Getting to Know the Principal
This week’s activity of writing questions to ask an administrator was interesting. I went back in my files to look at the questions we wrote last year when I was on the principal search committee. I wish I knew then what I know now. Most of our questions related to the candidate’s skill rather than relationships. I learned that you learn a great deal more about a person from asking questions that bring out answers like, “I’d find out what their interests are and focus on their strengths.”
Last summer I interviewed for a position much like my current position except it was for a district rather than a school. The person who interviewed me said something similar to what I heard this week. You can teach anyone a skill. That’s easy. Finding a good match relates to the candidates ability to develop good relationships with others. That made a great deal of sense.
For an administrator to be effective, it’s probably less important for her to know a great deal about a particular program or strategy and more important for her to be willing to learn and willing to support others as they learn.
As it turns out, I didn’t get the job because I didn’t have the right skills, or knowledge. I’m sure I would have been great, but it is hard to convey my effectiveness in developing relationships in a 45-minute conversation.
The Beginning of Learning Something New
The first day of class, we talked a great deal about change. Implementing change is a very difficult task. From my observation, one of the most important first steps is convincing the community that change is necessary. The community has to see the vision and continue to see it throughout the process. Without understanding the value of the change, so many are complacent and remain with the status quo.
In my own school, we have purchased new textbooks and are trying to learn how to teach writing. The writing program called 6 Traits has been around for a long time. It is research driven and and a very widely used program. For the teachers in my school, it is quite different than what they are used to.
Before the program was purchased and before we were given the first of many teacher inservices, the principal (who retired at the end of last year) showed the comparison of our writing scores to those of the neighboring public schools. The results were glaring. We clearly needed a better way to teach writing. Our scores in writing were far below those of children in the public schools. The teachers were convinced and seem to be willing to look at the 6 Traits and adjust their way of thinking. The first step seem to go well.
As the process continues, it becomes increasingly difficult the maintain the momentum. Some teachers, although they recognize that children need to learn to write, find it difficult to completely change their current teaching strategies. For example, it’s hard for some to give up the grammar workbook.
The struggle to implement change is that many forget the vision. They lose sight of why they have to expend the effort to learn a program, it’s vocabulary, the teaching strategies, and assessment techniques.
Change is necessary for growth. It is difficult to understand why teachers are not willing to change. It must be extremely difficult for the administration to keep reminding those resistant to change of the goal – to increase student acheivement. It must be such a bore to have to keep reminding those resistant to change why change is necessary.
I wonder what “The Change Game” is.