In an earlier post we shared a video of actual classroom teachers and principals talking about the ways they work directly with teachers fifty percent of the time. We also included the research that explains why that practice is so important to do (though hard to get right, we know).
Well, those who do it will tell you: with strong leadership team support, which requires the principal to build the leadership capacity of others so that the tasks that can be shared ARE shared (or even delegated).
It may seem obvious, knowing which tasks to reassign, which to share, and which to stay on top of. And really, many of us begin the day with the intention of sharing leadership..until the day actually starts and the energy, excitement, and "we need you's" begin. Sometimes it seems easier to just DIY (do it yourself). But we're here to tell you, it can happen: principals can spend more of their time working with teachers and instructional teams (even cyclically if it's a big school) and less time on the tasks and activities that someone else would take on for them. But what a great multi-part discussion for leadership teams to engage in together:
How much time is the principal currently able to spend working directly with teachers and instructional teams?
What does that work include?
How can members of the leadership team provide support to the principal in spending fifty percent of his or her time working directly with teachers and instructional teams? What tasks can they take on (or share) to give the principal more time to work directly with teachers and instructional teams?
On the surface, the responses to these questions may seem obvious. And maybe they are. But when teams come together around a single focus (in this case, how to support the principal in working directly with teachers and instructional teams), really important things happen:
- We remember why we exist (aka solidarity of purpose). Life, work, our minds--they are fraught with distraction. It's unavoidable. Which is why it is so important to return to our main purpose again and again and again: improve instruction, improve culture, improve student learning. A principal who is able to spend at least half of their time working with those who are closest to children will lead to improvements in all of those things. And while some not-so-obvious response are sure to arise (we love those), reinforcement of the obvious ones is no waste of time.
- Strategic thoughts are stimulated. Members share their thoughts, which sparks new ideas and contributions in others. Soon, a spider web of ideas is spun that are connected, stretched, shaped, and yep, you guessed it aligned to that main purpose. What starts out as discussion turns into strategic action.
- People get to help. Education is no selfish profession. We're in it to help and when we have specific, concrete ways of providing that help (and succeeding at it) then we feel, well, good. And productive. And successful. Leadership team members get to to help their principal lead, principals get help team members build their capacity to lead.
- Capacity builds. Through this process (shared purpose, solution-finding, idea creation, task delegation) we identify strengths and we develop weakness. We build the capacity of those around us to lead, we share leadership. We build a team of leaders, a system of leadership.
Here are a few exercises for Leadership Teams to identify HOW they can support principals to spend fifty percent of their time working directly with teachers and instructional teams (while building the capacity of the Leadership Team members too!).
- How Much Time (and on What)?: Sure, we have a pretty good sense of how we spend our time. But when we look at it on paper, what we find may surprise us. This sheet can be completed individually by each Leadership Team member, or as a group to determine how time is really spent. Try to be specific and especially, candid. Identify those activities that could stop, those that must continue, others that must be started. Then, see which non-instructionally focused leadership tasks can be delegated to other leadership team members.
- Enablers + Inhibitors: What enables principals to work directly with teachers and instructional teams? What inhibits them? What solutions can the Leadership Team identify to increase the enablers and decrease the inhibitors? This part is a little bit different than the previous activity, identifying how we spend our time. This discussion is more targeted to creating efficiencies in how we operate. Do we see where implementing a process or a structure is all that is needed to decrease inhibitors (e.g. a process for taking and returning parent phone calls or emails, a structure for soliciting suggestions + concerns from community members rather than addressing them in an ad-hoc, rolling basis?).
The outcomes of these productive discussions are likely to result in more focused, explicit tasks and activities that can be implemented, tracked, managed, and assessed in, you guessed it, Indistar!
Tell us what you think about this article, even better, about HOW you are implementing (or struggling) with this practice.
A Different Kind of Work: a must-read for Leadership Teams