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Lincoln and Leadership

As a former history teacher I’ve always been fascinated with the American Civil War.   Just recently I finally got around to reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, an in-depth examination of Abraham Lincoln’s political career.  I still haven’t finished the book, but as I’m reading I can’t help but take note of Lincoln’s leadership qualities, and how they transcend both time and circumstance.  I’d like to touch on a few “takeaways” from the book that I found particularly poignant about Lincoln in regards to leadership:

1) Preparation– Lincoln was a tireless worker who studied diligently before making a decision.  This was a habit he developed as a lawyer in Illinois.  During his law career, he earned a reputation among his peers as being extremely well-prepared to argue his case. This work ethic carried over to his political career, where he spent long hours researching the various important issues of the day.  One example of this was his stance on the slavery question during  the election of 1860.  In the months leading up to the election he extensively researched the history of the slavery question in the United States, focusing especially on the Constitution.  Lincoln knew that the founding fathers had communicated their vision for the slavery issue.  It was this study that led to the development of the Republican platform for that election- that slavery would be permitted within the states where it had already existed, but would not be allowed to spread to new territories.

2) Awareness– Lincoln had an incredible grasp of the public’s opinion.  Throughout his presidency he was under constant pressure, especially in the face of disastrous casualties and tragic loss of life.  This environment could have caused a lesser man to succumb to pressure and deviate from his course of action.  Lincoln, however, knew that he had prepared adequately, and that ultimately the American public agreed with his principles.  During the early stages of the war, for example, when losses were piling up and the Union army was failing to drive back the rebellion, an uprising of peace democrats who were known as the “Copperheads” began to gain political traction by pushing for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy in order to end the war and cease the loss of life.  Lincoln, knew, however, that the American people were strong and that they wanted the rebellion defeated to honor those losses.  Ultimately this was confirmed through the election process, as Republicans won crucial mid-term elections in 1862.

3) Timing– Lincoln knew instinctively when to wait and when to act.  He had strong beliefs about the issues of the day and he possessed the power to impose his will if he chose.  He understood, however, that the timing of events were crucial in determining their ultimate success.  The passing of the 13th amendment, as dramatized in Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln, is perhaps the best example of this.  After issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the rebel states as a consequence of the President’s expanded war-time powers, Lincoln knew that the abolition of slavery must be a consequence of the war.  He also knew that it must be accomplished through the Constitutional amendment process, so as to legitimize its existence for future generations.  Lincoln waited on this issue throughout the war, and it was only when Union victory was imminent did he press the issue.  When the timing was right, Lincoln acted vigorously and forcefully to ensure the amendment’s passing.

4) Temperament– Lincoln rarely let on that he was troubled, distraught or exhausted by his work.  He made a good impression on most everyone he met and he even found time to interact casually with friends and family.  He was an expert story-teller and he drew upon his extensive knowledge of literature, philosophy, history and civics to entertain guests and lift spirits.  He was also known as a tremendous listener who paid careful attention to the many visitors he encountered during the day.  He was known as being transparent and attentive to others needs.  His authentic and genuine manner endeared him especially to the Union soldiers, the overwhelming majority of whom supported his leadership throughout the war.

5) Self-Confidence– Lincoln came from a poor background.  He had no family lineage to speak of and little formal education.  Most of his accumulated knowledge was self-taught.  Upon ascending to the presidency, however, Lincoln surrounded himself with the smartest, most capable men of the time as his closest advisors.  Some of these cabinet members had indeed been his rivals for the Republican nomination in 1860.  A less-confident leader would have surrounded himself with weaker, more impressionable advisors in order to build consensus and squelch debate.  Lincoln, however, trusted his own abilities enough to allow highly capable, ambitious men to operate within his administration, knowing full well that the country needed their talent to pull through the calamitous ordeal.

6) Resolve– One of my favorite Lincoln quotes reads: “Make sure your feet are in the right place, then stand firm.”  Indeed, Lincoln’s resolve was tested throughout his presidency but his allies and enemies alike soon learned that once he had made a decision, he was not going back.  A primary example of this was his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  After considering the various circumstances of the war, as well as the historical record of presidential war powers, Lincoln made up his mind to issue the proclamation. When he brought the draft to his cabinet, the debate of whether or not to issue the proclamation was squelched immediately.  Lincoln had come to that decision on his own.  His cabinet was asked to contribute ideas on what to include in the document.

Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable leader.  His presidency serves as an inspiration for leaders everywhere.  I, for one, take great comfort in knowing the pressure under which he led, the stakes of his decisions and the conviction with which he went about doing his work.  Furthermore, his stewardship of our nation through its most difficult time provides comfort and resiliency to our current leaders who tackle the most pressing issues of our day.

Have a great week everyone!  Happy New Year!



My Homework Assignment

I’m breaking from my usual Sunday night routine to answer a request from my colleague Michael Podraza (@EGHSPrincipalRI) to complete a homework assignment.  So here goes.

Part 1- 11 Random Facts About Myself

1) I’m originally from Rhode Island, born and raised.

2) I got my bachelor’s in History and Secondary Education from Stonehill College and my Master’s in Secondary School Administration from Providence College.

3) I taught history in Barrington, RI for seven years.

4) I’ve been principal of North Smithfield High School for the past 5 years.

5) I grew up consumed by sports, playing soccer, hockey and baseball and also coaching hockey and baseball in Barrington.

6) I come from a family of educators (my parents are both educators and my sister is currently a teacher).  Also my wife is a counselor at Barrington HS, which is where we met.

7) I have two beautiful kids, Ella (age 3) and Luke (age 1).  Spending quality time my family is what I value most.

8) I’m a big believer that attitude (not wealth or achievement) is the most important predictor of fulfillment and happiness.

9) It is absolutely necessary for me to surround myself with positive people who enjoy life and possess the right values.

10) I believe that relationships are what drive all meaningful school initiatives.  Education is a people business, and without establishing and maintaining relationships of trust and respect nothing of value can be accomplished.

11) It might sound cliched, but I absolutely love what I do and at this point cannot picture myself doing anything else.

Part 2- Answers to Questions from Nominating Blogger

  1. Who is your favorite author right now? Doris Kearns Goodwin (currently reading Team of Rivals)
  2. What is your favorite season and why? Fall- colors and weather
  3. In your opinion, what is the best TV series of all time? Drama- Breaking Bad; Comedy- Seinfeld
  4. Who is your favorite teacher from your childhood and why? Mrs. Vincent (HS math)- she took an interest in who I was
  5. If you could have any vehicle, what would it be? Audi
  6. If you could wake up tomorrow and have one thing immediately change about school/education, what would it be? alternative to traditional high school scheduling
  7. Dogs or cats? Dogs
  8. If you could eliminate/change 1 rule in your favorite sport, what would it be? There’s no reason why baseball should have the designated hitter in one league and not the other.  The National League needs to adopt the DH.
  9. If you could become an expert in any field/skill, that you currently have NO experience with, what would it be? Playing music
  10. If you could have a superpower what would it be? Flying would be cool
  11. The best part about being in education right now is…? The relationships

Part 3- List 11 Bloggers

1) George Couros

2) Peter DeWitt

3) Eric Sheninger

4) Joe Mazza

5) Chris Wejr

6) Jesse McLean

7) Katherine Mann

8) Shannon Smith

9) Sandra Trach

10) Michael Podraza

11) Timothy Chace

Part 4- List 11 Questions for Nominees to Answer

1) Who’s your favorite band/musician?

2) What was your favorite subject in school and why?

3) What was your least favorite subject in school and why?

4) Who’s your role model?

5) If you could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?

6) What is one talent/skill that you excel at?

7) What’s your favorite movie of all time?

8) What inspired you to become an educator?

9) What are the three most essential qualities a teacher must possess?

10) What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?

11) The most rewarding part of my job is…?

If You Were Nominated or Want to Join In Here Are the Guidelines for Your Homework…

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  • Finally- Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment. Go on, you have homework to do.

Project-Based Learning

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning ( is one of the more prominent groups in trumpeting the need for schools to make significant shifts in their focus and priorities in light of changing economic and workplace realities.  Their work is highly regarded as a blueprint for meaningful school change.  Their work includes a description of 21st century student outcomes and support systems, which include core subjects and 21st century themes, learning and innovation skills, information, media and technology skills and life and career skills.  The learning skills are perhaps best described by the so-called “4 Cs” of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.  These skills serve as foundational principles of 21st century learning, or better yet, as the modern-day “3 Rs”.

