To Strengthen Educator Relationships, Transparency is Key


Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.”  ~ Bill Bradley

My organization, EDspired, has been collaborating with a PK-3 school to develop and implement a comprehensive teacher professional growth and evaluation process.  It is through this collaboration that I discovered and recommended implementing TeachBoost’s instructional leadership platform.

After an unexpected change in leadership during second semester, the assistant principals are now serving as interim principals and I am serving as their leadership coach.

My team had a key decision to make regarding evaluation: Pick up where the former school leader left off and continue the processes that were in place, or start with reminding the staff of the importance of the what, how, and why of teacher evaluations. This often allows for more ownership and understanding of the process.

Typically, we would start with the WHAT:

  • Implementing the teacher evaluation and growth process with fidelity

After that, we’d move on to the HOW:

  • Pre-observation document
  • Observation schedule
  • Post-observation conferences

And sometimes, we’d discuss the WHY:

  • Observations are important because they are the best way to offer contextualized, constructive, meaningful feedback rooted in the evidence of actual classroom practice.

Then I saw this quote on Twitter’s #tchat: “Great workplaces often share a sense of transparency and empowerment, they want employees to feel invested and informed.”  This sparked some new thinking on my part on how I can support the school leaders with their work.  I remember learning about Sinek’s Golden Circle, and realized, we must always start with why.golden-circle

To create change, we need to inspire the teachers.  In an effort to build relationships with staff, transparency is key.

So in this case, we started with the WHY.  As a leadership team, a few of the questions we discussed to really dissect the WHY were:

  • Why is the evaluation process important and how can we communicate this with the teachers?
  • Why will the teachers sometimes see more than one administrator in their rooms at the same time?
  • Why is it important for the school to have a common language when discussing teaching and learning?
  • Why will excellent teaching lead to higher achievement with students?

To create change, we need to inspire the teachers. In an effort to build relationships with staff, transparency is key.  It also happens to be one of TeachBoost’s core values, so using their tool introduced greater visibility and accountability into the observation and development process.

We are starting with the end in mind and expect to get more teachers to truly take ownership once they understand that the purpose of our professional growth and evaluation process is to ensure teacher quality and promote professional development. We want to move towards using this concept of the Golden Circle in everything we do to create positive change and inspire the staff.

We will get feedback from staff in the fall as to their perceptions and experiences of the process and how to make sure we get it right this time.  Stay tuned!



Giving Thanks


I had the great pleasure of visiting a variety of schools this past month.  I love to capture what I see, hear, and experience especially in the hallways and when no one knows I am observing!  I should have taken pictures or videos, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment and not be fully present during my visits.  I am thankful for the educators who are the models for why we choose to do this difficult work on a daily basis.  We spend a lot of time “teacher bashing” – we need to celebrate educators more and on a more frequent basis!

Here are some highlights:

  • watching young children (3-6 year olds) eagerly choose a book to read while waiting in the lobby to be picked up and invite their friends to come read with them
  •  teachers chatting after school in the hallway about their day with smiles on their faces and talking about their kids with passion and love
  •  staff interacting with parents in the hallways during dismissal, knowing every parent by name and knowing specific details about their children
  •  working with teacher leaders that are excited about coaching – when establishing expectations for our meetings, one fellow said,  “outside of the box thinking” – what a fabulous norm.  We should always be thinking differently and I hope to foster that.
  •  observing a Socratic Seminar in a middle school where the teacher is truly facilitating or observing from the sidelines and students own the process
  • observing an elementary school math lesson where students were working in small groups and enthusiastically talking about math
  • listening to young entrepreneurs from the middle east share how they are working to change the trajectory for youth in their countries
  • facilitating professional development sessions at a Common Core conference with educators in Dubai, UAE who were so gracious and invested in learning new strategies

As a school principal, I would capture the good that I saw in children, teachers and even parents and guardians.  I made it a priority send a hand written note (at least twice a year) in the mail thanking someone for something they had done to impact the life of a child in our school.  Although it seems like such a minor gesture, my staff was always grateful to be acknowledged in that way.  Don’t get me wrong, I always had chocolate in my office as well!

How do you thank those that are making an impact in your school?  How would you like to be acknowledged?

So You Want to Facilitate a Webinar

I participate in many webinars and usually I am disgruntled as I think to myself, why am I participating if the presenter is just reading the sides out loud?  This time, I was on the other side of the screen…I was the facilitator…and I bombed!  I learned how challenging it really is to facilitate online learning as there are so many moving parts.  This experience led me to a metacognitive moment…thinking about my thinking and my process.

Lessons learned:

1.  Practice, practice, practice- don’t just practice what you are going to say, practice using the “virtual classroom space”

2.  Make sure your speaker and mic are both ON

3.  Provide frequent pauses to read and respond to questions by participants so that it’s as interactive as possible, especially when your audience is only participating through a Q&A box

4.  If you are going to use the cursor – use it!  Otherwise, it’s a distraction

5.  Revisit step one

The End in Mind

I had the privilege of working as part of a team implementing the transformation model for school improvement for a struggling school in NE Washington, DC.  In the year and a half that we worked with the staff, we supported building a foundation to transform beliefs and practices.  The teachers reflected upon their personal and professional goals during their one on one conferences in June.

Check out the brief video highlighting some of their powerful work:

The End in Mind