PRINCIPAL INTERNSHIP FINAL REPORT
The Faculty of Educational Leadership
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Principal Internship Program
in Educational Leadership
August 12, 2010
Career and Leadership Goals
My career goals of achieving increased leadership responsibilities in the “kids business” of education may well be leading me to a difficult choice. I say this because I would probably need to give up one passion (athletic coaching) to gain another. I find this interesting as the extra duties in coaching have helped to prepare me well for the role of principal. I may well achieve the position of Head Football Coach and Athletic Director (I have served in this capacity in the past) or Coordinator and/or the position Assistant Principal or Principal. It may be too that they could be combined. I think it is unlikely but it has been done before and I mention it because it may well be the best fit for me. It may also be that I don’t want to give up the passion of the Friday night lights in Texas. I have also considered that my own leadership path may include stints as a curriculum coach or coordinator. I definitely need to continue to seek excellent professional development to stay familiar with best practices in regards to curriculum and instructional methods. The Curriculum Coordinator role would be a great step towards campus leadership as curriculum best practices would be linked with helping improve student learning in a particular subject area or areas. This would help one see a larger picture of the campus leadership puzzle before taking on the whole itself as principal or assistant principal. The position of superintendent of a small to medium sized school district is the ultimate goal.
It is my desire as a leader to first and foremost model positive behavior contributing to a positive campus culture and climate as a team player who knows his role. Saint Francis of Assisi said “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” We are characterized by what we do and not what we say we will do. Knowing the importance of my own role in the big picture is already a form of habit for me with my athletic team playing and coaching experience playing an invaluable part in this understanding. Unselfish (good) players sacrifice individually for the team good. In a professional learning community everyone makes individual sacrifices so that as a campus team we can improve student learning. The common bond of the shared campus vision must be so strong that it is unbreakable. Research also points out this important fact regarding vision (Brown, Danzig, Flanary, Martin, Martin and Wright, 2005). I would also like to find the perfect balance of that double edged sword between mercy and justice in dealing with all staff, students, and stakeholders as an instructional leader. All leaders need to be good followers and team players and team builders focusing on student learning. I would strive to do the same.
In the leadership fundamentals class I discovered self strengths and weaknesses and different leadership styles. I learned it is often times more pragmatic in many areas of leadership management to utilize a situational approach (Arterbury, E.2009). This is especially true in the area of decision making. Leaders must be careful here to assess the five factors of time, staff interest, staff expertise, importance and degree of needed buy-in as discussed in School Leader Internship (Brown, Danzig, Flanary, Martin, Martin and Wright, 2005). The Keirsey and Bates personality test online was also very beneficial. I know I would need to seek professional development and continue to utilize reflection to improve identified weaknesses while building on strengths. More specifically in an actual leadership situation I could match my own (and staffs) strengths and weaknesses to a campus needs assessment. This would allow me to see where I would need to focus on most in personal and professional growth.
When it comes to accomplishments my most highly valued are those that have been team oriented. These include Eagle Scout, team football captain in high school, and being a coaching staff member on many successful athletic teams and campus PLC teams at Denison High School and other schools where I have taught and coached. In my internship activities I learned to be a better team member and team builder in a professional learning community focusing on improving student learning. I learned that “grass roots” collaboration and teams are the heart of the positive change process in the school building as long as the focus is the common vision of improving learning. In our world history team we developed an understanding of the philosophy of common formative assessments. We also put this philosophy into practice choosing “power standards” in our curriculum (Ainsworth, L. 2003). We also addressed successfully the difference between formative and summative assessments and what that means to our learning community if we are to put scientifically based research best practices into use. This was really a challenge as it gets to the heart of a real change in practice which means a change in grading practices or a move to a true mastery learning approach. I also learned that change involves conflict and that conflict is a natural part of the growth process. In our school community we learned that it is vital to be “believers” in the school vision as the alternative is not a part of the solution to move student learning to maximum potential (Muhammad, A., 2008). We are still as always a work in progress but I am very proud to have helped in being a part of this positive change in our learning community at Denison High School. I look forward with excitement, anticipation, and confidence that continued future team successes lay just ahead.