The topic of this week’s blog is project-based learning, and I wanted to emphasize this topic because it is so important to ensure that students apply what they learn and stretch their thinking.  At the high school level this is especially important, as high-quality project-based assessments can often spark student interest in their post-secondary education.  This year at North Smithfield High School, we launched the Senior Project for the first year.  The project is a graduation requirement and it is completely student-driven.  The project requires that students research a topic of interest to them, partner with a mentor currently working in the field, write an extended research paper, and finally make a presentation to a panel of adults at the end of the year.  Although only in its first year, the early feedback on the project has been very positive.  Students had never had an opportunity such as this to initiate their own work based on their own personal interests.  In addition to this project, teachers throughout NSHS emphasize project -based learning in a variety of ways.  Here are a few examples:

  • Students in Fritz Benz’s Symphonic Band class, working in small groups, prepared and rehearsed holiday music to perform for senior citizens at a local nursing home.  The groups were selected their own music and worked on their selections independently.  Also, students in his Music Technology class are currently using digital audio software to manipulate and improve the sounds of basic MIDI music files. Each student took a well-known holiday song MIDI file, loaded it into a digital audio program and created a new arrangement using new instruments, tempos and keys.
  • Students in Lisa Cardin’s Spanish 1 and French 1 classes are completing an autobiography in the target language that will include a scrapbook and illustrations.
  • Angela Crossman and Marilyn Hudson (English) are using Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried as the inspiration for a collaborative writing project using google docs.  Students are required to demonstrate writing, research and presentation skills in addition to showing proficiency in manipulating the technology.
  • Students in Tracy Bailey-Gates’ Honors Biotechnology class are participating the in Barcoding Life’s Matrix program. This program provides exciting opportunities for students to join a global alliance of scientists in its efforts to create a digital genetic registry of Earth’s multicellular life. Students are extracting  and purifying DNA from fish tissue. Then they are isolating a gene from the DNA, amplifying it (making billions of copies through polymerase chain reaction), and sending the product to be sequenced. When the sequencing facility returns the trace files containing the sequences, students will use bioinformatics tools on the BOLD Student  Data Portal to create reference bar codes of their sample. Students are citizen scientists, and they are credited with authorship on this international database .  They are contributing to a database that will be used world-wide, and are important contributors to this initiative.
  • Students in David Mellor’s Pre-Calculus classes have discovered the min-weight producing for a Pratt Truss.  Trusses are an integral part of all suspension bridges.  In addition, his Probability students are analyzing concrete samples by the requirements of the American Concrete Institute using quantitative methods.  Finally, his senior students are using data analysis methods that they learned in their work alongside Parsons-Brinkerhoff to their senior project topics.
  • Pat Kolanko’s Culinary Arts students designed and produced original gingerbread houses that challenged them to apply problem-solving skills as well as creativity.  Her Fashion Design students are sketching original evening wear designs.
  • Linda Milner’s French II students completed a unit on “la maison” (the house).  They worked on a project in organized groups designing a house where they labeled the rooms and at least 6 objects in each room.  They also devised a list of questions and answers to the questions in French about the house.  Her Honors Spanish III class completed their annual fashion show.  After completing a unit on clothing, materials and designs, students come up with a theme for a fashion show they put on for other students.  In January, Honors Spanish III and IV students will be completing their Arts Talk Project.  Our theme is Making It In America and they will be working in groups researching a Hispanic immigrant group of their choice.  They will begin their project at RISD museum attending a Latin American Exhibition called Historias  and another exhibition called Making It In America.  Students will be researching different themes (historical background, reasons for immigrating to the US, adaptation to life in the US, native cultural bonds) connected to their chosen group.

Thanks for reading.  Everyone have a great week!  The Principal’s Sunday Night Blog will be taking a break for the holidays but will return after the New Year.  Happy holidays!


Accelerating Student Achievement

Most of the ideas I generate for this blog come from my conversations from the previous week.  One of the benefits of my position is that I am able to engage in meaningful and robust conversations with various stakeholders about a range of topics pertaining to school improvement.  Our curriculum director, Mrs. Clare Arnold (@Clare_Arnold), is one of the people I enjoy speaking with the most.  She brings a level of knowledge, enthusiasm and insight that makes my job easier.  For that I am truly grateful.

