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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2– 2022-23
Let’s Hear it for the Room
3 Areas of Collaboration to Celebrate
Nick Davies, Ph.D.
Associate Principal, Eisenhower/Lake Shore Elementary
Evaluation Criteria: Improving Instruction, Managing Resources
If you have been to an AWSP event, workshop, or training, you have heard them say, “The smartest person in the room is the room.”
Let’s take a minute to celebrate our community and look at how we can harness the collective wisdom of the principals in the state of Washington! Here are three ways I want to celebrate the “room” and at the same time improve our practices as school leaders. Principal PLCs We stress the importance of PLCs to our teachers on a regular basis. We look for ways to support and encourage teacher PLCs, along with ensuring they are functioning at a high level. We do this because we know the benefit of teachers working together. Most of us in education agree with the quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That said, do you have a PLC? Principals need to spend time on their own professional development and make it a regular part of their week. I know some high school principals get together on a regular basis with the principals who make up their athletic leagues. Elementary and middle schools don’t have those types of built-in associations (along with some high schools). I strongly encourage those principals to create their own PLC. I also believe it is important to branch out of your district. It can be good to get out of our comfort zone to learn from people who are using different systems with different student populations and with different mindsets.
Let’s take a minute to celebrate our community and look at how we can harness the collective wisdom of the principals in the state of Washington!
And then there are associate principals… What are we doing for a PLC? Sometimes it can feel like we are just treading water and adding one more thing will make our jobs even harder. But the power of getting together with people with outside perspectives is that they can support you with problems you are facing. This can make the job more manageable.
I recently got together with some associate principals from ESD 112, and we are going to continue to meet on a bi-weekly basis for the rest of the year. No one told us to get together, but we noticed a gap in our own professional development and decided to take action. These meetings are structured around building community, addressing specific problems of practice for each of the members, and having some time for micro-PD sessions run by different people in the group[1]. Let’s hear it for Principal PLCs! Take someone to coffee (in-person or virtually) When was the last time you reached out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or someone you don’t even know to have coffee? I reach out to people on a regular basis to meet with them and pick their brains. I am fascinated with leadership and what people have done to get there and be successful. I try to meet with one to two principals or superintendents for virtual coffee every week. I am amazed at how many people want to pay it forward and agree to meet with me even though we have no connection.
Everyone has different lived experiences than we do, so hearing how they work as a leader can expand our perspective. My challenge to anyone reading this is to reach out to one person and ask them to have coffee in person or virtually. Ask them a couple of interesting questions that you are curious about and see if there is anything that you can do for them. It is a fun experience and you might be surprised at who will say yes! Let’s hear it for paying it forward and meeting with new people! Mentors I have been very fortunate to have some great mentors during my time as an associate principal, and they have mostly taken the form of other associates and principals where I am working. I want to start with a big shout-out to my high school mentors (Alex Otoupal, Ken Roberts, and Rob Duncan). They were a huge support as I transitioned from the classroom to administration. Currently, I am a split associate principal at two elementary schools. Anna Supplee and Mark Jordan are the two principals that I work for[2]. I am grateful because both of them are incredible mentors as I make the transition from high school to elementary. Anna is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and her depth of knowledge for teaching and learning is enviable. Mark has been an administrator for a long time, knows how to effectively run a building, and has the superpower of building very strong relationships with students, teachers, and community members. I am always picking up something new from my conversations with both of them. Let’s hear it for mentors! There is always time for things that we find important. I believe we can all find an hour every other week to spend time with our colleagues in a setting where we can push each other. This spring I am celebrating the “room.” From my fellow associate principals who are supporting me, to my building principals who are mentoring me, to the principals and superintendents in Washington who have taken time out of their day to meet with me on Zoom to answer questions, I say a huge thank you!
We can’t go it alone, and we can do so much more when we go together!
Nick is an elementary associate principal for Vancouver Public Schools and an adjunct Faculty Member at Pacific University. He has a Ph.D. in Education and Leadership where he focused on curriculum implementation. Nick has previously held roles as a high school associate principal/athletic director. He was also a secondary math teacher and head track and field coach. Nick served as a reservist in the U.S. Coas t Guard.
Connect with Nick on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-davies-education/
[1] If you are interested in the specifics of how we are running our associate PLC or Mastermind as we are calling it (mastermind has a nice ring to it), please reach out. I would be happy to share everything I have to help others in the process. It is a great way to have honest conversations about what you are struggling with in a non-judgemental environment. The ‘room’ supports you and helps you improve as a leader. nick.davies@vansd.org
[2] If you end up in Spokane for the WASA/AWSP Summer Conference, Anna, Mark, and I are giving a presentation on balancing a split associate principal. Come find us at Summer Conference!