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As Assistant Principals and Deans, much of your day is spent working directly with students and parents. How you approach any given situation will impact the outcome and potentially your relationship with the student and/or parents moving forward. How do you learn to communicate in a positive and effective manner? Unfortunately, these are not the type of practical skills that are taught in an Ed Leadership master’s program, they are developed over time on the job. Here are a few tips to help you improve your communication skills as you start the school year:
From Evaluator to Coach: A Needed Change to Teacher Evaluations
If there is one thing many of us can agree upon, it’s that being evaluated is a stressful and anxiety-filled experience. Knowing the person observing you is watching your every move, listening to your every word and seeing how the students respond to your teaching can make even the most distinguished teacher tense up with nervousness. It’s hard not to respond with anxiety and stress when the process for teacher evaluations is set up in a way that makes teachers feel like they are being judged more than supported. That’s the problem with the evaluation process and something we as school leaders need to change in order for our culture to continue to improve.
Staff Opening Day: Don’t Forget the Teacher in You!
Classic 80s movies have come to be ubiquitous on basic cable. I’m the guy who will always stop and watch any of the Rocky movies when they are on. Popular opinion may assert that Rocky IV is the best chapter of the Rocky series – you are also bound to find a few people who argue the Academy Award-winning original Rocky is the best. Although it is hard to argue with Cold War tensions and the character development of the first film, I would contend that Rocky III is the finest film depicting the “Italian Stallion.”
Are You Using the MASSP Website?
MASSP Launched a new website in January of 2019. We provided an overview video to help introduce all of the new features, so as you get back into the swing of things we wanted to highlight a few key areas that may be of interest to you as an Assistant Principal:
More and more the job of Assistant Principal is combined with another role in the high school building. I call it the infamous ‘slash’. It is very common to see titles such as Assistant Principal/College Adviser, Assistant Principal/Testing Coordinator, and the role that I currently hold, Assistant Principal/Athletic Director among many other roles now found in schools. Managing the role of Assistant Principal is challenging in itself without adding on another role. But I am here to tell you that it is not only possible but can be very rewarding as well. While the duties of the AP many times involve discipline and attendance issues, the dual role can provide a little escape from the grind if managed correctly.
School administrators face an increasing number of student-to-student and staff-to-student sexual harassment complaints, which has led to an increase in Title IX investigations. As school officials handling many of these investigations, Assistant Principals should be aware of the additional legal requirements that apply in the beginning, middle, and end of a Title IX investigation.
I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. However, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the determining factor between success and failure.
I am sure I do not have to tell you how much the role of a high school administrator has changed over the last five, 10, etc. years. If your degree program in administration was anything like mine, it’s also highly likely you didn’t receive much training on how to handle the myriad of situations you may find yourself dealing with today – anxiety-related issues, trauma, LGBTQ topics, conflict resolution, and the list goes on! If I had a silver bullet to give you the perfect solutions for all of these issues, I would be rich. However, I do have a few suggestions to help with navigating some of the topics that you may find beneficial.
Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door, but in a post-Parkland world, school searches have taken on a new meaning in relation to school safety. When can school officials legally search their students? This two-part series discusses (1) suspicion-based searches and best practices for school officials and (2) suspicionless searches
There are few relationships in a school more important than the relationship between a principal and assistant principal. A good dynamic between the two will result in the kind of support necessary to navigate two of the most difficult positions in a school district.
Do you feel like a first responder working day-to-day putting out fires, triaging issues, mediating conflicts, or defending ineffective or outdated practices? Do you ever get to the end of the school day and wonder where time went, noting that you haven’t eaten or used the restroom once, nor been in a single classroom? Are you exhausted at night thinking about what you need to address in the morning? If so, you are likely an assistant principal.
As an assistant principal there are two primary responsibilities to your work to ensure a safe, secure and productive learning environment: building culture and leading learning. If we don’t intentionally focus on these two priorities, we will continue to spend our days and nights reactivating to problems verses changing the odds for student success.
School officials may face situations when they must decide whether a student search is appropriate under the Fourth Amendment. While our last MASSP article focused on when school officials can conduct suspicion-based searches, this article addresses permissible suspicionless searches.
I vividly remember my middle school principal and the fear that hit my gut every time he would look at me or even walk by. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed close to 400 pounds, and his last name was Kevorkian. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that principal, especially if he never smiled and looked like he could be in the WWF as Andre the Giant’s tag-team partner?