Reflection as a practice is as old as man himself. Great philosophers and writers of the past like the classic Greeks Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates pondered deeply their own actions and the actions of mankind. It is indeed important for school leaders to “know thyself” in developing positive relationships in meeting the needs of those around you while developing trust in the school community (Arterbury, E., 2009). In the world of education in America one can go all the way back to John Dewey who wrote about how the practice of reflection could benefit education in the early part of the 20th century (Dewey, J. 1922). Unfortunately the practice of reflection has not been popularized among school administrators until more recently. Realizing the importance of my own continued growth as a lifelong learner has been one of the great rewards of reflective writing. I now realize that self reflection takes practice and indeed is a fundamental key for successful leaders. The reflective writing practices developed through the Lamar internship helped form the habit of thought leading to the act of applying the practice itself. One of the common ways I now reflect is through blogging. This would not have been possible without the training I received in the technology class. Now I often find myself thinking of what neat experiences or learning challenges I can share on the blog site. I also look forward to interacting and getting opinions and ideas from others. The reflective habit of ‘looking back” helps me to see and understand what has occurred that was right and wrong according to “best practices” and how to learn to be flexible to change in actual application always looking at it from a “learning first” perspective. The habit of reflection has affirmed and confirmed in me that the collaborative process is the best process to enable student learning at it’s fullest. During this process I also have taken time to compare and contrast coaching athletic sports on the field versus teaching in the classroom. My conclusion confirms what I have already been told so many times. A good coach is also a good teacher. The two go hand in hand. The coaches that I have observed utilize cutting edge technology (video editing systems) to give faster learner feedback than the teachers I have observed that do not coach. Coaches have also always “gone to the data” (opponent tendencies and self scout) to improve best practices and learning and collaborated frequently in formal and informal meetings to assure the best possible performance. Coaches and teachers alike can now use technology to gain faster learner feedback and also to improve communication and collaboration with stakeholders. This will of course help in reaching the ultimate goal of achieving the best possible outcomes in both the classroom and on the field of play.
In teaching world history I often address the following question from students. “Why do we need to learn about something that happened so long ago”? My answer is always “you don’t know what direction you are headed in if you don’t know where you are coming from.” Then I explain how knowledge of the past shapes the future and that those who can learn from the past without making some of the same or similar mistakes of those before them are viewed more favorably in history due to their wisdom and intelligence. They did not have to learn “the hard way” but learned from studying and analyzing the past. I think that the practice of personal reflection is very similar. One who can set aside time to review the day learning from what happened is very wise. This means that many mistakes are not repeated and that future problems are dealt with proactively. The proactive administrator is certainly an effective administrator (Nicks, R., 2010). Raised as a Roman Catholic I was taught a young child what we call an “examination of conscience”. This is the practice of daily reflection focusing on my actions and thoughts that either pleased or displeased God. I was encouraged to find a special place and time daily to do this examination so that it would become a form of habit. I am very thankful because this habit makes it easier for me to see the benefits of self-reflection in the future to improve not just as an individual but as a school administrator given the responsibility to impact the lives of many learners in whom I am entrusted to lead and guide in a positive manner
Domain I School Community Leadership
Competency 001 – The principal knows how to shape campus culture by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community.
My internship experience with our school principal, Dr. Cavin Boettger, has been tremendous. I feel very fortunate that we have a leader with such high expectations and strong vision. He has matched his passion in achieving the worthy goal of maximizing student success with superb understanding and patience. This very patient, persistent, and realistic approach to change has been awesome. The school community has to know that this process of creating a vision shared by all is not quick; it is a slow process over time that requires buy in from all parties to create a culture where student learning can occur. During my sales career we always talked about dealing with customer objections to the sale and overcoming these objections. Dr. Boettger certainly has some salesman in him. Objections are listened to intently as part of the collaborative process. In this process though Dr. Boettger makes sure we value student learning first and our own pet peeves or smaller sacrifices are second. This passion flows to staff and we usually follow suit. Nobody ever said that positive change and growth would be easy. Many times change is difficult. Even in difficult times his example has proven to us all that the hard work is worth it. The rewards of team success and seeing each individual student achieve are great.