The topic of this week’s blog is “Accelerating Student Achievement” and the substance of this post comes from Clare.  I am a huge fan of synthesizing complex topics down to their essential elements, and Clare does this as well as anyone I know.  In the course of one of our conversations this week she mentioned the three aspects of quality teaching that she believes in above all else.  We both agree that teachers who possess a masterful understanding of all of these skills will rapidly accelerate student achievement.  The three must co-exist, however, for if one is missing, student learning dramatically suffers.  I believe that “drilling down” our practice to this level, and then proceeding forward with a sharp focus toward enhancing our ability to master each component will lead to unprecedented student achievement.  The key, however, is avoiding the many potential distractions that divert attention away from what is the most important aspects of our work.  Here are the three components (thanks Clare!):

1) Explicitly teaching the standards– The new Common Core standards provide remarkable clarity for teachers in terms of what knowledge and skills students must demonstrate in order to meet them.  While the standards are extremely clear, they are also quite challenging, and this fact requires that teachers possess an expert level of understanding of what the standard is, how to best align their instruction to the standard, and most importantly, what proficient student work looks like.  What is apparent about the new standards is that students at all grade levels will not be able to learn them unless their teacher specifically aligns his or her instruction to the desired outcome.  To some, this may sound like “teaching to the test”.  That could not be further from the truth, however.  Teaching to the common core standards simply refers to possessing a sound understanding of what the standard means, and steering students toward that end through focused instructional practices, sound questioning techniques, and frequent use of formative assessment.  This can be achieved by utilizing various strategies, which leads me to my next component…

2) Employing best instructional practices– Teachers who utilize strategic instructional practices that consistently engage students in the learning and require them to stretch their thinking see a higher degree of student achievement than those who do not.  These practices include the use of ongoing formal and informal assessment practices that allow students to collaborate with others, reflect on their work, and receive targeted and specific feedback about their performance in relation to the standards being taught.  They also include the delivery of carefully designed lessons that hook students into the content, connect the learning to a meaningful purpose, and provide for opportunities for student practice, application and extension.  It must be emphasized that the manner and style in which each teacher employs these practices is totally unique to that individual.  While the standard cannot be negotiated, the way in which the standard is taught and assessed is completely at the whim of the classroom teacher.  This is why I struggle to understand those who believe that standards stifle creativity.  Standards simply reference a level of performance that is expected of a particular group of students in regards to a particular core academic skill.  The kind and type of classroom instructional practices, assessment strategies and instructional resources that are used to teach the standards are completely under the control of the classroom teacher.

3) Establishing and maintaining positive relationships with students– Students must know that their teacher is invested in their academic and personal success.  I have found that while we (the adults) may assume that this is true, students often possess different opinions.  At the high school level this is particularly true, as older students typically have built up an attitude towards school prior to entering grade 9.  In some cases, this attitude is a negative one, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to earn the trust of the student through their actions and words in the classroom.  Teachers must have an advanced understanding of their students, including their interests and their strengths, in order to effectively motivate them to see the purpose and importance of what they are learning.  Teachers must also be exceptional communicators, and their interactions with students must reinforce the fact that they are invested in their academic and personal development.

These three components, in my opinion, represent the foundation on which student achievement is built.  If all three of these components are working seamlessly in the classroom, the result will be high student achievement, engaged learners and happy kids.  In order to maximize the learning environment, all three components must exist, however, as learning will suffer if even one of the three are lacking.  For educational leaders, I believe it is worth it to spend our time reflecting on our school’s current status with regard to these three components, and to ensure that proper supports are in place to identify needs and determine future actions.  For teachers, we must engage in consistent, ongoing and honest self-reflection as to our current level of performance in these three areas.  We must set purposeful and specific goals that are based on various sources of data in order to target specific areas of improvement and to identify strengths.

Thanks again to Clare for the inspiration for this post!  Have a great week, everyone!


Giving Thanks

It’s the end of a long weekend and it’s time to gear up for the week ahead.  The Thanksgiving break has provided me with some much-needed time to relax with friends and family, and spend some quality time with the people who mean the most to me.  What is most important about this holiday is that it provides us with a reminder to stop for a moment and appreciate all the gifts that we are blessed with.  For me, the first things that come to mind are my beautiful family, especially my wife and children, as well as my parents, siblings, nieces, nephew and in-laws.  And of course my close friends remain very important to me.  I believe it is also appropriate to stop and reflect on our profession, and express gratitude for the opportunities we have each day to inspire others and work alongside amazing, talented people in the field of education.

