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  • Writer's pictureMitch Center

Tips for Principal Managers, Volume 1: Top Three / Bottom Three

How can principal managers support the leaders they serve?

Here's an understatement for you: If school leaders report up to you - whether you are a Superintendent, Deputy/Assistant Superintendent, Network Leader, Managing Director, or if you hold some other title - you are a busy individual dealing with a multitude of issues on any given day. So how do you keep your eyes instructionally focused, and multiply the impact of your role and influence to support the instructional leaders on your team? This series of blog posts "Tips for Principal Managers," is designed to help busy managers of principals to help them maximize their effectiveness.

Top Three / Bottom Three

When I was an Assistant Superintendent in Newark New Jersey I supported 14 schools and 4 early childhood sites. As I made my rounds to various schools, one of the questions I explored with leaders was this: "Who are your top 3 teachers (and why)? And which 3 (or fewer) teachers are you most concerned about?" From there we would explore ways to leverage the talent in the building, while also managing the next steps for the teachers who were having a less positive influence on the students in their charge.

There are at least two good reasons to do this:

First and foremost, we need to know where our talent is. Which teachers should be exercising leadership amongst the faculty? Who should people visit? Who might have great resources that many teachers would benefit from? Who engages kids in creative ways? Who plans well, builds strong relationships with all kids? Which teachers, if you had your own kid in the school, would you cross your fingers for hoping your kid would spend the year with them? Leaders of principals need to ask these questions, and to get to know these teachers, because we want to support them, learn from them, and find every way we can to grow their influence. And we shouldn't be shy about this. Sales teams know who sells the most, baseball teams arrange their batting orders according to hit production, and only 5 players on a basketball team are starters. So who are they? Who are your starters? Your all-stars? Who, if they could be replicated, would take your school to a whole new level?

Secondly, and I truly mean that this should only happen after we explore who the best teachers are, we need to identify our lowest performing or neediest teachers. Sometimes this is a new teacher who with time and practice and coaching will emerge as a great teacher, and sometimes the folks in this category are veterans who despite their years of experience (and sometimes, because of their years of experience), are no longer a positive influence on the kids they serve. For whatever the reason, principals need to know who these people are, and they need to know how they will support them. Opening the door for these conversations, and ensuring that this work is getting done, is largely the responsibility of principal managers. Principals need this support, and can usually only be effective in naming and strategizing about how to support these educators when - and only when - they have the direct support of their immediate supervisors.

Principal managers - Supts / Assistant Supts / Network Leaders / Managing Directors - is this something you have done? Do you have a variation of this practice that you'd like to share? If so, please share away and let's use the space in the comments to exchange ideas.

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