I have spent a great deal of my intern time pondering, reflecting, and being involved with campus vision. As a member of the social studies department and world history team I play a part in helping create a campus culture that highly values student learning first, collaboration, and changes in support of our campus vision. I have spent over 50 hours on this all important point of vision and campus culture in school leadership. I have analyzed it from many viewpoints including all stakeholders. I believe that my natural strengths (mainly in relationship skills) play well to this area of school leadership. I think that a real key to the vision is confidence in knowing that the change can occur. This passionate belief is spilled out and becomes contagious. That being said I know I have much to learn in this competency area. A passion for a shared vision is essential but from my observations it is just as important to implement the steady and reliable progress of rewarding and analyzing the little successes and failures along the way. Rome was not built in a day and a real and lasting positive school change certainly will take longer.
Domain I School Community Leadership
Competency 002 – A principal is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by collaborating with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and need, mobilizing community resources.
Communication and collaboration are both critical for positive school change to occur. I learned about “norms” for our world history and social studies team meetings so that the stage for success is set in a very professional way. We respect each other as professionals because we respect our mission of improving student learning to the highest possible level working as a team. We buy in to the fact that there is strength in numbers and divided we will surely fail. I have learned in the internship that research data strongly supports this. I learned also that we must now transform our thinking into systems thinking. We are all unique individual team players part of a much greater whole (a team) with a mission to improve learning. This norm now understood as part of our process allows us to benefit from all team players rowing the boat in unison to the same drum beat. Valuing ideas as neutral is something else I learned. No one idea is good or bad in general. They just might not be the right fit for our situation now. Always be thankful when information is shared in meetings. Stakeholder consensus must be reached on some delicate issues. I have learned we often have to put learners in front of our egos.
Learning to view conflict as a natural process in growth as a learning community is something I have learned too. I took part in a role play activity involving this during the internship. Realizing the success of our own campus collaboration has helped me also to know that collaboration works. Our curriculum coordinator Shonda Cannon helped me too by sharing in an interview with me about collaboration. Through collaboration we have addressed the issues of establishing our own team norms for meetings, improving learning by differentiating instructional techniques, ongoing development of common assessments (formative and summative), mastery grading, and supporting our counseling staff in a project to improve parent and guardian relationships with staff. I have put in well over 60 hours of work in this area during my internship. My understanding of this practice of collaboration has vastly improved. The collaborative process again plays to one of my personal strengths of relationships. I hope to continue to grow in this area especially learning new ideas from shared knowledge that is readily available and of course professional development. I can sum up by saying that when communication is open between the school and community it makes life as an administrator much easier.
Domain I School Community Leadership
Competency 003– A principal is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by acting with integrity and fairness, and in an ethical manner.
I have mentioned in the first part of this paper my own lofty intent to let my actions as a school leader speak louder than my words. These actions are of no use if they are not based on solid values. I also mentioned that balancing the double edged sword of mercy and justice would be a chief goal in achieving true leadership status. Without reflective practice (mentioned previously in this paper) it would not be possible for me to improve in this area of ethics. I learned that students also need theses high values along with their high academic expectations and they will not get them many times unless we provide them as educators. Teachers will also find it easier to promote and model good high values if their educational leader does the same. Our values are the foundation in decision making, relationships, and discipline. I learned in class that it is important to not overlook values when it comes to the hiring process. I was told in an interview for class that a leader should hire and be surrounded by good people. I now know that this is an understatement. A leader must be surrounded by with exceptional people. A great example of this is our principal and his site based committee. They truly do a wonderful job of modeling great values for our staff and kids. Modeling good values in every-day life and in school helps promote student learning and success.
The code of ethics mind walk helped me realize the importance of ethics for educators. This really rings home as ethics have hit close to home recently for me. Two area educators have lost their jobs, families, and credibility due to improper relations with a student. It also brings to light some injustices that still exist with double standards also in our society as it is easily brushed under the table too often when a female teacher has improper relations with a male student but put the situation in reverse and things are often different. Very unacceptable either way but it says a lot about our society. The conversation I had with a retired educator also was informative as to ethics. Mr. John Terry mentioned many of the changes in how schools operated and how kids learn today. He modeled this flexibility and is a very true teacher in the sense of do “whatever it takes” within reason. He himself continues to model strong ethics and is an impressive lifelong learner. I have grown in this area during the internship again mainly by utilizing reflective practice and using this awareness to improve on weaknesses and build on strengths. I believe this is area has become a strength for me now that I have over thirty hours of work in this area.