I’ve wondered at times how my life would be different had I chosen a different profession.  There can be a tendency in all lines of work to think that the “grass may be greener”.  But we often fail to appreciate the special opportunities that we have in our own profession.  Let me provide a list of some of the things that I am thankful for in my role as a high school principal:

  • For having the opportunity to work with some tremendous kids each and every day.  To be able to witness students develop both as students and as people.  I am very thankful especially for the opportunity to see students gain maturity and self-confidence over the course of four years.
  • For being able to be part of a professional learning community, where I’m able to work alongside a team of talented educators who bring many different perspectives, experiences and ideas.
  • To work alongside people who truly care about the well-being of others.  I feel that most educators are good and decent people by nature, and I’m thankful that I work alongside individuals who put others before themselves.
  • To work with people who enjoy life, and don’t take everything so seriously.  I feel it is important to be able to laugh alongside your co-workers, and I’m fortunate to work with a team who enjoys spending time with each other.
  • To work alongside so many hard-working, dedicated teachers, parents and students who put in long hours, aim for continuous improvement, and focus their energies on making our school better.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the opportunity to lead a high school.  I view this opportunity as a true privilege and a challenge I try to embrace with passion and energy each day.  As educators, I hope we view our work in a positive light.  Despite the challenges and frustrations, we must remember that we are most fortunate to do the work that we do each day, and that the benefits we see far outweigh the drawbacks.  Have a great week!


Breaking the Rules

It’s so great when you can end the week on a high note!  After an exhausting week that included a NEASC visit, I wrapped up a Friday with an awesome conversation with a teacher and our curriculum director that had me feeling great heading into the weekend.  The conversation centered around the issue of what we could (or should) do if our students don’t learn what we wanted them to learn.  It seems  like a very simple situation, but it can become very tricky.  Let me provide a scenario:

You’re a high school teacher.  You plan a unit of instruction.  The unit includes various lessons, classroom assignments, assessments, and a culminating unit test.  You collect and grade the unit test and a majority of your students receive failing grades.  You feel defeated.  You did everything you could to prepare the students.  On the day you pass back the test you ask students the following question: “How many of you studied for this test?”  Out of twenty students, five hands go up.

Teachers know that this scenario is all too common, especially in high school.  Scenarios like this cause exasperation among teachers.  Why wouldn’t it?  The teacher worked hard to prepare lessons, provide feedback and give students every opportunity to succeed.  But in the end the majority of students failed to hold up their end of the bargain.  They failed to complete the homework and/or they failed to adequately prepare for the test.  So what is to be done?  First, let’s consider the conventional approach.

The conventional approach would be something like this: the teacher hands back the test, gives the students a talk about the importance of studying and hard work, tells them they will be able to overcome the poor grade if they work harder in the future, and then move on to the next topic.  After all, students need to learn to be responsible.  If they gave students another opportunity on the test, wouldn’t that be unfair to the five kids who studied and were successful?  Being a student means completing your work outside of class and if you fail to do so, your poor grade will hopefully teach you not to make the same mistake in the future.  What’s lost in this whole approach, however, is that the subject matter that the teacher just spent the past several weeks teaching was not learned by the majority of students.  What’s more, those same students are now moving on to different, presumably more complex material, without the requisite knowledge and skills.  In short, things could get ugly very quickly.

So back to my conversation.  The teacher asked a simple question: “What should I do if most of my students fail an important summative test?”  Our answer: “Make them take it again.”  The rationale behind this lies directly in the mindset we as educators need to possess, and that is there is nothing more important than knowing that the students have learned what it is they need to know.  What about the few students who did well?  Give them extra credit, or allow them to earn an even higher grade.  It won’t hurt them.  It will, however, hurt the many students who failed to learn the material if the teacher simply moves on to the next topic.

This sounds so simple- but in reality so many things get in the way.  I have spoken to a number of teachers who have felt that they can’t accept late work, or give re-takes on assessments, or employ reward systems for students, because it does not fit with the “rules” that are set up.  The “rules” I am referring to are the grading systems used by most traditional high schools.  These systems are characterized by identifying categories (i.e. homework, classwork, quizzes, tests) and assigning them weighted percentages.  In this system, the final grade represents an average of what students have completed based on the categories and weights.  Under this system, a student can fail a quiz, get extra help on the material from the quiz, learn the material, improve her grade on the test, but still get punished for not knowing the material on the quiz.  This system is broken.  The rules are not fair.

