Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Supporting and Retaining the BEST Educators, One Principal’s Reflection

There is often a correlation between the level of some teacher’s success and the level of effectiveness with their principal.  At times, teachers perform better, when their supervisor performs better.  The following five suggestions were created by one principal, after careful reflection and purposeful contemplation regarding interactions with the very best teachers after several years of working together.      

Display and foster high levels of positive energy.   It is important for all administrators to display a high level of energy when working with students, teachers, and parents.  In addition, it is equally important that school administrators foster high levels of positive energy within the classrooms of the schools they lead. Much like a mirror, when a principal is highly energetic and positive, student and teachers respond and work in a similar manner.

Tell others no, on the teacher’s behalf.  Advocate for your teachers, tell others no, on their behalf, and teachers will be grateful. As most of us know, schoolteachers are some of the most hardest working individuals ever. At times, it is difficult for them to say no, even though they know how quickly their plates can fill up. Step in for teachers, protect them, and keep them from unnecessary work. In addition, let teachers know that you are willing to be the “bad guy,” as needed, in order to protect them. Reassure them, if they are asked to perform certain duties or complete various tasks, that in the end may prohibit them from best serving their students, they can always come to you, ask for your help, and you will gladly and politely say no to other individuals, on their behalf.

Tell teachers yes, anytime you can.  Be very aware of how many times you tell your teachers “yes” and how many times you tell them “no.”  On the first day of school, and regularly throughout the school year, tell teachers that you promise and commit to saying “yes” to them, with any request that they have, as long as it benefits students and their classroom. This promise from the principal does great things for a school’s culture, climate, and staff morale holistically. In addition, it sends a message to all school stakeholders that the principal is willing to do anything and everything in order to help students and increase student achievement in general. When you say “yes” to anything and everything that educators need in the classroom, this shows teachers that you are doing your part to positively impact student achievement and also shows that you will accept nothing less than their individual best when it comes to their teaching, helping students, and getting positive results at the classroom level.

Visit every classroom, every day.  Teacher after teacher reports that one of the number one things that any principal can do to support them and support students is to visit classrooms and be highly visible on a regular basis. School administrators should make it a goal to visit every classroom, every day.  As a former principal, with a school of more than 1000 students, this can be a hefty goal, yet one that pays off big time with everyone on campus. Visiting every classroom, every day, shows teachers that you support them, allows you the opportunity to witness instruction firsthand, gives you the chance to interact with students, and serves as a springboard for great success when it comes to offering individualized feedback to teachers regarding their lesson, classroom management, and other classroom topics.

Follow through and hold everyone accountable.  The best classroom teachers want a principal who is willing to follow through and also hold everyone accountable. With emails, phone calls, promises, and the completion of tasks, never underestimate the power of simply doing what you say you will do.  Often, teachers report that students like boundaries and also like it when there is great structure and high levels of accountability in the classroom, and with assignments. This is true for your most effective teachers as well. It is easy for people to say that they have great follow-through, but saying it and doing it are two very different things. In addition, accountability is something that will help with both your effective teachers and your ineffective teachers. The heightened level of accountability can help bring an ineffective teacher up to proficient levels, and that same heightened level of accountability shows your most effective teachers that their hard work is not going unnoticed, and that you are holding everyone to the same standard.

The above strategies have been utilized regularly in schools and have yielded the highest levels of success.  After a careful review of thoughts, notes and reflections, these items were consistently represented, and in the end, had a positive impact on teachers and in theory, students.

Dr. Davis has been an educator for the past 16 years, serving as a Professor, Educational Consultant, Principal, Assistant Principal of Instruction, and classroom teacher.  He is currently licensed to serve as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist, and Exceptional Children’s Director.  Dr. Davis is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Education at High Point University.  He has his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education.  Dr. Davis has presented and been published at the state, national and international level.  He works daily on his personal mission statement, to "Love Kids, Support Teachers, Involve Parents, and Pass it On."

Dr. Davis can be reached at:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Global Perspectives and Connections: Keys to Being a Global Citizen

In North Carolina, teachers are evaluated on how they encourage students and colleagues to be globally aware. To be a proficient teacher in this area, teachers must “promote global awareness and its relevance to the subjects, (North Carolina Educator Effectiveness System [NCEES], 2015).”  To be characterized as an accomplished teacher, integration of global awareness activities must be demonstrated in the lessons taught (NCEES, 2015). While this is a step toward building a globally-minded student, it is a small step. To give students an edge in today’s marketplace, they need to be more than aware – they need to develop global understanding.

Two significant ways to develop global understanding is through perspectives teaching and real-world connections using today’s real-world tools. Perspectives teaching is teaching students to be open-minded to hear and understand another’s point of view. That does not mean that one has to agree with that perspective, but open to listening to it and understanding the culture from which that point of view stems. This is why having students engaged in collaborative groups is essential in the elementary grades – it is the basis for building the understanding that we all have different ideas based on our experiences and culture. Perspectives teaching can be effectively taught through global literature (including children’s books, fairytales and folk lore, quotes, plays, movies and poetry) and role-playing lessons. Teaching students to compare with their own culture helps them not only understand a new culture, but equally helps them further define their own culture.

Teachers too should be encouraged to read global literature written for adults to gain perspective themselves about a certain region in the world so as they teach perspectives, they can be alert to any possible misconceptions or over-generalizations. Here are a few suggested books for children and adults:

  • Extra Credit by Andrew Clements compares the point of view of a student in Iowa and a student in Afghanistan using landscapes, cultural differences and similarities.
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba shares the struggle of a village in Malawi and how one boy’s inventiveness helped to solve a problem in his community.  It can also be linked to the use of electricity and how it is used and valued in different communities. 
  • It Happened on the Way to War by Rye Barcott takes you to the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, and shares how one person, connecting with others can make a difference. The videos on his non-profit organization website can be used in class:  while students will be captivated by the story of village children who wanted to play soccer (futbol) but had no ball and how they instead made the ball from plastic bags! Futbol video -

Two great books about how girls/women are treated differently around the world are King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman, and I am Malala by Malala Yousatzai and Christina Lamb.

If teachers help students understand cultures and respect the perspectives that each offers, students will become global citizens who can make significant and globally-minded decisions and differences in the world.

Cathy Dalimonte currently serves as the Assistant Principal at Queens Creek Elementary in Swansboro, North Carolina. She began her teaching career in 1991 and has had an expansive career to include teaching K-5 regular education and STEM classes, and her service as a Curriculum Coordinator and Family Liaison. She recently published Global STEM Navigators in the Science and Children Educational Journal (October 2013).