Practicum in Educational Leadership

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'As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence; the next best, the people honour and praise; the next, people fear; the next, the people hate... when the best leader's work is done, the people say, "We did it ourselves."' Lao-tsu (circa 500 BC).

The Council of Chief State School Officers has adopted the following as the organization's mission statement: CCSSO, through leadership, advocacy, and service, assists chief state school officers and their organizations in achieving the vision of an American education system that enables all children to succeed in school, work, and life.

Introduction

During years as a teacher, leadership style has been collaborative, enthusiastically seeking sense involvement. Always participate in decision making and searching an opportunity. I believe that teachers learn a great deal from their experience, and also "I see failure as an opportunity for change".

I will try to represent the characteristics of effective leaders in schools. Researchers say that students gain significant achievement in schools in which principals state a clear school mission, present in classrooms and hallways, hold high expectations for teachers and students, spend a major portion of the day working with teachers to improve tuition, are actively involved in diagnosing instructional problems and create a positive school climate.

A day in the life of a principal can be spent trying to keep small unpleasant incidents from becoming an unattractive main disaster. Good principals in some way find time to develop a vision of what that school should be and to share that vision with all members of the educational community. Successful principals can express a specific school mission, and they strain innovation and improvement.

A Clear School mission could be 'providing education of excellent quality to all pupils regardless of religious economic, ethnic and social background' and a Clear School Vision could be 'to help upgrading the educational level of Cyprus youth establishing Cyprus as an one well educated country with a very valuable human resource asset. In less effective schools, teachers do not have a common understanding of the school's mission, and they seem as individuals planning their own separate courses. The need for the principal to share his or her vision expands not only to teachers but to parents as well. When teachers work as a group and parents are connected with the school's mission, the children are more likely to accomplish academic success.

The key role for a head teacher is that of empowerment, creating a culture in which the ability and talent of the staff is not only valued, but fully applied. If head teachers do not make it clear that all staff (teaching and support staff) have the authority to make decisions, to be innovative and creative, then they will assume that they do not. If that happens, the huge assets of knowledge and experience that exists in all schools will stay unexploited.

ASPECTS OF THE SCHOOL

School context

We consider a High School which serving nearly 960 students. A big opportunity starts at a school which its building appears to be not fully constructed and the school premises are 25-year-old. It is a challenge of first principal. It is actually a comprehensive school, with roughly 85% of majority ethnic students.

The school enjoys a very good reputation, locally and nationally, as a successful, innovative school and has done for many years. On entry to the school, student performance is broadly in line with national expectations. More than 70% of students consistently achieve core subjects. 58% of students achieved five or more A* to C grades (2005). 95% of students achieved A-E grades at GCE A level, with nearly all students gaining their first choice higher education place. Results across the school have been consistently good for many years, although improvement is a current focus for us.

The objective is to create a calm professional environment in which students move around in smaller, calmer groups. Some schools have managed to achieve a situation where staff takes their classes down to break or lunch during an extended lesson, and return to continue the lesson. These relationships between staff and pupils are suggestive of highly effective learning environments.

Engaging teachers

All of the developments discussed here rely on having the right staff doing the right jobs. Teachers should be involved in promoting the positive values of the school and the school culture, planning and implementing the most effective and motivational lessons possible. Teachers will be supporting all students to ensure that they are learning as well as possible and monitoring the progress of all pupils so that they can act where progress is inadequate. That is a huge job.

School leaders should not allow teachers to become delayed in excessive report writing, investigating behavioural issues, performing social care (beyond that which we would expect from any caring teacher in that it could be provided in the classroom), school duties, cover for absent colleagues (unless there is a clear educational reason for doing so). Workforce development has moved us on considerably with this. It is not that we should not do these things in school; it is simply that we should employ the right people to do them, and they are not teachers. 

Many of these activities are so important that we need professional staff to see them as their main role in school. We should not leave them in the hands of teachers who may be able to fit them in between lessons, at break or at lunchtime, while trying to focus on their teaching activities.

Future plans

We are committed to the idea that every student should succeed and achieve, although they may express this in many ways. 

The Government has set a considerable challenge for us through its agenda, which opens up the curriculum to deliver a range of vocational and academic routes. It has also challenged us to set a new expectation that most students will continue education in a coherent and planned way to the age of 19, with GCSE, IGCE and equivalent qualifications only a marker along the way. 

To meet the challenge of this huge curriculum entitlement, we must collaborate with other schools and colleges in a way we have not seen before. Schools and colleges will need to improve their terms to meet the needs of all students, rather than convince pupils that the terms we have traditionally offered is what they want. 