Now as a middle school principal myself, I look back at the steps I took through the narrow, freshly waxed hallways of my middle school and wish I could have had a positive relationship with my principal during those crucial and fragile years. I wish my principal would have been more of a mentor than a monitor, a sculptor instead of a suspender, more friendly and less formidable. I truly believe if I had been able to have a relationship with my principal, my middle school and high school career would have been more successful, and my GPA would have exceeded a 2.0.
Taking that first step out of the classroom and into an administrative role inevitably moves us further away from the regular daily contact classroom teachers have with students. Those of us who previously taught know, the relationships built out of this consistent contact is the most rewarding aspect about being in education. It’s all about the kids! So how do we maintain that relational aspect of education as we become further removed from the classroom with constantly increasing amounts of mandated tasks that aren’t solely focused on time with students? We need to engineer ways to make time to stay connected.
Having a basic understanding of the FMLA and FLSA can help Assistant Principals to spot potential pitfalls and better understand how employee leave and scheduling situations should be administered.
Bay City Central high school is a class A school with 193 students with IEPs. This is our second year using a full inclusion delivery model. Previously, most students with IEPs received their core classes through Resource Rooms. Our students with IEP’s struggled with discipline and proficiency. We have also struggled to find Special Education teachers certified in the content area needed within the Resource room. This model wasn’t working.
Growing up, some of my favorite movies were part of the Indiana Jones series. I loved how Indy lived a normal life as a professor, lecturing college students on the history of the world. Little did they know their professor lived a secret life full of adventure, excitement, close calls, and possible doom. When Indiana Jones took off his glasses and tie, he evolved from passionate teacher to an adventurous seeker of wisdom. Jones knew he would never grow in the wisdom department by sitting inside the four walls of his stuffy office looking at the curriculum he was paid to teach. He knew wisdom came through experiences and sometimes unrealistic adventures.
Imagine a classroom with 50 middle school math students. There are multiple teachers in the room. One is circulating the room helping individual students and answering questions, while another has a small group of students off to the side and is providing direct instruction. There is a group of students working together to complete a rich math task. The remaining students are working individually in an online math curriculum that allows them to learn math concepts at their own pace. Nearly all 50 students are at a different place in their math learning and their skill level ranges from Math 7 (7th grade Math) through high school Geometry. Welcome to Math Pathways, a course designed to break the mold of traditional timelines and allow students to master math concepts at their own pace.
Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door, but it is not always clear when school officials can legally search students. This article focuses on when school officials can conduct both suspicion-based and suspicionless searches.
As part of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools’ multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), middle school administrators and counselors use a variety of data to schedule students in support courses that best meet their learning needs. In the past, these additional supports focused only on improving students’ academic skills. This year, however, we have created an opportunity to support students in the development of social and emotional competencies for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in a course named Skills for Success.
We work in a people business that focuses on growth, change and potential. As educators, we are professionals at putting others first, being servant leaders and doing whatever it takes to help. But, how do we care for ourselves? Historically, professional development is student focused, data driven and results oriented. At Hamilton High School, we have just begun a journey of self-discovery, self-awareness and self-care for our staff. We believe that the better we understand ourselves, the better we are able to help/understand others.
Welcome to The Assist 2020!
There has never been a more challenging time to be a school administrator. All of you are going above and beyond on a daily basis and many of the critical tasks that keep students learning and everyone safe are responsibilities that often fall on the Assistant Principal. If you happen to have the task of being the scheduler, this has been an incredibly difficult year as it is likely you have re-run the schedule with a variety of options and had to produce a final version in record time. Those of you who aren’t the scheduler were probably involved with measuring desks, moving furniture, putting tape down in hallways, securing signs, food/tech distribution and making instructional videos to set expectations. The to-do list has now shifted with many having students and staff back on campus and it is likely the list will grow as circumstances change on a daily basis.
Please know the MASSP staff recognizes the sacrifices you have been making and we greatly appreciate everything you do to make school function. You are unsung heroes in many cases and MASSP is proud to support and represent you as members.
As you read this e-newsletter will get some great perspectives from Jennifer Thunberg, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Bay City Central HS, Andy Kowalczyk the Current President of MASSP and an Assistant Principal also at Bay City Central High School and Steve Forsberg Assistant Principal at Ludington High School. All three of these talented APs were willing to write articles and share their ideas with all of you. If you are interested in contributing an article for our upcoming editions of The Assist, we would love to hear from you. Our members love to learn from each other, and member written articles always have the highest click rates. Click the button below this article to learn how to contribute to The Assist and to view past editions!