Domain II Instructional Leadership
Competency 004 – A principal is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by facilitating the design and implementation of curricula and strategic plans that enhance teaching and learning; alignment of curriculum, curriculum, resources, and assessment; and the use of various forms of assessment to measure student performance.
Assessments and data collected from student assessments are crucial in planning and making decisions on curricula design and implementation. Assessments let you know your areas of strengths and weaknesses. This data allows you to measure your students against the state and make adjustments in curriculum where needed to achieve student success. This also allows you to allocate resources for the improvement of weaknesses found from administering the assessments. In my internship I conducted a data-driven, comprehensive needs assessment using the latest AYP and AEIS data, a multi-year history of this data, and a comparable improvement report. Reviewing the data from this perspective is definitely different than looking at it as a social studies teacher. My belief in our campus as a learning community has grown. The numbers of progress do not lie. Looking at the 7 year trends form the Multi year history showed how far we have come to depend on and analyze data as educators in Texas and that it is working! It points my thoughts to our current struggles in scheduling on our campus to find a way to Reward those who “got it” and enrich those who want it, while being uncompromising in dealing with those that still need it but did not get it yet and those who don’t want to get it. I learned that their area variety of data resources available and that the key to success in analyzing and using the data to improve is collaboration and being flexible to understand that we will get what we emphasize as educators. We just need to know sometimes where to focus on as group and as an individual. This enables us to respond appropriately with proper instructional practices emphasizing our needs areas. I spent over 45 hours on my internship in this area and feel strongly that I am not close in fully knowing how to use this data in the best way possible. I know we are constantly adapting and trying to respond as fast as possible to learner needs. Technology even allows us now to get faster feedback to learners in the classroom. I really want to and still need to improve in this area as I realize the importance of fast effective learner feedback in improving learning and adapting instruction appropriately.
Domain II Instructional Leadership
Competency 005 – A principal is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a campus culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
Nurturing and sustaining a positive campus culture has been key in our success at Denison High School. I learned that this takes place slowly and with “little things” that become big things when we are not tuned in to them or attentive as we need to be. Here I find it quite helpful in that accomplishing this positive culture in the school building the principal must be clear in communicating what areas he or she is “loose” and “tight” on in regards to policy and pet peeves. We have been very fortunate in this area too as our staff as a whole takes our campus instructional leaders example and follows suit with great communication.
I learned how to develop leadership skills by leading a world history team meeting on moving to common formative assessments. It seems we are now constantly improving our assessment questions to improve alignment. We share access to tests on the district shared drive now so sharing is easier. This is for sure a learned process that just takes time to get used to in your school culture but we are definitely headed in the right direction. Leading discussion and facilitating is easy for me as we are a small group (3 teachers) and also a group that is a very good team. We constantly are sharing ideas and ways to improves classroom practices to improve student learning. This internship activity made me much more aware of how critical alignment is and how we also need to be more sensitive to different learning styles by varying some test practices and coming up with some better alternative assessments. It also helped me learn to promote student success in a positive collaborative fashion. I have gained much confidence in this area in my over 35 hours of intern work. I also feel I have learn to master this through the use of the collaborative team process. I think it is important for the principal to hold this very dear as creating an environment for success is our job as educators. We must find a way for students to be successful. A great attitude by all staff regarding professional development as lifelong learners is critical to achieving maximum student success. I even lined out a professional development activity in my internship activities.
Domain II Instructional Leadership
Competency 006 – A principal is an educational leader, who promotes the success of all students by implementing a staff evaluation and development system to improve the performance of all staff members, selects and implements appropriate models for supervision and staff development, and applies the legal requirements for personnel management.
