Author: Evan Robb

Leadership: Communication Reflection

 

The summer is an excellent time to reflect on how the prior year has gone and what new ideas can be implemented for the new school year.

In this blog, I am posing some questions for educators to reflect on.  How we communicate and how our communication is interpreted is important.  Certainly, we can all find inspiration from Eric Sheninger’s well-known quote, “ Either you tell your school story or someone else will.”

How you tell your story requires you to be intentional; communication will happen no matter what but without some thought and planning, it might not be the communication you want. So, how is your school telling its story?  What do the current communication methods say about your school?

Reflect on my top 7 questions and decide which you and your team do well and where you could improve.  Pick three new focus areas to be part of your communication plan for the new school year.

  1. When a person comes to the front door of your school does signage say visitors please report to the main office or does it say visitors must report to the main office?  This may seem small but words send messages.
  2. Does your front office staff give a great impression to all who enter the office?  Remember, how they communicate tells people a lot about the principal. Do office staff have training on customer service?
  3. Is there an updated calendar on your school website?  Who updates the calendar and how often?  
  4. If your school is using Google, are staff use Google Sites or Google Classroom?  If yes, have you communicated standards for updating and formatting?  Or, are some staff using this great way to communicate while others are not?  
  5. Does your school have a schedule for parent newsletters?  Do grade levels or teams send parent communications home on a set schedule? What message is sent when schedules are not followed or one group in a school communicates much more than another group?
  6. Consider a school-wide positive communication effort.  I have no doubt that all schools have some staff who make positive calls to parents but imagine the impact if all staff make a commitment to making at least one positive call during the year for each student they teach.
  7. Is your school using social media to effectively connect with families and tell the story of your school?  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all free and can communicate messages the school needs to send.  Do you have a plan for who manages social media in your school along with defined expectations including a minimum number of communications per day?  

I started my list with an easy change the others are more challenging.  Communication is like a garden it needs sunshine, water, and sometimes some weeding. I suggest choosing no more than three focus areas for the year ahead.  It can be tempting to choose more but too much with all a school needs to manage may not allow for successful change. I encourage a purposeful plan to communicate in a coordinated manner.  A well-coordinated plan will communicate your school’s story and also the important message, communication matters to us!

 

Check out my book The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

Also, the Robb Review Daily

Leadership: Summer Letter To Staff

In this post, I am sharing the letter I sent to staff last summer.  A summer communication to staff is a great way to recapture the year and set the stage for the year ahead.  My focus for the year ahead was greatness, team, and belief.  All are personal choices we make every day.  I share this letter in hopes that it can help you to frame this important communication for your staff whether new to the job or a veteran, communication will always be a critical component of leadership.

 

Dear Staff,

I  hope that each of you has had a restful and enjoyable summer break.  Summer is a great time to reflect and make adjustments for the year ahead. As I look back on the previous school year, I am proud of what our school accomplished, our professionalism as a staff, and most important, our collective commitment to doing our best for every student, every day. The staff of (School Name) has always been a great team!

The speed of change is fast and every year it gets faster. How we meet the challenges that inevitably come our way is our test of greatness personally, professionally, and collectively as a team.  We understand the need to be fast and progressive to meet the changes and challenges we and our students face.  Together our initiatives, commitment, and team focus have given us outstanding student achievement and a progressive and rewarding teaching environment.

For the past several years we focused on 21st century skills: creative thinking, creative problem solving, communication, collaboration, active engagement, higher level questioning, non-traditional class structures, and using unit-based planning to create lessons using backward design to create engaging units framed by pre-tests, formative assessments, and summatives to confirm what has been learned. The list may seem large, it is by no means exhaustive, nor is our work done. Initiatives we have worked on together and elements of great instruction are seen in our classrooms daily. In concert with great instruction, we see the enthusiasm students exhibit as we teach them for their future, not our past.  This year we will continue to find our instructional greatness; view challenges as opportunities, and understand that being great is a choice, not an inherent trait.

In addition, at the end of last year, we launched a large initiative, research-based grading practices.  Each department has established grading criteria based on best practice to create equity and to motivate students to succeed!   

The end goal in education is always present; it can be summed up with the word “all.” A simple three letter word that forces us to look at everything we do, evaluate, adjust, and re-focus to achieve a great education for everyone.  Being focused on greatness has never, nor should it ever be a faux definer of our school.  We have always found greatness when we focus and make adjustments to ensure success for all students and our school.

As you think about the new school year take the time to find the greatness that resides in you and use your personal greatness to create magic for our students. Please link the video below. After viewing, please return to the letter.

Nike: Find Your Greatness

As you near the end of summer I ask that you consider this:

People are inspired and drawn to you when they have a clear understanding of why you do what you do.  Your personal why is where you will find the greatness that is in you.

We have learned the value of surrounding ourselves with exceptional people who are 100% committed to doing their best for children: people who have a desire or even desperation to be great, people who believe in the magic that can occur in a classroom and school.

In the future, our students will serve as corporate leaders, lawyers, teachers, anchor the evening news, and maybe even serve as President of the United States.  Believe that in front of you every day are students who can achieve these goals or whatever goals they need to make them feel successful and find their personal greatness.