I am pretty sure that none of us were prepared during our training to become administrators for a pandemic. The ever-changing target over the past 6 months has had every administrator in Michigan scrambling to stay up to date on the newest executive order, health department guideline, or CDC recommendation. Some of us are now 3 to 4 weeks into a new school year that looks anything but normal. I am not writing anything that you don’t know at this point – but I think there are some keys things that we forget as we get stuck in the hamster wheel right now. You are not alone.
MASSP recently announced a new opportunity for students to get involved with Esports. When I say “new opportunity” I mean from the perspective of a statewide league with a playoff and championship structure- the concept of Esports is certainly not new for our students. I can say with almost 100% certainty if you sent a communication to your student body and asked how many students play SMITE, Rocket League and/or League of Legends you will get many “yups” in response. These games will be the options for those who choose to compete in the newly formed Michigan High School Esports League (MHSEL).
2020-21 Mantra: Safety, Flexibility and Strong Individualized Academics: Pandemic Approach Q & A with Ludington High School
Check out MASSP's Q & A with Steve Forsberg and learn how Ludington High is approaching the pandemic, creatively communicating with the community and what they have learned along the way!
- What does your schedule look like for face-to-face students? How are you serving remote students (what % selected remote)? Do you have a hybrid option (what % selected this)?
- How did you communicate these options to families?
- I've noticed you shoot a lot of videos to communicate. How do you get those out? Do you see a high view rate? What video seemed to get the most views or attention?
- What has been the biggest challenge presented by the pandemic?
- What do you see as a potential silver lining or something you've learned since the pandemic started?
Assistant principals often have the (un)enviable duty to enforce the student dress code. This year, your school’s dress code should include a new addition: face coverings.
With limited exceptions, schools in Phase 4 must require face coverings for all students kindergarten through 12th grade when in classrooms, hallways, and indoor common areas and when on a school bus. In Phase 5, student face covering requirements shift from “required” to “strongly recommended.”
Learn more regarding student's refusal to wear face coverings, medical and religious exemptions, and some final thoughts
School athletics during COVID-19 is a hot-button issue. Some schools have cancelled fall sports, while those that are offering fall sports are pondering potential implications. For assistant principals involved in school athletics, whether as coaches or coach supervisors, becoming and remaining familiar with applicable Executive Orders and agency guidance is essential to ensuring your school’s athletic events are legally compliant and guided by the most current safety standards. While governmental immunity and liability waivers may offer some protection from potential liability, your conduct will be measured against an unsettled and evolving legal landscape.
The potential liability of assistant principals involved in school sports for COVID-related illnesses or injuries will turn, in part, upon the perceived reasonableness or recklessness of their conduct. That perception will likely depend upon compliance with governmental mandates and guidance.
Principals will want to be aware that school safety drill requirements are still in effect – at least for now – for the 2020-21 school year. If you weren't aware of this, your misunderstanding is understandable since most of the other state laws that were suspended for this past spring remain suspended until September 30, but safety drills are the exception. The confusion comes because EO 2020-142 only extended the provisions in the School Aid Act and the Revised School Code and the safety drill requirements are in Michigan's Fire Prevention Code (MCL 29.19).
Read the exact language and get a breakdown of the requirements!
MASSP's New Principal Connect series is FREE and will address key topics 6 times this year in 60-minute sessions. Topics include: Communication, Building Culture, Collaboration, Difficult Conversations, Student Voice and Parent Relationships.
The pandemic has made the difficult job of a building administrator even more complex. When you are new and overwhelmed it can be difficult to find a mentor and develop a support network. Principal Connect allows you to make these important connections with statewide colleagues from your desk and are designed for you as assistant principals, deans, and principals of both middle and high school.
Learning for both students and teachers looks incredibly different this school year. With so many new learning environments to accommodate remote, virtual or hybrid instruction, your staff has been learning new skills to ensure student success.
But what about YOU?
It’s incredibly important that administrators are staying informed and planning your own professional learning to ensure student and teacher success. Why not stay current and move forward in your career and walk the talk by taking online classes yourself in order to gain the experience that your students are also going through?
MASSP has you covered! In order to assist with the new learning experiences many are facing, we have expanded our online course offerings through the Digital Learning Network. Read more for just a few courses that offer relevant content to your role as an Assistant Principal or Dean of Students, while being flexible and self-paced so you can decide when the best time is to log in and learn.