Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
The Role of the Principal as Instructional Leader
What happens when the supervisor doesn’t like to supervise?
Camille Jones
Admin Intern, Pioneer Elementary, Quincy SD
Evaluation Criteria: Planning with Data, Improving Instruction, Managing Resources
EDITOR’S NOTE: Author Camille Jones is an administrative student at Washington State University. This paper is a reflective essay based on her time in a class called “EDAD 516, Curriculum and Instructional Leadership.” She was the 2017 Washington State Teacher of the Year.
I have never wanted to supervise other adults. I approached this class trying to be open, but I was anxious. I am not sure if I was more nervous that my anxieties would be calmed or confirmed. In reality, neither has happened. I remain uncomfortable with the idea of supervising others, but now I have a better understanding of why I feel that way.
I am not sure that I am up to the task. I am impatient with adults.
I am afraid I would be frustrated all the time if it was my job to supervise them. This is my reflection and my truth. I often use writing to help move my thinking forward, so I’m hoping exactly that will happen with this essay. This is truly active reflection, and by the end, I hope to synthesize my thoughts into a new mindset to take away from this course.
With that goal, I’m approaching this essay with two questions in mind. First, how might I develop patience and hope in others as I lead them toward continuous improvement? And second, how can the things I learned this semester become tools to help me employ compassion and empathy during difficult conversations and disciplinary actions?
Let’s see where those take me as I begin looking back through my notes.
The most compelling message I heard this semester was from Lori Wyborney’s bookend talk. She urged us to centralize our moral imperative for this work in everything we do. I connected strongly with that. Maybe I don’t have to develop patience, at least not for complacency? What I heard from Lori is that she is dogged in her focus. In staff meetings, evaluations, employee discipline, and hiring, her messaging is clear and consistent. She said, “Our students are very important, and they deserve the best. You have to be that. For them.”
In evaluations and employee discipline conversations, she is a warm demander. With her high expectations comes an outline of how she will help the person become the best of themselves, for their students. In interviews, she frames questions around the candidate’s “ability and commitment to working with the unique needs and talents of students in this community.” That is inspiring.
Thinking back to my experiences in observing and practicing the evaluation cycle for certified and classified staff this semester, I wonder how I could reimagine those experiences with Lori’s advice in mind?
Although classified staff are not evaluated in the same way as teachers, I could invite them to goal setting meetings at the beginning of the year, acknowledging them as professionals and compelling them toward participating in our school’s vision for improvement, too.
In a building where I am the principal, students can’t wait. I keep this message at the center.
For teachers, typically pre- and post-observation conferences consist of a generic set of questions focused on teacher actions to improve student learning. Just as Lori has re-imagined her interview questions to stay focused on this moral imperative, why couldn’t the observation feedback cycle be framed in the same way?
This leads my thinking outside of this class, and toward the learning I’ve taken in through Quincy School District’s Access, Opportunity, and Equity Coalition. In the self-reflective and policy writing work of that committee, I learned to centralize the question, “How is racism acting here?” Or, put another way, “How did/do/will my actions improve conditions for students of color?” This is the core of the moral imperative that Lori talked about. It can be the essential question of the school I lead.
Now that I’m putting these thoughts together, what I take away from this class is this: I don’t have to change who I am.
In a building where I am the principal, students can’t wait. I keep this message at the center. I move too fast sometimes, but my staff and I find our way together because we are committed to this truth, and they know I am here to help them live into it. In every conversation with them individually or as a group, they know and expect me to return to our central question, and they know I will offer support as they grow. Sometimes staff leave if they realize they aren’t committed to or able to live into our mission. When they do, I embed my essential question into new staff interviews. The mission remains central especially during hiring. New staff know just what they are getting into, and we know just who is coming on board.
I can finally see it. I am prepared to supervise and lead a school. Hope is a verb. And patience doesn’t have to mean complacency, but rather, support and growth. These are the enduring understandings I will carry forward from my internship, from this course, from writing this essay. This experiment totally worked.
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Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21