A New Principal Asks.. We Think We Do Enough

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A new LYS elementary school principal asks the following:

SC,

As you know, my instructional experience is at the secondary level, but saying, “No” to a leadership opportunity was never an option.  I recently met with two teachers on my new (to me) elementary campus.  They were so glad to hear I am CSCOPE expert, which I am not, but that is the word on the street.  But I am very familiar with it and recognize it as a powerful instructional tool.

The teachers on my campus had been using a (commercial product) for math instruction but it is now painfully clear that this “TEKS aligned” curriculum is not aligned to STAAR success. So they wanted to know the “trick” of CSCOPE.  They had some familiarity with it, but hinted that CSCOPE just took too much time to prepare for.  Then the revelation hit, they want to be given permission to not plan and prepare.  I sort of skirted the conversation after that, told them to keep their chins up, but it is was clear they have made their case that they are doing enough, and being asked to do more is unreasonable.

Given the fact I have never dealt with elementary teachers and the elementary did meet state standards (which these teachers interpret as exceeding expectations) what is a good course of response for dealing with these teachers?

SC Response Recognize that ANYONE attempting to feel you out this early has an agenda.  In this case their agenda is “We already do enough, so leave us alone.”  Typical behavior when a new boss shows up.

They are attempting to define the expectations of the organization.  This happens when there is a leadership vacuum.  What you need to do, and do quickly, is publically lay out your expectations for the campus, along with goals, targets and milestones. Make your case, discuss your standards and start building and implementing your system. Now; not later.  The “sit back and observe” advice given to many (if not most) new campus leaders is at best counter-productive.  On its own, an organization slows down.  Waiting only allows the slower tempo and lower expectations to become entrenched.  Comfortable for adults, devastating to students. 

Meeting state standards is the floor of expectations (especially this past year, when passing often meant answering less than 50% of the questions correctly).  I know you want more for your students and so do almost all of your teachers.  You just have to refocus them and accelerate their adoption of the tools of success.  That is the role of campus leadership.   The teachers that are in it for the students will stick with you (maybe not in the Teachers’ Lounge, but in the classroom where it really counts).  Those that aren’t in it for the right reasons will quickly self-identify themselves either by leaving or sabotaging.  Don’t sweat the vacancies, it gives you a chance to get hire someone more student focused and you have dealt with saboteurs many times before.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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