To do this, the collaborative spirit will have to replace the competitive spirit. The future is not so much about being an effective school as it is about being in an effective teamwork to provide broad-ranging personalised learning.

PLAN OF ACTIVITIES

Surviving the first year

Plan your time. Decide what issues you are going to work on during the week. If you assign time to work on preparing items required for governing body meetings, then try to keep to this timetable. It is impractical to believe that you will be able to keep rigidly to the timetable you have made.

Trust others and learn to delegate. As a new head teacher, delegation is sometimes a little difficult to take hold of. Schools are full of professional and very capable people. Let people know your expectations and enable them to get on with the task in hand.

Get to know your leadership team. However big or small your school is, your senior leadership team is crucial and their support, commitment and determination to lead the school with you are vital. Allocate quality time to talk, work and reflect with this group of individuals and listen to what they have to say.

Stay focused and productive. Try not to make instant decisions and dramatic changes that affect the work of other staff and children, where they have had no involvement or do not understand the rationale behind the decision made.

Observing effective schools

An effective school is a school in which students achieve high standards that they can use in their future education or the workplace, a school where students feel safe and happy. It promotes those values that will help pupils to become good and responsible citizens, enable them to become involved in their community and become good family members. We all write these sorts of things in our school mission statements and school documents, but we are all too often distracted from them in day-to-day planning. 

High standards are not the preserve of a few socially advantaged individuals and we should never lower our expectations on the basis of social background. For that reason, contextual data can leave us too easily satisfied with poor performance. 

I am privileged to have worked in some effective schools with staff that have developed highly effective strategies. There are many highly effective schools across the country. Visiting them with an open mind makes you come away with a burning desire to develop something of what you have seen for your own school. I would recommend this as a strategy for head teachers as well as for teachers, support staff and students from across the school. 

Establishing priorities in your own school will necessarily come from a consultation with school stakeholders. I have sometimes found it useful to hold visioning days, where stakeholders are invited to identify future priorities for the school and these are then used to help the senior team set priorities within the school improvement plan. When doing this it is important to involve all stakeholders: teachers, support staff, students, parents, governors, partner schools and many other groups that work with the school.

Improving behaviour

The starting point in any school has to be behaviour. We all know how to deal with the acts of severe verbal or physical aggression that sometimes take place in our schools. They are upsetting but they are, in general, occasional and are not the major disruption from helping students to learn. 

The behaviour problems that cause a real problem in schools are generally low level, but can render everything else we attempt to do virtually useless. Lack of attention from students, talking out of turn and little argues in the classroom are far more likely to damage effective teaching than anything else. 

It is this type of behaviour that teachers rarely deal with effectively or refer to other school leaders. While it is important that we continually support teachers to create a classroom environment in which they are in charge and which encourages good behaviour, we also have a duty as school leaders to manage the consequences of poor behaviour centrally. 

Develop Behaviour for learning programme.

The approach is simple: no pupil is allowed to disrupt another student's learning or to make anyone feel uncomfortable, threatened or unhappy. Students are made aware of the consequences of doing these things and all adults in the school are empowered to record the fact that a pupil has disobeyed this code. A central team of staff, including senior staff and support staff, ensures that the consequences are always carried out. 

Students and parents regard the programme as fair and consistent. It empowers all staff; given all staff do exactly the same thing when a student misbehaves. It also ensures that teachers carry on doing their job, teaching the well-behaved students who are all too often left waiting while they watch teachers trying to deal with uncooperative students. 

Rewards for learning are equally important and can be administered in accurately the same way. The idea that students can gain rewards that have fiscal value and can be spent in a school rewards house is particularly effective. Behaviour for learning strategies can have dramatic effects on a school in terms of pulling the whole school community together around a common focus.

Creating right learning environment

We are trying to develop a school that is professional learning environment, where students feel that they are in school to learn and will be supported from the moment they walk in through the door. 

Create this through well thought out planning when the school was built. Whatever type of building we have, it will usually be possible to create the space to celebrate student achievement and ensure that everyone who visits the school and every student who enters the school knows how well students achieve and how well they, as individuals, will achieve in the future. 

The issue of corridor behaviour and overcrowding may seem unimportant but it is an aspect of school life that students do not like and sometimes fear. Certainly, overcrowded corridors and the poor behaviour that often accompanies them undermine our attempts to create professional learning environments. We need to tackle the 'school factory' environment through creative timetabling and school organisation. One way we have gone about this is to create an uninterrupted day.

