Monthly Archives: April 2014

Building a Learning Culture for Teachers part 2 of 5

The Principal must be the “Lead Learning” in his or her school. We must walk the walk and talk the talk. We must keep the main thing the main thing. We know that the more the teacher learns and practices with guidance and coaching, the better they will be able to help his or teachers help their students to learn and achieve success.

Here are five factors I believe helped build a learning culture at my school:

  1. Provide feedback to teachers and communicate continuously that I value the teaching profession and them as individuals.
  2. Share with teachers my personal growth journey
  3. Provide actionable formative feedback using non-bias and factual statements that highlight strengths and something to think about
  4. Provide resources for teachers to access professional development and collaboration time.
  5. Hire teachers who demonstrate that they are continuous learners.

In this post I will focus on the second factor.  Click the link to read part 1 of 5

Factor 2: Share with teachers my personal growth journey. It is important to share my learning goals and my plan to achieve those goals. I must model the culture I want for my school. Teacher need to see and hear what I am learning, how I go about learning it, and what impact my learning has to improve my ability to serve and support teachers, students, and parents. Teachers need to know that I am continuously learning new things, working to refine existing skills, and that I am on the life-long learning journey along with them.

I need to share how I learn from my mistakes and how I am a better administrator because of the experiences and collaboration I have had with teachers. Teachers need to know that they have a positive impact on my learning. I spend time thanking specific teachers for their specific contribution. One teacher might have shared an article that really helped me think about a situation a new way, or I might watch a teacher teach a lesson and demonstrate a different approach to helping children improve their mastery of an academic standard. Taking time to thank teachers helps communicate I value their work and contribution to our profession on a global and personal level.

Teachers need to know that I value their time. They need to know that time they spend on professional development is important. Therefore, I attend and participate in 90% of the Professional Development that teachers in my school attend. Sometimes I lead the Professional Development, other times I recruit teachers from our school or outside of our school to lead the learning.

I also share the results of my evaluations and feedback surveys that teachers have had the opportunity to provide about my work as a principal. I believe this transparent step breaks down barriers and shows that I am willing to listen to feedback and show teachers how their feedback compares with other teachers feedback about my service. I share what I plan to do to improve in all aspects of my leadership. I ask teachers to do more than provide feedback as a formative/summative appraisal, I ask them to help me in the action plan to improve.

Ultimately being a transparent servant leader who models and conducts professional dialogue with teachers on a continuous basis is key to building the learning culture for teachers.

What are other ways you have model the importance of professional development?  How have you built a learning culture for teachers at your school or district?

Building a Learning Culture for Teachers

Part 1 of 5 – Building a Learning Culture for Teachers

As a principal of an elementary school I am tasked with providing feedback to teachers about instructional and professional practice via the district-adopted teacher appraisal system.

Lots of teachers throughout our country are writing and talking about how disappointed, angry, and humiliated they feel because of the feedback provided to them on their appraisal system. I can honestly say I have not experienced this dissatisfied movement from teachers at my school.

As I reflect back on why teachers across our nation are responding negatively to the feedback, I must wonder to what did I do to help build a culture for learning so that feedback is seen as a growth opportunity and not a “gotcha” moment at my school.  Feedback is seen as an opportunity to learn and improve.

 Here are five factors I believe helped build a learning culture at my school:

  1. Provide feedback to teachers and communicate continuously that I value the teaching profession and them as individuals.
  2. Share with teachers my personal growth journey
  3. Provide actionable formative feedback using non-bias and factual statements that highlight strengths and something to think about
  4. Provide resources for teachers to access professional development and collaboration time.
  5. Hire teachers who demonstrate that they are continuous learners.

In this post I will focus on the first factor.

Provide feedback to teachers and communicate continuously that I value the teaching profession and them as individuals. Spending time to get to know your teacher’s on a personal level and having conversations about their personal interest like how many children they have, knowing the names of their children, know what sports or activities their children participate, learn what hobbies or educational topics the teacher has a passion and interest. As the express goes “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Beginning on a genuine positive note helps minimize the “He does not like me”, “He is just out to get me” “the only time I see him is during observations” thoughts and feelings. Notice I said minimizes, there are always some people who just don’t like or agree with me.

I read about highly effective leaders. One common trait of highly effective leaders is that they express appreciation. I hardwire into my daily routine to write two thank you notes everyday to different people in my school. Taking time to write hand written notes has had the greatest impact on teacher for building a positive relationship. Along with writing hand written notes, making hospital visits, attending funerals, and sending birthday and get-well cards also are high relationship builders.

During my conversations with teacher I share information about my family and my personal interests. I want our relationship to grow mutually.

Having done these five things has really transformed our school into a learning culture for teachers and myself as an educational leader. The transformation did not occur over night. I have had the privilege to work in the same school for the past seven years. Together we have watched and assisted each other through our triumphs and redo’s. We are a more effective faculty because of the process we participated together.

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Have you found others factors to be key to building a learning culture for teachers? I would love to read about it.

Loyalty and Appreciation from the Surgical Table

This past Friday, I received a panic phone call from my mother telling me that my father currently having emergency surgery to save his life. She did not know a lot of details and was very confused. You need to understand that my mother is Japanese and speaks English well, but when she is stressed her ability to comprehend English diminishes greatly. I told my mother I would pick her up and we would go to the hospital right away.

I informed by Assistant Principal that I had to leave right away, and explained quickly what was happening to my father. As you can imagine, she was very supportive and helped close our school for the weekend.

A few hours later, my father came through his surgery well. He will spend a few weeks at home recovering, but he is expected to make a full recovery. While I am very grateful that my father is on the road to recovery, what touched my heart the most was the response I received from my school family.

I sent an email explaining my father’s situation and told the faculty and staff that if they needed me to call my cell phone. I shared that my schedule was going to be very unpredictable as I will need to take care of my aging parents. So many people responded by email and text messages genuinely offering assistance and placing my father and my family on various prayer chains.

My Director of Elementary Education sent an email to all my principal colleagues sharing the news about my father and I received so many responses from my principal friends as well. My Director assured me that she was willing to help wherever and however was needed.

My Superintendent, made a visit to the hospital the next morning to check on my father and called me personally to make sure if I had any needs he could assist. You need to know that my Superintendent does this for all employees. He makes hospital visits, attends funerals, as well as special events at schools, and various academic, sports competition, art shows, and performances.

I am so Blessed to work in a school and district that people reach out in everyone’s time of need to pitch in and help. It was different for me to receive this out pouring of support and love. Usually, I am the one making hospital visits, phone calls, prayers, and sending hand written notes and cards. This weekend, I was the one in need and the very people I spend each day joyfully serving, did these things for me. Writing about this experience still brings tears to my eyes.

My Superintendent has build his leadership on the premise of Servant Leadership and has created and lived out a vision for our district: To be a place where students want to learn, parents want to send their children, teachers want to teach, and employees want to work.

My loyalty and appreciation for the people in my school and district will forever be strong. I am grateful to serve in a school and district that not only can recite our district’s vision; but also truly live it out.

Never underestimate the difference a kind word, expression of appreciation, a brief visit, a simple phone call can make for people in their time of need. James C. Penney has stated, “It is the service we are not obligated to give that people value the most.”

I love what I do and with whom I serve, but after this weekend, I am even more committed to serve and share the love we have for people.