I learned here that it is vital for teachers being evaluated that the evaluation process is not a “gotcha” opportunity but a chance for personal growth. The focus again is on student learning first so proactive daily improvement should be a habit. It is a habit that must be learned through trust between the evaluator and the teacher. I learned the value of informal campus walks too. Honest feedback and communication based on the common desire to improve student learning is imperative. The legal guidelines and timelines require early and often campus walks and communication between the evaluator and the teacher. During the internship I took the instructional leadership and development course at Region 10. It was quite an experience as I went through three different roles in a mock evaluation. It taught me that I really need to be sensitive as an administrator to teacher feelings while also being honest in the evaluation. Building on strengths is critical in this area. I also like to remember that being collaborative means communicating honestly to improve learning. I conducted a teacher quality survey which looks at factors such as the years of teaching experience of campus teachers, degrees held (bachelor or master), teacher ethnicity, compared with ethnicity of students and community demographics and prepare a report of their findings. This was a great personnel overview. I put in over 30 hours in this competency and feel I have not yet mastered it. I believe my personal skills regarding relationships and communication are good but I need to work on being more timeline oriented if I am to be an administrator in charge of evaluating personnel as timelines are of critical legal importance.
Domain II Instructional Leadership
Competency 007 – A principal is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students through leadership and management of the organization, operations, and resources for safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.
I learned in the internship that all resources must be aligned with the focus of student learning first. This means giving all students a fair chance to learn. Cultural sensitivity training helps accomplish this. Cultural sensitivity training is one area in this competency I also learned more about in the internship as I developed teacher training in this area. Developing this professional development training was a great experience. I learned how the data links directly to meeting student needs and adjusting professional development appropriately. The whole issue of receptivity and effectiveness of the training via feedback is critical too. I learned that addressing concerns and needs quickly is important but not as important as addressing common objections up front. This is vital for a positive school culture. I also learned about proper response to intervention when it comes to meeting the diverse needs of each and every individual student. My internship training taught me that most all response to intervention methods are just best teacher practices that teachers should do or would do to improve learning in students. The concept of differentiating instruction and assessments toward student mastery is critical here. I have spent over 40 hours in this competency area and feel I have strong protective tendencies as a leader that will help me in this area.
Domain III Administrative Leadership
Competency 008 – A principal knows how to apply principles of effective leadership and management in relation to campus budgeting, personnel resources utilization, financial management, and technology use.
The campus administrator is in charge of allocating funds from the campus budget to the appropriate campus areas. The administrator must help to decide where the funds will go. The site based committee and the Campus Improvement Plan (CIP) will guide and assist the administrator as to where and how the monies will be allocated and spent. During my internship I analyzed the processes in place for campus budgeting and the alignment of the budget with the Campus Improvement Plan (CIP). The Budget is developed through the site-based decision making team. The allocation is given from the district and the campus establishes how the monies will be spent due to need. The budget is developed by campus administration and staff. Committees are established to review data for new programs, facility need, and academic weaknesses are reviewed through TAKS data and local assessment.
In my internship I also embraced the concept of the continuous campus improvement cycle. It seems to finally be ingrained after the region 10 leadership training. We must use research to drive our decisions with student learning in mind. I spent more than 30 hours in this area and feel strongly about my need to understand budgets better. I think this stems from my business experience as it improved my knowledge of budgeting but it just seems to cloud the issue regarding school budgeting. The process I do understand and I have also filled out more than one of our school budget forms for money reimbursement.
Domain III Administrative Leadership
Competency 009 – A principal knows how to apply principles of leadership and management to the campus physical plant and support systems to ensure a safe and effective learning environment.
I would like to emphasize the word safe first. In my first interview my principal mentioned this as a priority. We even discussed disaster drills and emergency evacuation plans. Safety must be a consideration always. As a coach I have the habit of noticing obstacles or potential hazards and I constantly adapt to them with the kids safety in mind. I learned that a principal is the same way. He must put safety at the top of the list. Such a basic human need must not ever be overlooked. We should be aware here of bullying and even cyber bullying in regards to safe learning environments nowadays. I think the technology class helped me to see this too. I was security for our graduation last year and also supervised the school parking lots and cafeteria as part of my internship hours. Kids are kids and do not need help getting into any trouble. Supervising students should never be a duty taken lightly. In my observations I found it more necessary now than ever to be proactive in avoiding potential problems. I have spent more than 30 hours on this competency area. I feel it is neither a strength nor weakness for me. I think the physical plant knowledge is often something one must trust others in helping keep safe especially outside contractors. I feel I do have a good general awareness in keeping a safe environment.
