How would you revise principal preparation? [CONTEST]

Imagine that you worked in a university Educational Leadership program with no limits or barriers regarding time, distance, money, personnel, past history, or bureaucracy. Now imagine that you were revising your principal preparation program. What would you put in it? In other words, if you had nothing to get in the way – if instead you could indulge in pie-in-the-sky dreaming – how would you design the world’s best principal preparation program?

  • What absolutely must be in the program?
  • What absolutely must NOT be in the program?
  • What would you consider to be essential readings?
  • What would you consider to be essential experiences?
  • How would you design the internship (or internship-like experiences)?
  • What are essential knowledge, skills, dispositions, competencies, etc. that you’d want graduates to have?
  • And so on…

This is exactly the situation that my new institution, the University of Kentucky, is in right now (well, except for the ‘no limits or barriers’ part!). We’ll take any and all thoughts you’d care to lend. And, to sweeten the pot, I’ll randomly award a 4-pack of books (Teaching 2030, Personal Learning Networks, Ignore Everybody, & Faces of Learning) to someone from the pool of people who leaves a suggestion!

61 Responses to “How would you revise principal preparation? [CONTEST]”

  1. A few more pennies, for I have already submitted response. Great observations from Jesse U (just above)…that approaching a principalship involves an art & science, to teaching–and leading. Leading by example, being and practicing lifelong learning. from what I’ve observed, much preparation goes into the science of it all. What is often lacking is the art of being a principal (and being a strong teacher & learner. Two sources come to mind. Start with Hilary Austen’s “Artistry Unleashed”. Though a business book, a principalship in planning would fit right in. After reading, one realizes the science…and art of it all are not that far off.
    Second–read anything by Robert Sternberg. This lifelong learner really has a great grasp of anything from cognitive to creative. Start with his most recent, “College Admissions for the 21st Century”.
    A few other primers for relevant and pertinent discussions–hopefully with other aspiring principals, are Tony Wagner’s “The Global Achievement Gap”, Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated” (as a followup to the aforementioned Mindsets–Dweck), and “Better by Mistake” by Alina Tugend. There are many more–however, these volumes will throw many perceptions off to learning and what prompts lifelong learning, quite often different than many of our collective and built definitions of what schooling is. With that in mind, read also Anthony Muhammad’s “Transforming School Culture”. A good principal will relish a good challenge. Lastly, be willing to put motivation and drive front and center with what brings us all to the act of learning, to redefine rigor, and to put relevance up front.

  2. Prairie Lakes AEA Principal Leaders gathered yesterday (10.10.11) at Pocahontas and used the blog posts and their own thinking to come up with a list of things to include in a principal prep program (and our Principal Leadership and Learning Community that we’re creating this year at PLAEA). The top 5:
    1) communication strategies, how to have difficult conversations
    2) more info on curriculum and assessment to help us be the instructional leaders we want to be (and are expected to be)
    3) culture development in schools…how do we get to the heart of this as we look towards changing the culture
    4) digging into the data – we need more help with this ourselves but also so we can help our staff (and communities) understand and adjust instruction/programming as a result
    5) how to effectively evaluate staff…what does the research say about teacher evaluation and can we do it well

    Are there other Principal Networks we could connect with? Our hashtag is #principalslead…we’d love to hear from others who are doing this important work.

  3. I am currently a candidate in an Admin and Supervision program. Speaking as a graduate student who is less than thrilled with the program that I am enrolled in, I would want:
    1. Online program (as a full time educator with a family, my time is not my own to schedule always and an online program is the only way I could meet the demands of work, family, and school)
    2. A well developed online program–not just a redistribution of a f2f program to an online format. Please use the tools available and best practices for online education.
    3. No traditional tests to check if I have done the readings. I would not be in a program if I was not vested in my learning. Please assess my higher order thinking skills, not my ability to locate facts and regurgitate the text book.
    4. Provide opportunities for internship hours throughout the coursework, so that I can apply what I am learning right away.
    5. Use the expertise of the participants to enrich the program–everyone in an Admin and Supervision program should have a wealth of experience to draw on, so utilize the best practices from adult learning.
    6. Don’t teach from the textbook. I will resent all the money I am spending if I could have done this as a self paced corespondence course without an instructor.
    7. Give thought to not just preparing principals, but also central office administration, and the similarities and differences of being an leader in each of these settings.
    I would love to win those books–I am sure they would be great references for my coursework!

  4. As a school administrator I found Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal extremely useful in creating a practical framework for bringing together the diverse and complex responsibilities of the position.

  5. Great question! I have been a school administrator for eight of my twenty years as an educator so I have a few suggestions in response to your question:
    1. There should be a principal practicum opportunity whereby the new principal could learn from a least 3 successful principals (these experienced principals would be decided by both the district and you)
    2. Mentoring opportunities from the get-go!
    3. Ongoing training in literacy/numeracy so that we are very informed when we are evaluating our staff. We should not feel like we would behind if we chose to go back to the classroom, right?
    4. In-depth evaluation training (meeting a few times a year to share successes and concerns with our principal peers).
    5. Ongoing training/modelling in how to best work with difficult staff and parents
    6. More detailed training in working with our various unions re: their contracts
    7. Detailed and specific budget training that goes beyond the basics! When our administrative assistants receive training on new programs, we should be there too (for example: WinSchool, Quicken training, petty cash, reconciling credit card transactions, school raised funds pointers, etc.)
    8. More in-servicing on creating teaching timetables and supervision schedules that meet the needs of our 21st century schools (re: providing time for professional learning community meetings within the instructional day).
    9. Detailed training re: implementing various provincial policies/regulations such as: Policy 701, 703, Harassment in the Workplace policy, 711 (Nutrition Policy), Occupational Health & Safety regulation
    10. Training re: how to confront professionally
    11. Training and focusing on collaboratively creating and implementing vision/mission statements and how to achieve a balance for ourselves and our staff members.
    12. Opportunities to meet with fellow administrators within and outside the instructional day to share with and support each other.

    I too would LOVE to have to win these resources!!

  6. I believe first and foremost an educational leader must be an excellent teacher. Unlike the national standards Wisconsin’s Administrator Standards requires principals have an understanding of and demonstrate competence in the teaching standards for the state. What is an educational leadership program begins with having the principal candidate come to terms with their own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher? Much of my success as a leader has depended on my ability to teach. Teach parents, teach teachers, teach students, teach community. I define teaching in within the context of analyzing a learner and matching their need with a solution and helping them discover it, sparking their imagination and building their confidence in their ability to succeed. Staff meetings, staff development days, post observation notes the list goes on and on every part of the day is about learning more about those you are working with and using that knowledge to get them all swimming in the same direction.
    How does this apply to a leadership program? Continue to develop teaching skills! Have candidates teach adults and children in lab settings and critique each other. Make sure they have the chance to teach all age levels! If a teacher has 10 things to work on do they know which one to start with to make the most impact on the student? Can they coach a teacher effectively?
    The other must for an educational leadership program is to help developing leaders form a sound and passionate philosophical basis from which all decisions will be made. In-box exercises that are drilled down to the root of the decision will keep a leader afloat when the day gets busy and they are torn in a hundred directions. What is their personal vision? What are they willing to “die on the hill” for?
    In summary an effective program will include; reflection and growth as a teacher, training and required experience as an instructional coach and rigorous requirement to trace all work back to vision, mission and goals.

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