012). The magnitude, destinations, and determinants of mathematics and science teacher turnover. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(4), 435–464. doi:10.3102/0162373712454326

Jurow, A. S., Tracy, R., Hotchkiss, J. S., & Kirshner, B. (2012). Designing for the future: How the learning sciences can inform the Trajectories of Preservice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), 147–160. doi:10.1177/0022487111428454

Lambert, R. G., McCarthy, C., O’Donnell, M., & Wang, C. (2009). Measuring elementary teacher stress and coping in the classroom: Validity evidence for the classroom appraisal of resources and demands. Psychology in the Schools, 46(10), 973–988. doi:10.1002/pits.20438

Margolis, J., Hodge, A., & Alexandrou, A. (2014). The teacher educator’s role in promoting institutional versus individual teacher well-being. Journal of Education for Teaching,40(4), 391-408. doi:10.1080/02607476.2014.929382

Markow, D., & Pieters, A. (2012). The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Teachers, parents and the economy. New York: Metlife.

Portner, H. (2005). Teacher mentoring and induction: The state of the art and beyond. Choice Reviews Online, 43(04), 43–2340–43–2340. doi:10.5860/choice.43-2340

Price, D., & Mccallum, F. (2014). Ecological influences on teachers’ well-being and “fitness”. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education,43(3), 195-209. doi:10.1080/1359866x.2014.932329

Rath, T. (2007). Strengths finder 2.0: A new and upgraded edition of the online test from Gallup’s now discover your strengths. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Well-being: The Five essential elements. United States: Gallup Press.

Rumsby, R. (2007). Staff Well-Being: Negotiating New Organizational Realities in Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 11(17).

Soini, T., Pyhalto, K., & Pietarinen, J. (2010). Pedagogical well-being: Reflecting learning and well-being in teachers’ work. Teachers and Teaching, 16(6), 735–751. doi:10.1080/13540602.2010.517690

Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., & Thijs, J. T. (2011). Teacher wellbeing: The importance of Teacher–Student relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4), 457–477. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9170-y

Van Petegem, K., Creemers, B. P. M., Rossel, Y., & Aelterman, A. (2005). Relationships between teacher characteristics, interpersonal teacher behaviour and teacher wellbeing. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 40(2), 34–43. doi:10.2307/23870662

Vazi, M. L. M., Ruiter, R. A. C., Van den Borne, B., Martin, G., Dumont, K., & Reddy, P. S. (2013). The relationship between wellbeing indicators and teacher psychological stress in eastern cape public schools in South Africa. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 39(1). doi:10.4102/sajip.v39i1.1042

Yildirim, K. (2015). Testing the main determinants of teachers’ professional well-being by using a mixed method. Teacher Development, 19(1), 59-78.

Teacher Appreciation Week, part 3 of 4

Hard-Work

Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Wow–what a crazy week it’s been! Thursday night we sent all the kids home for a long weekend, but I remained at school until about 8:45. Then yesterday, on our day “off,” I was right back in the office at 6:00am and finally took off for the night around 7:45pm. Here’s the thing: I wasn’t the only one working yesterday. Almost the entire staff gave up part of their day off to sacrifice their own time for students. Teachers were…

  • Giving practice AP exams so that students would have the best possible chance of earning some college credit in that class.
  • Prepping for AP practice exams (so they could come back in on Monday’s day off to work with students).
  • Supervising “Saturday” detention.
  • Working on the schedule for next year to ensure that students get as many of the classes that they’ve asked for and ensuring that teachers have time to work collaboratively as a team–an enormous factor related to teachers’ wellbeing.
  • Prepping for the art extravaganza next week.
  • Prepping for Senior projects next week.
  • Straightening up the classroom that got away from them last week because they devoted all of their free-time to students.
  • Creating lesson plans for next week.
  • Coaching.
  • Chaperoning prom and after-prom.

These are the things I was able to confirm for sure. Who knows how many other things were happening throughout the building that I didn’t even know about.

Great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known! But it’s not the hard work that creates stress, burns them out, and leads to high attrition rates in education. It’s actually…

(Stay tuned–final part of the series next Thursday. Here is an informative read to peruse between now and then: Teacher Shortage Crisis Getting Worse.)

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 2 of 4

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Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Last week I began a bit of a discussion around teacher turnover, staff wellbeing, and upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week. I noted my passion for finding ways to positively impact the system by promoting the wellbeing of teachers.

Although the idea of teacher wellbeing has been on my mind now for about six years, it wasn’t until this past September that I found myself inspired to pursue this as part of my dissertation. A professor of mine flipped a switch inside of me when he started class last semester noting for us all some of the the recent statistics and trends in schools. The statistics that most captured my attention:  50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years, and more than 50% of teachers have less than 2 years of experience. Yikes!

So I started to do a little digging–anecdotally at first, and then with some more empirical research. The result was a fairly lengthy paper, but here are few highlights:

“…Riggs (2013) notes that “overall job dissatisfaction” is one of the primary reasons that teachers choose to leave the profession. The American Federation of Teachers conducted a Quality of Worklife Survey in which teachers revealed that their enthusiasm for teaching had dropped from 89% at the start of their career to only 15% in their present placement (American Federation of Teachers, 2015, p. 3). The research of Markow and Pieters (2012) further amplifies these points, demonstrating that “Teacher satisfaction has declined to its lowest point in 25 years and has dropped five percentage points in the past year alone, from 44% to 39% very satisfied. This marks a continuation of a substantial decline noted in the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher; teacher satisfaction has now dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 (p.45).”