Achieving personalised learning in practice

Creating the right culture, environment and ethos in a school, where students know they have come to learn, have high self-esteem and trust the school to deliver, are vital pioneers to good teaching and learning. No amount of effort to improve standards of teaching will have much impact unless they are in place.

However, having established the right culture, the classroom experience must deliver and meet the individual needs of every pupil. This requires each teacher to know the needs of each individual pupil, and for structures to exist where students can be assigned to the right teaching groups to meet those needs. 

The personalising learning agenda presents us with many challenges.

First of all, it is now essential that every teacher has instant access to student data in the classroom in an useful form. This means that either every classroom needs a computer or every teacher needs a laptop that will access the school network. 

Right structure

If head teachers create flatter leadership structures that ask all staff to contribute to problem-solving, that do not start out with defined solutions that everybody else is supposed to guess, then that collective knowledge and experience will be used to move the school forward. 

Structures need to reinforce the concept that every member of staff can make decision. This is not to say that staffs are not accountable for their decisions; it is important that they are. It is not to say that a head teacher or other senior leader should not put forward their own views or solutions; they should. It is not to say that we should not sometimes judge that, on this occasion, this is a matter that the head teacher needs to decide. However, it is important to listen to all members of staff (and parents and students for that matter), to be clear about which decisions you are making and which ones they are able to make and to trust them to make many more decisions than has been the case traditionally in schools.

Relying on collaboration

Creating an effective school is thinking about collaboration, sharing ideas and networking. I am grateful to those who have shared their thinking with me and look forward to future dialogue, which I trust will help us all to develop excellent schools for all young people.

Choosing the appropriate networks to work with is a matter of personal choice and school context. It is worth developing relationships through national networks too. The advantage to working in networks outside your own locality is twofold. On the one hand the range of strategies to which you become exposed is greater and will involve schools that have developed differently and under different constraints. It is often easier to look objectively at a school when you do not have a predetermined image of the school and when you are not in competition with it for pupils.

A Safe and organized Climate

Certainly before students can learn or teachers can teach, schools must be safe. An unsafe school is considered ineffective and also the public consider it as lack of discipline to be among the most serious problems facing schools. Schools must provide safe learning environments. Safe schools focus on academic achievement, the school mission, involving families and communities in school activities, and creating an environment where teachers, students and staff are treated with respect. Student problems are identified early, before they get worse into violence. School psychologists, special education programs, family social workers, and school wide programs increase communication and reduce school stress.

Monitoring Student Progress

We could note attractive displays of student work on bulletin boards and walls. Also, posted few student papers and charting of progress towards academic goals. Students could have a clear sense of how they were doing in their studies; they kept progress charts in their notebooks and think of ways to improve their academic performance. Teachers referred to student folders that contained thorough records of student scores on standardized tests, as well as samples of class work, homework, and performance on weekly tests. It is very important that school carefully monitors student progress and communicates this information to students and parents. Effective schools carefully monitor and assess student progress in a variety of ways.

Using tests such as Norm-referenced tests and Objective-referenced tests to compare individual students with others in a countrywide average group and measure whether a student has a 'chosen' body of knowledge (assessment tests). Moreover, some teachers ask students to follow their own progress in getting course objectives as a way of helping them assume more responsibility for their own learning. Homework is another strategy to monitor students. Homework increases student achievement scores and achievement is increased when homework is ranked and commented on. Even though graded homework is an important ingredient in student achievement.

High Expectations

Students could receive extraordinary scores on a test than predicted and children could attain outstanding academic gains. An effective school always depend on the power of teacher expectations in shaping student achievement. A term of self-fulfilling prophecy is publicized as 'students may learn as much or as little as teachers expect'. Although, teacher expectations do, in fact, produce high student achievement, and low expectations produce low achievement.

Too often, teacher expectations have a negative impact. An inaccurate judgment about a student can he made because of error, unconscious prejudice, or stereotype. For example, good-looking, well-dressed students are frequently thought to be smarter than their less attractive peers. Often, male students are thought to be brighter in math, science, and technology, while girls are given the edge in language skills. Students of colour are sometimes perceived as less capable or intelligent. A poor performance on a single standardized test (perhaps due to illness or an "off" day) can cause teachers to hold an inaccurate assessment of a student's ability for months and even years. Even a casual comment in the teachers' lounge can shape the expectations of other teachers.

When teachers hold low expectations for certain students, their treatment of these students often differs in unconscious ways. Typically, they offer such students fewer opportunities to respond, less praise, less challenging work and fewer nonverbal signs (eye contact, smiles, positive regard). In effective schools, teachers hold high expectations that students can learn, and they translate these expectations into teaching behaviours. They set objectives, work toward mastery of those objectives, spend more time on instruction, and actively monitor student progress. They are convinced that students can succeed.

