It’s all about relationships and communication skills.
This was the common thread once again throughout our Principal Course dialogue this weekend as we focused on Human Resources and Building Communities. As the leader of a school, principals must continue to focus daily on the art of “how to deal with people”. An additional common theme seemed to encompass the “malcontent” that might occur within a staff and the courageous conversations that are necessary in order to maintain the cohesive school climate that will continue to be student focused.
The theorist presentation highlighted Marzano’s views from School Leadership that Works and how the “classroom is the concrete evidence” when it comes to assessing student achievement. His work outlines the following factors involved in establishing a Code of Call that will have a positive effect on student achievement in the classroom, represented on the left side of the table below. I believe that these same factors can be paralleled to having a positive effect on a school collaboration model by reflecting through the eyes of an administrator and focusing on the teachers/administration/staff as the group of learners. My personal thoughts on how this translates from a classroom culture to a school culture are represented on the right side of the table below:
Marzano continues with highlighting the many factors that a teacher must take into consideration when it comes to understanding the learners in their classrooms: home atmosphere, learned intelligence, background knowledge and motivation. Again, these same considerations must be taken into account as a principal of a school of “teachers as learners”. In my view, the group of learners are the same, whether they are a group of adolescents, or whether they are a group of adults. All learners emit similar behaviours that must be considered if improvement in learning is the target, regardless of the age of the learners.
When we discussed the “14 mistakes that Principals make” and were challenged to rank them in our small groups, I found it no surprise that ineffective human relations and poor interpersonal communication skills were among the top two mistakes reported among ineffective principals. The principal has many responsibilities to build and encourage the positive relationships that will produce a cohesive staff with a main focus of student learning.
Another common theme this weekend involved Decision Making and how it comes down to 2 main types – ethical decisions & legal decisions. This can be summarized in the two reflective questions that principals should consider when it comes to making difficult decisions together: What would be the morally right decision to make in this situation? & What are the legal implications here if I make this decision? I appreciated the more detailed list of “Considerations for Situational Decision Making”.
As a principal in a Catholic school system, I feel that the themes today can be related to a few ideas that were embedded in a book provided through our Board’s Leadership program: Jesus, CEO – Using Ancient Widsom for Visionary Leadership. In this book, 85 ideals are shared and related to Jesus as becoming an empowered leader with the strength of self-mastery, the strength of action, and the strength of relationships. These are the ideals from the book that I felt most related to the Decision Making and Building Communities focus:
He Was Keenly Aware of His Resources:
- How well do you know your staff’s “stories”?
- How well do you really know what other factors might be affecting your staff?
He Did the Difficult Things:
- What difficult things are your instincts, right now, telling you to do?
- Are you willing to do them, even if it means standing alone?
He Beheld Them:
- Do you see your staff as new creations every day or do you see them as their job descriptions?
- Do you focus on that person in that moment?
Most importantly, we must reflect continuously … how do we see ourselves as becoming similar leaders with the strength of self-mastery, the strength of action and the strength of relationships?