In response to the post and subsequent comments relating to, “Are You a Nester,” a reader writes:

“If nesting is your only administrative sin, you are not doing too bad. I have met hundreds of principals, and those that know a substantial amount about curriculum and instruction are few. Let me put it a different way. It is easy to sit in a football stand, watch a play go down, and then call it good or bad. Many times it is obvious; if the QB is nailed 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, not so good. If the play results in a TD, awesome play.

The point is, everyone sitting in the stands can spot a good play or a bad one, but only a good coach can give the players realistic advice on what went wrong and how to fix it. Instruction is the same way. Almost any principal can quickly learn to spot good instruction from not so good instruction. But, can the principal provide the teacher with realistic, specific, and effective strategies to improve instruction? I don’t mean telling the teacher that rigor is low and it needs to improve. I mean can you, as the principal, not only spot poor instruction but quickly and effectively coach it into a win? Can you analyze a specific lesson in math, science, English, and social studies and give specific (not the general education double-talk stuff) feedback that will certainly improve the instruction? I have met VERY few principals who can do this, yet this should be the bread and butter of instructional leadership in my view.”

SC Response
Now were cooking with gas! The type of instructional leadership your describe is rare. But it has the potential to become less so. Those instructional leaders who have adopted the Foundation Trinity on their campus, religiously conduct their 20 to 25 five walk-thru’s each week, and then maintain a regular and purposeful dialogue with instructional staff, based on both data and what they have observed, have a shot to make the leap. When I say a shot, it is in recognition of what Don Brown calls the art and science of leadership or what Micheal Fullan describes as the nuance of leadership. Just going through the motions puts you in the position to develop the insight necessary to move from hack, to technician, to artist. But, there is no guarantee. The advice the hack gives never evolves past work harder, faster and longer. The technician advises to work the plan, but cannot see beyond the plan. The artist makes minute changes to the instructional dynamic to change the future.

So I agree that the big picture goal is to become an exceptional instructional leader. I also recognize that in that pursuit, there are some fundamental practices that we cannot abandon. Two of those being the disciplined execution of the Foundation Trinity, and the purposeful manipulation of the educational environment in order to leverage effort.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…