Do high expectations work if students do not believe they exist? Probably not, and that is too often the case. While a majority of secondary school principals believe that their schools hold such expectations for their students, only 39 percent of teachers believe this to be true and even more discouraging, only one in four students believe their school holds high expectations for them. We need to do a better job of communicating these expectations to students, and making certain that these expectations truly challenge students.

And it is not only students who benefit from high expectations. When teachers keep high expectations for their own performance then the entire school benefits. Always striving for excellence, these teachers felt that no matter how well a class was taught, next time it could be taught better.

METHODOLOGY

Actions to make effective schooling (Memoranda-Letter)

Early start

High-quality programs include parent training, special screening services, and appropriate learning opportunities for children. Such programs are rare, but can significantly raise IQ points and enhance language skills. Some of the children are not reading at grade level and by the end of the first grade face a one-in-eight chance of ever catching up. In math, students who do not master basic concepts find themselves playing catch-up throughout their school years. Effective schools identify and correct such deficiencies early, before student performance get worse.

Smaller classes 

Smaller classes are associated with increase student learning, especially in the earlier grades. Children in classes of fifteen outperform students in classes of twenty-five, even when the larger classes have a teacher's supporter in attendance.

Increased learning time 

Longer school days, longer school years, more efficient use of school time, and more graded homework are all proven methods of enhancing academic learning time and student performance. Assessment: Investing time is useful, but assessing how effectively the time is spent is also important. Testing student performance has been tied to greater achievement, and some districts have gone so far as to pay teachers incentives for improvements in student test scores.

Teacher training 

The best way to improve school effectiveness is by investing in teacher training. Stronger teacher skills and qualifications lead to greater student learning. On the other hand, students pay an academic price when they are taught by unqualified and uncertified teachers.

Trust

Trusting relationships among parents, students, principals and teachers is a necessary ingredient to govern, improve, and reform schools. As trust levels increase, so does academic performance.

What about technology? 

Schools that are uncertain to spend funds on teacher training, class size reductions, or early childhood education programs however are quick to invest significant sums in computers and upgraded technology.

Get to know the school 

Create an existence without being over-powering. Spend some time standing in the playground in the morning and after school. Welcome the children into school in the morning, smiled and talked to parents as they looked suspiciously at the new head and spoke to the community police officers who control the traffic in the busy road around the school. You will gain a vast amount of information about the school from the children, got to know the parent population and enabled them to see that you are interested in what they had to say about the issues that mattered to them.

Do not walk around the school without a clear purpose. Teachers and teaching assistants have classes to settle at the beginning of the year and do not want to feel that they need to impress the new head as you suddenly turn up in their classroom. By no means that you do not visit classrooms and spend time observing and getting to know staff and children, but this should be planned into your understanding of the school process and should have an aim of which the staff should be made aware.

Developing the bigger picture  

Tell staff and children (what you feel is relevant) about yourself, your experiences, and your expectations. It is important that they see you as a person and not simply as the head ship. Ask the staff what they expect of your role and what they hope you will achieve in your first year. I personally found this a very interesting exercise. Expectations ranged from supporting them and listening to their views to being a confident leader and enabling them to share and contribute. 

It is important to spend planned time with each of the classes talking to the pupils. Ask them what they like learning about, what frustrates them about the school, what their wish for the school would be, what they believe your role within the school is and how are they able to help you improve the school.

Above all, invite the staff and children to tell you about what they really like about the school, what would make it even better for them personally and for the school community as a whole. Remember that this is the 'getting to know the school' process and, while you will gain invaluable knowledge about the school, staff and children, store the information you gain to develop your understanding of the school you have been appointed to lead. Don't, however, promise to change the world or imply that you will take on every suggestion for improvement it will not happen overnight and you will only be setting self-expectations that you may not be able to meet immediately.

Always remember that you are not alone. The wonderful staffs in the office often have a huge amount of knowledge, understanding and skill that they are hoping you will make use of. Their knowledge of the parent population, pupil attendance patterns and local business contacts should certainly not be underestimated.

Parents

It would be a wonderful achievement if all parents were suddenly on the side of the new head; eager to please, raise lots of money for the school fund and queue up to contribute to the school improvement plan. It may be an unrealistic thought initially, but working on getting the relationship right with parents will ensure that positive support is achieved from these valuable stakeholders.