So what are teachers to do?  The simple answer: break the rules!  The rules we have established reflect what we value.  The current rules in most traditional high school value teacher convenience and student compliance over fairness and learning.  Good teachers consider student learning to be the ultimate “non-negotiable” in their classroom.  They treat each student as an individual, and they adjust their practices accordingly to maximize the possibilities for all students to reach the high standards that are set for them.  It is universally believed that confidence begets learning, and that confidence grows from the establishment of respect, fairness, trust and kindness.  While most teachers possess all of these wonderful qualities, the rules they employ to grade and rank students do not.  I recommend that teachers approach their job with the following mindset: “Above everything else, the most important aspect of my job is to maximize the number of students who can independently demonstrate the essential knowledge and skills that I am teaching.”  This mindset ought to be the foundation for every decision a teacher makes, and this should be especially true in regards to how they report student progress and assign grades.  Because all students care a great deal about the grades they receive, the actions we take as educators has a direct effect on student attitude, confidence and likelihood of future success.

It is my contention that teachers consider student growth when it comes to grading, and that school and district leaders consider reporting systems that are tied to proficiency standards, rather than just percentages.  At the very least, school leaders need to communicate to teachers that they are encouraged to employ best practices and exercise sound professional judgment when it comes to assessing and grading students.  It is patently foolish to allow an outdated, antiquated system of grading stand in the way of personalizing and maximizing the learning in the classroom.  I sincerely hope the current reforms shaping public education result in a reporting process that is more personalized, informative and fair.  It will require a creative approach, one in which student progress is reported in a way that reflects the mindset held by outstanding educators.  That is one change I have no doubt will be for the better.

Have a great week, everyone!  Happy Thanksgiving!


School Climate and Culture

One of the most important responsibilities of any educational leader is to establish and maintain a respectful learning environment.  Effective leaders are always “taking the pulse” of the school to assess the overall level of stress, confusion, exasperation or any other feelings that could contribute to negative energy within the building.  I’ve always been a believer in the fact that an appropriate level of stress is healthy and necessary to lead of life of purpose and accomplishment.  It is a careful balance.  In most cases, the trick to maintaining a respectful school culture is doing the “little things” on a regular basis to make sure that all stakeholders feel empowered, respected and valued members of an important and purposeful cause that is bigger than themselves.  Here are a few routines I believe contribute to a respectful school culture:

1) Providing accurate and timely feedback Too often, we as educators pass up opportunities to give positive feedback to those who demonstrate growth, or simply do a good job.  I’m a big believer that positive recognition is infectious.  If others witness their peers being recognized (sometimes with a simple mention at a faculty meeting or an announcement over the intercom), they are more likely to want to follow suit to receive the recognition themselves.  Just as important, school leaders must be sure to address instances of negative behavior in order to communicate the fact that actions that run contrary to a positive environment are not acceptable.

2) Celebrate successes– It is so important to acknowledge positive gains made by students and teachers.  One of the most beneficial aspects of reviewing student data is that it gives us the ability to identify our areas of growth.  By taking the time to celebrate these gains, leaders are building capacity for future success.  It is unfortunate that sometimes opportunities are missed to celebrate our collective successes, and in doing so we fail to enjoy the rewards of our hard work.

3) Practice active listening– When  I became a principal I received advice that I have never forgotten.  I was told that if somebody chooses to speak to me, it is important for me to realize that even though I may have far more important matters on my mind, that I respect the fact that if they chose to speak to me about it, it is important to them.  Typically, the principal is not consulted unless it is a matter of significance.  For this reason, it is crucial that stakeholders feel confident that leaders are actively listening to their concerns and following up as necessary.

4) Seek input from all stakeholders– When individuals feel as though they have no say in any of the decisions that affect them, they tend to project a negative attitude towards their work.  It is the responsibility of the school leader to ensure that a process exists for all individuals to contribute ideas on how to improve the working environment.  Leaders must provide avenues for student, parent and teacher participation and input, and they must consider this input when making decisions.

5) Articulate a vision, then empower others to make a difference– School leaders must utilize an inclusive process in order to establish a vision that is clear, meaningful and appropriate.  Once articulated, leaders must empower stakeholders to carry the vision through according to their own experiences.  By doing this, leaders are more likely to establish a school culture that is self-policed, as all stakeholders will have invested their own work in the actions and behaviors of the larger group.

Establishing a school culture of respect and rigor is an essential component of any successful school.  School leaders must be the catalyst of this culture by establishing norms and expectations of how business is done on a daily basis.  Have a great week, everyone!