…One of the most obvious and oft-cited symptoms that creates job dissatisfaction and leads to turnover is stress. Spilt (2011) notes that teaching is one of the most stressful professions (p. 458). Riggs (2013) echoes this assertion noting that teachers who leave the teaching profession often cite individual stress as their reason for their decision to move on.

…Other than job dissatisfaction and stress, “High rates of teacher turnover are of concern not only because they may be an outcome indicating underlying problems in how well schools function, but also because they can be disruptive, in and of themselves, for the quality of school community and performance” (Ingersoll, 2001, p. 505). Thus, while teacher turnover is a serious concern that does disrupt the quality of school performance, turnover is not the problem. It is a symptom of more serious issues that exist beneath the surface.

…Richard Ingersoll, a former high school teacher who chose to leave the profession, says, “One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible. But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect” (Riggs, 2013, p. NA). Interviews with other teachers who chose to leave the profession revealed that they also cited intangible reasons such as “work-life balance” for their decision to abandon teaching (Riggs, 2013).

As you can see, stress and “wellbeing” play an obvious role in this teacher attrition crisis that we’ve experienced in our nation. Sadly things have only gotten worse in the years since some of this research was first published. So what is to be done then???

Well, I suggest that there are a number of root causes driving this issue of teacher turnover (and the related problems of lower student achievement, higher drop out rates, increased mental health problems, etc…). Some of these root causes are within our circle of influence, while others are beyond our immediate control. But I do believe that schools, districts, and communities have the power to make a positive impact on these problems by addressing the wellbeing of teachers. …and some recent studies are beginning to support this idea. More on that next week.

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 1 of 4

teacher appreciation

Note: Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

There have been so many things on my mind lately, and I have so much that I want to say to you all. There are topics I could discuss that will be of benefit to me…other topics that could benefit our students…and a few things that could even benefit our parent community. So, what I would like to discuss over the course of April is going to benefit all of us–because it will benefit our TEACHERS. That’s right: I want to talk about our teachers. By extension, I believe that this will benefit our students, our parents, myself, and our entire school community.

So let me begin this series by declaring that this is a topic of great importance to me. Throughout my career, schools and districts have claimed that they want to do what is best for students …best for students …best for students. We invest billions of dollars as a country seeking to do what is best for students. We develop curriculum, design initiatives, conduct research, invest in mental health programs, write policy, pass laws, and increase taxes (except in Douglas County of course).

Yet for all of our efforts to do what is best for students, we forget about the very people who spend the most time with them each day and who have an enormous influence in their lives: OUR TEACHERS.

Great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known. They are up at 5:00am getting ready for the day. They are on their feet all day engaging students as best as possible, never taking a break–even to use the restroom. They stay late working with students and spend money out of their own pocket to buy things for kids. They arrive home late and stumble in the door in the evening. They grab a bite to eat before they sit down to return emails, grade papers, read a periodical about teaching/education, then start planning the most rigorous lesson they can think of for the next day. If they’re lucky, they get about 7 hours of sleep before doing it all over again (but let’s be honest: it’s usually about 3-5 hours of sleep during the week).

Okay, okay: I know what you are thinking. You are thinking of the worst teachers you’ve ever had. And I will admit that I have “learned” from and worked with some teachers who try to get by doing the bare minimum. There was even a time early in my career when I thought it was okay to sit at my desk while students worked, left school by 3:30, didn’t take anything home with me, and often didn’t grade papers for a week or two.

But most teachers don’t try to just “get by.” So I will say it again: great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known.

But what do we do for them? We pay them poorly. We invest very little (certainly not billions) in their professional development. We don’t write policy or pass laws for teachers. We don’t care about their mental health or whether or not they are burned out. Instead, we suck them dry and then wonder why they leave the profession for something else.

In fact, the consequences have truly been disastrous. Next week, I am going to share with you a portion of a paper that I wrote last semester. It dives into the problem of teacher turnover in our schools and leads into the concept of teacher wellbeing. In fact, that is the topic I have chosen to pursue for my doctoral dissertation: wellbeing. I want to examine how schools and districts might prevent teacher turnover by protecting and promoting the wellbeing of teachers. (And in the past year, I have started receiving very strong support to pursue this topic–both from my doctoral colleagues and from professors at the University of Colorado Denver).

I believe that by investing in the overall wellbeing of our teachers, we will vastly increase the success and achievement of our students (both now and in the future). I am going to speak a little about that in the coming weeks. Next week: more on the increasing and alarming problem of teacher turnover in American schools (actually–all around the world), and what we can do about it.

Cheers!

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Advice from Jimmy the Bartender

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Periodically, I read Men’s Health at night before I go to sleep. There is an interesting page I look forward to reading in each issue titled “Jimmy the Bartender” that is devoted to reader’s questions. Although I don’t always agree with Jimmy’s advice, for the most part he seems like a fairly wise old fella’ who understands human nature.

This past weekend, I came across the following advice from Jimmy:

Advice.jpg

I share this with you to remind you of the following:

  1. Our kids are still kids and need our guidance, direction, and protection. Our experience with life and the mistakes that we’ve made (and hopefully learned from) can be great nuggets to help guide them in their journey. Be sure to take time to talk to your teens about the dangers of social media and help them learn appropriate ways to manage those tools.
  2. To that end (re: setting boundaries and using discretion with social media) SkyView is hosting a FREE showing of Screenagers for our parents on Tuesday, April 11 at 6:30. You can RSVP through the Thursday Wire.

If you have not yet had a chance to read some of my previous blogs regarding social media, please take a second to do so. And we very much look forward to having you join us for Screenagers on April 11.

Cheers!

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