School Improvement Activities and Recommendations
I have gained many valuable experiences throughout the eighteen month Lamar principal internship program. I am very fortunate to be a part of the positive growth in our district and on our campus at Denison High School. I realize that this growth is due to an overriding culture fostered by our community (beginning with the board and administration). Our campus leader Dr. Cavin Boettger has emphasized our district belief that we are “better together” (working collaboratively) and our staff buys into his belief and commitment to do “whatever it takes” (within reason) as a staff team to help our students excel to the maximum potential possible. Our district and school and community leaders have also modeled and fostered stakeholder collaboration at all available levels.
We meet collaboratively focusing on the critical issues and concerns of a professional learning community. This team focus includes putting student learning first, choosing our priorities wisely based on research and student data, and constantly sharing information in developing a safe and positive environment for learning. This learning environment is also one where the campus instructional leader allows and encourages teachers in their classrooms to take risks to improve practices. We have teacher mentor and buddy programs in place to help with transitions whether it be a brand new teacher or (as in my case when I was assigned a buddy) an experienced teacher who is on a new campus or in a new role. I believe these programs help the collaboration process as it takes time for employees to adapt to others in relationships in a new working environment. I think the biggest benefit to our learning community is that the communication and directives from the administration to our campus improvement committee and subsequently the subject area and departmental teams is viewed as a two way street. We realize at the grass roots team level that directives are needed and welcomed and we are informed regularly of our collaborative team vision to improve the learning process. We relate well when we communicate with each other showing respect for the norms we have set while always keeping the focus on improving student learning. I stated previously that growth and change is not easy. The team meetings challenge us each as individual team members to think both inside the box (i.e. research based best practices and differentiated instruction methods) and outside the box (inspiring creativity and flexibility to do “whatever it takes”). There have been some strains in the process and some of our staff has decided to move on in a different direction because they could not be or they were not “believers” (Muhammad, A., 2008). I view this as a natural part of the positive change process. It is neither a positive or negative but it is worth noting.
All of the positives mentioned above are certainly keys to the success that our campus has had in reaching “recognized” status by the state of Texas. There are some areas I believe that we could improve on in regards to reaching our fullest potential. When it comes to putting into practice the collaborative process I know we do a great job. I do believe that we could improve our collaboration and shared knowledge by doing a few things a bit different. The first thing that came to my mind during the internship to improve our campus learning and instruction was the idea to utilize vertical teaming between the middle school and high school subject area and departmental teams. I know that this would benefit us a great deal in the social studies department because our 10th graders must take a Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test that is heavy in 8th grade United States history material. This means many of those 10th graders may benefit with familiar terms and teaching strategies that would be recognizable allowing them to grasp larger concepts easier in the 10th grade rather than reviews. I know that I would like to visit with the middle school teachers too to gain knowledge of the kids so as to “connect” with them better in the classroom. Too often I have tried to find out what makes a kid tick when the real information and answer was available by just talking to another teacher or principal and getting “the scoop.” Frequent or some regular contact with the junior high staff would certainly help in this matter. It only makes sense too that it could be subject specific so idea sharing naturally happens to help improve instruction and student learning.
Another idea for improvement that has been with me since Dr. Anthony Muhammad came to visit our campus is the idea to use collaborative grade level teams to set norms and standards for student social behavior on campus. He mentioned how poor the attitude was the overriding problem in one of the schools where he was principal and how this helped to turn things around to set the tone for positive achievement in the campus culture. The final item for improvement I want to mention is the lack of or inability to change in some staff (especially teachers) to take the appropriate risks in the classrooms. How to improve this area is a difficult question. Many teachers (if not all including myself) find it difficult to break old habits. Many of these may be good habits but if we don’t strive to be an agent of change in the process we limit our chances to make a greater impact on school improvement. I said this was a difficult one but I also wanted to address it as it gets to the heart of change that is the belief that we can all as stakeholders do our part and hold ourselves accountable for school and learner improvement “whatever it takes.”
Texas High School Coaches Association
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