Friday, October 23, 2015

Mediocre Practices

I have been in a bit of the October funk.  All teachers normally go through this in October; there are many articles written that discuss this phenomenon.  Usually, I can go through October without feeling that, but this year, I cannot shake it.  All month, I attributed this to a litany of excuses, most of them surrounding the zillion managerial tasks that I must accomplish for many compliance components of my job, and that may be true, but I am allowing my focus to be strayed. I am feeling mediocre.

In my summer of learning at Harvard, there was so much new information learned, thought about, reflected upon; the volume was massive that I continue to be impacted in my practice and thinking.  What is creeping into my soul is Kim Marshall's day with us on teacher walk throughs.  He highlights mediocre practices that we, as principals, should be looking for when we go into classrooms.  Mr. Marshall suggests we identify the practices and eliminate them from our classrooms.  I was so impacted by this, that I put his list in my staff handbook in our instructional norms section.  I am not seeing these practices in my classrooms at the moment, because I cannot get sustained time in them to determine if they are in play or not.  Why?  I, myself, am swimming in mediocre principal practice!

While Mr. Marshall's research and efforts point towards a teacher, they can be pointed directly at any administrator as well.  So, I am self-diagnosing my mediocrity.  What are those mediocre practices, you ask dear reader?  Here is his list for teachers:
 Teacher texting or doing e-mail during class
Going over bell work for the first 25 minutes
Round-robin reading
Teacher lecturing, students tuned out, heads down
Teaching while side conversations go on
The COPWAKTA syndrome ( calling on the person who already knows the answer)
Accepting one-word answers and moving on
Low-quality worksheets, lots of dreary test prep
One-week delay getting work back to students
Finishing a class early and giving students “free time”

What would be the list for principals?  I am not sure, but mostly I am thinking about time spent in my office, when I have been on campus, on tasks that do not directly impact instruction would make the list.  Normally, my Type A self would have found time in the evening or on the weekend to make up that difference; however, a sixteen year old girl with two homecomings to attend has not helped me in that avenue either.  Thus, further exacerbating the October doldrums I have felt.  Perhaps I am over thinking this, but they are my feelings and I am going to own them.  I have high expectations of the principal I strive to be and I am falling short of my own expectations.  If I am falling short of my own expectations, how are my teachers perceiving this?  I am certain that they would extend much more forgiveness, as we are our own "worst enemy".  I am the only one who can change this feeling and I am going to work hard to make the last week of October finish with concerted effort to make November better.  

I have so many things that I want to get better about as a principal that will impact instruction that I know I need to slow down and let those things happen.  It will get better because I want it to get better.  

If you have an encouraging thought to share on this topic, I welcome your comments below!  If you are interested in learning more about Kim Marshall and his thoughts on teacher walkthroughs and practice, here is a nice, concise article that summarizes his best efforts: 
 .  .

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for your honesty, Stacy! Like you said, October is a tough month. You are definitely your own worst enemy because I think you're moving mountains over there! I hope November has been more motivating for you. Sending positive thoughts and hugs your way! #bestprincipalever

  2. You are a motivator Stacy. Thanks for opening up and challenging us as you challenge yourself. Every day is an opportunity. Thanks for setting a high bar for yourself and others. Good luck as you move through December. You are an awesome principal!