Justin Baeder, Author at The Principal Center - Page 2 of 13

Free Download: 10 Questions for Better Feedback on Teaching

All Posts by Justin Baeder

Peter Dewitt—Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Dr. Peter Dewitt

Dr. Peter DeWitt is an education consultant focusing on collaborative leadership and fostering inclusive school climates. Within North America, his work has been adopted at the university and state level, and he works with numerous districts, school boards, regional and state organizations where he trains leadership teams and coaches building leaders. He's the author of five books, including his new book Coach It Further.

Michael McDowell—The Lead Learner: Improving Clarity, Coherence, and Capacity for All

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Michael McDowell, PhD

Dr. Michael McDowell is Superintendent of the Ross School District outside of San Francisco, and an expert in project-based learning and professional development. He's the author of three books, including The Lead Learner: Improving Clarity, Coherence, and Capacity for All.

Aaron White—Script

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Aaron White

Aaron White is CEO & Co-founder of Script. He has previously served as IT director of a charter network, and his current focus is helping schools go paperless and cashless with Script.

Larry Hausner—The Principal Coaching Model: How To Plan, Design, and Implement a Successful Program

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Dr. Larry Hausner

Dr. Larry Hausner is an experienced principal with more than 14 years in the position. He is a professor at USC and the founder of Coaching School Leadership, a firm dedicated to providing coaching services to principals nationwide.

How To Organize Your Experience On Your Résumé So You Get In The “YES” Pile

How should you list your work history, experience, and skills on your résumé, so you get in the “YES” pile and land an interview?

Watch the video for my key recommendations:

I see a lot of résumés that are a jumble of confusion, because people are trying to put their best qualifications at the top of the page, even if they don't belong there.

The other day, I saw a résumé that had “SKILLS” at the top, followed by “LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE” followed by “TEACHING EXPERIENCE.” It took a lot of effort to figure out the person's actual work history.

The facts? They'd done an admin internship a few years ago, and were currently a classroom teacher.

Is that bad? No! But it's confusing if you don't present it clearly.

When a screener is reviewing your résumé, they're looking for the facts—your work history. When your résumé is organized in a confusing way, the reviewer can't find what they're looking for.

When the reviewer is confused, they put your application in the “NO” pile.

So how should you list your leadership experience on your résumé—especially if your best leadership experience isn't your most recent?

  • What if you served a term on the leadership committee, but now it's someone else's turn, and you have zero leadership responsibilities at the moment?
  • What if you did a great internship a few years ago, but now you're back in a non-leadership classroom role?

If you list it reverse-chronologically, with the newest roles at the top, your best experience may not be at the top of the page…and that's OK.

The first goal of a résumé should be clarity about the basic facts of your work history.

Once you've given the reader what they're looking for—clarity—you can add the good stuff that will make you stand out.

Learn more about how to organize your résumé so you land in the “YES” pile—by downloading The Résumé Blueprint.

Barbara Blackburn & Bradley Witzel—Rigor in the RTI & MTSS Classroom

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Barbara Blackburn, PhD

Barbara Blackburn, PhD is the author of 22 books and a full-time consultant who works with schools around the world to help raise the level of rigor and motivation for professional educators and students alike.

About Dr. Bradley Witzel

Dr. Bradley Witzel is professor and Special Education Program Coordinator in the College of Education at Winthrop University.

Monica Burns—Tasks Before Apps: Designing Rigorous Learning in a Tech-Rich Classroom

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Monica Burns PhD.

Dr. Monica Burns is a Curriculum and EdTech Consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator and Founder of ClassTechTips.com. She's a featured speaker at the upcoming FETC, the Future of Education Technology Conference, and she's the author of Tasks Before Apps: Designing Rigorous Learning in a Tech-Rich Classroom.

How To Respond When Someone Asks You For A Reference or Recommendation Letter

What should you do when someone you work with asks you for a recommendation letter or reference for an educational leadership role?

Reference checks are essential to the hiring process, because they vastly increase the amount of information available to the hiring team. In interviews and application materials,  candidates have full control over what they share. If there's something a hiring team should know about a candidate's past job performance, good or bad, only references can provide a third-party perspective and convey this information. 

Being asked to provide a reference catches many educators off-guard, so it's important to anticipate your own feelings and possible reactions, so you take the most appropriate course of action.

Here are three common reactions leaders face when asked for references and letters of recommendation:

  • Feelings of betrayal
  • Fear of losing a great person
  • Being unsure about whether you can, in good conscience, recommend someone for a new role

In each section, you'll find detailed guidance on how to react to your own feelings, and how to act ethically in complex situations.

“They're Being Disloyal!”

People typically need references because they're planning to move to a new position in another school or district. When someone signals their intent to leave, this can create strong feelings about loyalty—or rather, disloyalty.

Is someone being disloyal when they seek out new opportunities? Are they betraying you and your students?

Some leaders mistakenly believe that the educators they hire should be loyal to their particular school or district forever. While the school year and annual contract are important tools for creating stability for students, it's a mistake to expect individual educators to be loyal to a single organization for their entire careers.

Instead, professional loyalty is to the profession. Our students and colleagues will always change from year to year, so it's not as if there's any real sense that “we're all in this together, and always will be.”

Change is inevitable, and people's growth and development are a good thing. Just as we don't want our students to stick around forever—we want them to progress to the next grade level, and leave when it's time—we don't want staff to stick around longer than they should out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

This is a tough one for many of us, though, because we see plenty of examples of great educators who never move on—who continue to grow as professionals while remaining in the same position. 

