Guiding Questions for Instructional Leaders

Chrysta Carlin, Principal, Memorial Early College High School, Comal ISD

New Year Image

With a new school year upon us, principals are marking items off the to-do list, making sure the campus is ready to welcome students and teachers. While there are the logistical demands that can dominate your list, as the instructional leaders of the campus we must not allow those items to over shadow the big picture: providing a learning experience for our students.

As a means to ensure quality instruction remains the goal for my campus, I ask myself the following self-reflection questions to prepare for the year:

Is the master schedule constructed in a manner that supports teacher collaboration, planning, and professional development?

Setting the structure of the day to support instruction is essential. We cannot set an expectation for quality instruction yet not give our teachers the time and space to collaborate and plan. If scheduling common conference periods does not fit in the master schedule, then is there another time set for teachers to meet?

Does the campus have a specific goal for quality instruction?

It is important for the faculty and administration to have a common goal or focus. The goal should be specific to instruction and not just about raising test scores. For the 2015-2016 school year staff members on my campus have been challenged with the following:

    How can we create learning experiences where students demonstrate the capacity to successfully complete authentic, complex, and rigorous tasks that require active exploration, higher order thinking, and application of what they have learned?

This is a huge challenge and while the entire faculty is working towards the common goal, each department may have a different lens or focus. Some departments may be working on vertical alignment while others are focusing on authenticity. Regardless of focus, it is important for me to create it with the teachers and support the focus through professional development.

Is there a professional development plan for the campus?

A well-written professional development (PD) plan is aligned to campus goals, allows for classroom implementation, and provides opportunity for teacher reflection. The plan should include first semester PD topics allowing for adjustments based on walk-through data, student work, and teacher feedback. In order to be implemented well, a time and place for PD should be set. Teachers should know if PD is to occur weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Setting a consistent place and time for professional learning will help prevent confusion and allow the focus to be on quality instruction.

Does the campus leadership team have a common understanding of the campus instructional goal?

The principal is the instructional leader of the campus; however, it is impossible for the principal to lead all instructional meetings or PLCs (professional learning communities). More than likely the academic dean and/or the assistant principal will need to lead some of the instructional meetings. Therefore, it is highly important for the leadership team to communicate a common message and expectation regarding instruction.

Being a principal means managing many parts, especially at the beginning of the school year. As we juggle all that comes along with the start of school, let’s not forget to pause and make sure as leaders, we have developed the structure and culture needed to support quality instruction on the campus. Have a great school year!

Monday, August 17, 2015