Invite parents to meet with you in an informal but structured setting. Held two separate meetings in order to provide parents with a choice of time. During the meetings getting the balance right is crucial. Don't offer a vision that you may not be up to realising in the immediate future as it will only lead to discouragement. Do share with them, however, some of your values and principles and how you see them working with you. Invite them to tell you in the form of a simple questionnaire what they believe to be positive aspects of the school, areas they would like to see improved in the immediate future and what they would like to see improved in the longer term. Keep parents well informed of any school improvements, particularly when a change has been made in response to aspects that parents have suggested.

Memoranda - Letters

Dear Parent (s):

It is difficult to express the excitement I am feeling in being the new principal. It is an honour and privilege to be at the service of an outstanding faulty and the wonderful parents and students that make up the community of the school. With the arrival of new first, third, and fourth grade teachers, as well as a new secretary, I think you will feel and experience a sense of newness and excitement as you walk through the halls of our school. I hope that you will feel welcome as you become involved with your child's experiences.

Throughout the school year, your child's teacher and I will be making a special effort to stay in touch with you. We will keep you informed of your child's progress and school activities. Look for papers coming home from school each day, newsletters, invitations, updates, tips, and reminders.

Your communication with us is very important, too. Please don't hesitate to contact your child's teacher, or me, whenever you have a question or concern. The school's phone number is 22-xxxxxx, and our fax number is 22-xxxxxx.

I hope you will take part in your child's education by inquiring about their time spent at school. Ask about their friends and teachers. Get involved as they complete their homework or seek you help on special projects.. I am confident that your child will demonstrate greater motivation as you continue to show interest in their academic and social experiences. We will certainly work on our end to provide your child with the best education possible. Let's work together to make this an excellent school year in every way!

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Principal

Principal's Message to teachers

October is here and learning is in full move backwards and forwards! Before I highlight the exciting activities we can expect to enjoy this year, let me first review the work that has occurred this far. 

Thank you to everyone who attended our New Families Orientation, The Welcome Coffee, Back to School Night, Parent Volunteer meeting and a host of grade level events. It's always a treat to see old faces, greet new ones, and to experience the excitement that these events bring to the beginning of the year. As usual, your energy and enthusiasm for making this a wonderful year is infectious and exciting!

Along with the social events, the start of the school year also marks the beginning of teachers getting to know their students. In September, we began the first of a series of discussions pertaining to our assessments and the analysis of our SPSA (Single Plan for Student Achievement). These discussions involved grade level and cross grade level analysis of student performance and how we as a staff can align our resources to ensure the academic progress and achievement of our students. These conversations will be ongoing throughout the year and will culminate in the development of new goals and challenges for ourselves and for our students. 

Even though we are hard at work, there is still time for fun by implementing some changes! In October we start the month off with our fundraising event of the year, Family Picnic on first Sunday! This is a wonderful event that showcases our school and our community. Thanks to the dedication and coordination efforts of many, the day is filled with walking, games, food and fun. I look forward to seeing everyone there. 

During the year, every Wednesday is walk to school day, staff and parents will be celebrating the day by walking to school with those of you who choose to do so. Come walk with us and help the environment at the same time!

It's important that we support and provide the structure and variety of a challenging academic program as well as a rich array of extracurricular activities. Our learning environment must provide our students with the opportunity to encounter issues, ask probing questions, appreciate differing perspectives, and grapple with understanding. In creating such an environment, we need to keep in view, a vision. The confidently aware and curiously engaged graduate, armed with a significant body of knowledge, plus the tools to embrace, decipher and contribute to the world which awaits them. With this end in mind we are challenged to do much more than just deliver a prescribed curriculum. We must continually look for opportunities for students to construct meaning, make connections across disciplines, engage in relevant and challenging projects and express their opinions on a wide array of topics drawn both from their texts and their experiences. This year, we will be committed to provide time for the faculty to work together in grade-level teams to set broad objectives for all students to master and then to examine the opportunities which exist to integrate and coordinate the delivery of lessons in such a way that students can relate what they are learning to the world around them.

Keeping the student's learning experience at the centre of our planning, we will be taking a close look at homework expectations and all of the extra requirements our school program demands with the goal of streamlining and integrating these requirements in a manageable work load and calendar. We will also be focusing on the use of technology in instruction, the development of strong research skills in all grade levels and increasing an awareness of environmental issues in our school, community and beyond. We have a strong curriculum, knowledgeable and inspiring teachers, a supportive community and ample resources to keep our school constantly working to provide the best possible learning experience for our students. I will be reporting our progress in reaching our goals as the year ahead unfolds.

We're off to a great start! Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely,

Principle 

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