But it's important to realize that some people must leave and seek new opportunities elsewhere if they're to fulfill their calling as educators. There are simply not always enough opportunities within a given school or district. 

Educators owe their loyalty to the profession, not to any one organization—and it's a two-way street. So if you're asked to provide a reference or letter of recommendation, don't see it as an act of disloyalty on either person's part—see it as part of the inevitable and necessary movement of people to the opportunities where they can best serve students and fulfill their professional calling. 

“But I want to keep them!”

I was taken aback the first time I heard this from a candidate, but I continue to hear it on a regular basis:

“My boss said she won't write me a letter of recommendation, because she doesn't want to have to replace me.”

At first, I thought it was a joke. “Ha ha, yeah, I'm sure you'll leave big shoes to fill” was my reply—but the candidate was completely serious:

“No, she really does not want me to leave, and she told me she won't give me a good recommendation.”

Let me be clear: this type of sabotage is deeply unethical. 

If you withhold a well-deserved recommendation, simply to prevent someone from leaving and to save yourself the trouble of replacing them, you are committing a type of professional fraud

If you believe someone is making a difference for kids, you don't get to hog them. Support them in pursuing their dreams and maximizing their impact. 

Are you creating more work for yourself? Potentially, but you're also opening your school to the possibility of an even more amazing opportunity to bring in the right person for your current needs.  It may be hard to imagine anyone else being as good in the role—but you'll also have a chance to re-envision the role and the impact it can have on students.

Leaders who withhold references are acting in a petty and shortsighted manner that doesn't even serve their own students. Educators who want to move on, but can't, are unlikely to be at their best after being rebuffed. And they're likely to leave anyway, even if it means going without the benefit of a good reference.

“I'm Ambivalent About Recommending This Person”

What if you're not sure whether you can, in good conscience, provide a glowing recommendation?

It's simple: speak the truth. Don't say someone is great when they're merely good, and don't say someone is good if you're really looking to dump them on someone else. 

But don't save your honesty for a confidential reference check or year-end recommendation letter. Give feedback directly to the person as soon as it occurs to you, or as soon as you're asked for feedback.

Rising stars in our profession will often ask directly for feedback:

  • What opportunities should I be taking on?
  • What are my blind spots?
  • What could I be doing better?

If you see that someone has ambitions that might take them beyond their current role, and you anticipate feeling some reluctance, get curious and ask yourself: “What would I need to see this year in order to give this person my best, most glowing, no-hesitation recommendation?”

Now, this is where it gets tricky, because if you remain in the educational leadership profession for any length of time, you'll inevitably come across aspiring leaders who are moving up faster than you did. It's natural to think “Whoah, they really need to slow down and get more experience.”

We all tend to think that our career trajectory was right for us, so a similar path must be the best course for everyone else, right?

Wrong.

Every educator is on their own journey, and every situation is different. Sure, most 2nd-year teachers are not ready to become principals, but the reasons they're not ready—and the next steps they should take to become ready—are unique to each individual.

If your only feedback is “Keep doing what you're doing, for a longer period of time,” you're not thinking about what skills and experience the person actually needs to be ready for the next level.

Giving Feedback While It's Still Useful

If you don't feel comfortable giving someone a strong reference, that's a clear signal that they deserve more specific feedback, while there's still time to act on it and address any shortcomings. Don't wait until you're called for a reference check—give specific feedback now, while it can still benefit your students. 

It is unlikely that simply gaining additional years of experience, doing the same work in the same role, will have much value for an educator's future work at a higher level of leadership. 

Think about a 2nd-year teacher who has expressed interest in becoming a principal. Personally, I was always annoyed at people who seemed too eager to move on to a new challenge too soon.

But let's interrogate this sense of annoyance a bit: what's wrong with a 2nd-year teacher aspiring to the principalship?

Let's first be clear that “It took me longer” and “I had to put in my time and wait my turn” are not good arguments. Many of us had to wait longer than we wanted due to circumstances we wouldn't wish on anyone. 

But there's a legitimate reason to want someone to gain more experience before you recommend them for a promotion: skills and experience.

In most cases, 2nd-year teachers aren't very good yet. This is a profession with a steep learning curve. 

But teachers deserve useful feedback whether they're planning a career move or not. They deserve the specific feedback that will help them grow so they can serve their students more effectively. 

So if you feel that someone doesn't yet have the skills or experience they need to move to the next level, don't just tell them to hang around longer. Putting in more time has no magical power—and we've all seen teachers who get a little better in their 2nd year, only to stagnate at that level for years afterward. 

Give people the feedback they need—now—to earn your enthusiastic endorsement in the future. You'll be doing your current students a favor, and you'll be making a long-term impact on the profession.

If you know someone who aspires to a higher level of leadership, you can share this link where they can download my 52 practice interview questions for school leadership candidates.

Luthern Williams—New Roads School

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Luthern Williams

Luthern Williams is Head of School at New Roads School in Santa Monica, California. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, his career in educational leadership spans more than 20 years.

Tamara Fyke—Building People: Social-Emotional Learning for Kids, Families, Schools, and Communities

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Tamara Fyke

Tamara Fyke is an author, speaker, and expert on social and emotional learning, and she's the creator of the Love In A Big World curriculum, and the editor and Building People: Social-Emotional Learning for Kids, Families, Schools, and Communities, which we're here to talk about today.