When we work together, there is no challenge that we cannot meet!  Our students deserve the absolute best and we have the team to make this happen!

Enjoy the last days of summer and begin gearing up for another outstanding school year.  

 

Evan

Leadership: The Mirror

This is my second blog on summer reflection and your leadership.

Effective leaders look in the mirror and sometimes they do not like what they see. But great leaders can be honest with themselves and work to make a change.

How congruent are you with what you say and what you do?  In this blog, I will present several obstacles that have come my way over the years. I am sure these obstacles or similar version come to you, too.   

When you look in the mirror at night or in the morning you should feel good about the work you do and the decisions you make. Do you model what you speak about?  Or, is there a contradiction between what you say and your actions?  Do you put students first in all of your decisions? I can guarantee it is easier to look in the mirror when you do.

Here are five challenges that came my way during my career:

Retention:  There is no evidence in our field that retention works.  But often we encounter educated adults who cling to the one time they think it worked for a student.  Do you agree with them? Or do you tacitly agree by saying nothing when others speak about it? Have you challenged staff to find research to support retention?

Compromising: A general statement about what you are willing to agree to in order to not shake a relationship.  Relationships founded on falsehoods or compromises of what you believe are not true relationships.  Many times I have seen administrators try to build alliances by agreeing with others who were not in alignment with what they really believed. What changes might you make to not compromise your beliefs?

The Countdown:  Ah, the staff member who says on day one we have 179 days left. Do you agree or say nothing? What does your response say about you?  This has come my way many times over the years.  When it does I like to say, “ I don’t want to hear about the countdown, but I am interested in talking about how each day can be amazing for our students.”  This statement either helps a person change or it lets them know that you have no interest in hearing it.  Both can be positive.

The Bribe: I will stay in your school if you do this for me. This can range from a course assignment to certain pieces of technology.  How do you handle this?  My suggestion is to see this as an opportunity to have a discussion of your leadership with a staff member. Relationships need to be more than if you do this I still support you.  If they are not, you never had a strong relationship.

Ridiculous Assignments: What do you do when staff gives silly assignments such as writing sentences, word finds or crossword puzzles?  Do you tell them to stop? Do you agree with them? Or, say nothing.  As a leader, we need to advocate for students.  Some assignments that staff may cling too or we experienced are simply no good or harmful.  My challenge to you is not to beat yourself up for what was in the past but make a commitment to handling such situations differently. Tell staff to stop.  If they insist on continuing, I suggest that I’m willing to engage staff in a discussion if they can bring any research to the meeting that supports such practice. I have offered many invites over the years, never had a taker.

The summer is a great time to reflect on decisions you have made, how you have handled situations and the congruency of what you say and what you do.  Leadership is hard work.  Compromising is part of leadership but compromising what you believe ultimately undermines your leadership.  Take time this summer to reflect, refine what you believe and how you will develop alignment between your words and actions.

Check out my interview with Dr. Alise Cotez on her show Working on Purpose!  Evan Robb Interview

Also my book, The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

Leadership: Reflection

All over the country schools are wrapping up another year, it is summer time.  The pace of the final weeks of a school year can be intense. But when the school year ends we all have an opportunity to reflect and refocus for the year ahead.  

In this blog, I am sharing some thoughts and reflection questions now that one year is over and a new year awaits.

School Story: Eric Sheninger reminds us often that if we do not tell our story someone else will.  Did you and your staff have a successful year of communicating your story?  I encourage you to explore how you can use social media to communicate to students, staff, parents, and your community. Also, evaluate your current communication methods and consider if they are working or have they been kept only because they are what has been done.

Building Student Success: Students always perform best when we lift them up and motivate them to reach new levels.  How is your school promoting student success?  Do you have effective support systems in place to help students who struggle academically and emotionally?  Would students report to your school if they didn’t have to?

Providing Quality P.D. for Staff:  Professional development focused on the needs of staff can have a powerful impact on learning.  The opposite is also true.  Professional development should be focused on the needs of staff and on-going throughout the year.  Take time over the summer to reflect and speak with staff to find one or two professional development focuses for the year ahead.  I encourage a tight focus on professional development VS a common method of using lots of trainings with little follow-up.

Empowering Staff:  As readers know I believe in building commitment to goals instead of mandating commitment.  Staff will be more committed if they feel valued and are empowered to be part of the journey.  How are you empowering staff?  Can you be more inclusive?  Would people describe you as a person committed to building commitment or as a demander of compliance?

Preserving Hope:  This seems so simple but it can be very hard to do day in and out.  Students, staff, and communities always do best when there is hope.  In the school, is your leadership promoting hope? Hope should be part of teaching, learning, and grading.  For this summer I encourage you to think about grading in your school; are grading practices giving students hope or are they taking away hope.  Students give up, check out, and often drop out when they have no hope.  

As a school leader, you can be a force of change but it may also force some hard questions related to the practice of others and yourself.  Answer my questions honestly and do something amazing for students, staff, families, and yourself.

Check out my book, The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook