Justin Baeder, Author at The Principal Center - Page 3 of 13

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Why The Admin Job Search Is Won In Advance

If you want to land the next-level leadership role you're aspiring to, the moment of victory is now.

Not when you get the call.

Not when you walk into the interview.

Not when you submit your application.

Victory begins now, when you start preparing.

Why?

Because most people don't prepare. Most people “wing it” and hope for the best.

And here's the weird thing: sometimes “winging it” works—but only sometimes. Here's why people sometimes succeed by winging it—and why you shouldn't take the chance.

Path #1: Being The Chosen One

If you're the chosen one, being prepared for the hiring process far in advance is less important. It still matters, but a last-minute application can still get the job done—if you're the preferred internal candidate.

See, most districts attempt to develop a “leadership pipeline” of both internal and external candidates who will be ready to fill any positions that become vacant.

A school never wants to have slim pickings when they need to fill a leadership position—and ideally, they want to have a hand-picked candidate who's ready to step into the role.

For example, I had a colleague who'd been in the same school for more than a decade when a junior leadership position became open. She'd been highly successful in several positions in the school over the years, and had taken on a variety of teacher-leadership roles, so she was the natural choice for this junior admin position.

Then, a few years later, when the school's principal moved on, she was ready to step into the principalship. There was really no contest—she was the perfect person for the job, and virtually nothing could have changed the outcome of the hiring process, because it was years in the making.

The normal screening and interview process was conducted, and other candidates were considered, but it was all but inevitable that she'd get the job—and she did.

What a lot of people don't realize is that this is a good thing—it's the best possible solution to an information problem.

Job-seekers often complain of “politics” and of “who you know counting more than what you know,” but consider the school's perspective for a moment.

When schools hire leaders, they want the best—but determining who is “the best” is no easy task.

If you're considering outside candidates you've never heard of, you only know what you learn from the

  • Application
  • Interview
  • Reference checks

Candidates can over-sell themselves in the application and interview process, and even references can be unreliable—if, say, they're trying to get you to take someone off their hands.

On the other hand, if you're considering an internal candidate you've known for years, you probably have more than enough information before even looking at their application or conducting an interview. You'll know when you're hearing unjustified boasting, and you'll know when you're hearing the truth—even if the résumé, cover letter, and interview aren't particularly strong.

The challenge is comparing this apples-to-oranges information about internal and external candidates—working with someone for years gives you entirely different sorts of information about a candidate than reviewing a résumé.

It's essential to understand this information problem from the hiring team's perspective before shifting back to your perspective as a candidate.

While being an external candidate gives you a steeper hill to climb, because you have such a limited opportunity to provide information about yourself to the hiring team, it also gives you more control over how you're seen.

Path #2: Standing Out in the Crowd

When you're an internal candidate, you're well-known, warts and all. The hiring team may have seen your strengths firsthand…but they've also seen your failures, your mistakes, and your inconsistency.

When you're an external candidate, you exist to the hiring team only as the set of information you provide in your application and interview (and if you make it to the final stages of the process, your references may also be called for their perspective on your qualifications).

Your challenge is to stand out in the crowd, but this is actually a much easier challenge to win.

It may be frustrating to have your qualifications—your entire life and career—reduced to two sheets of paper.

You know you're more than the bullet points you've typed out in Microsoft Word.

You know you're more than that one awkward answer you'll give in an interview.

But with this reductionism comes a tremendous gift: simplicity.

All you have to do to stand out—even above internal candidates—is simply focus on perfecting your résumé and cover letter.

That's it.

Your application is all that's considered initially, so that's the arena in which you compete and win. You don't have to have the most experience or the most prestigious degree—you just need the best résumé. (Here's a format you can follow for crafting a strong résumé.)

And when you land an interview, hit a home run with the interview team.

Is it easy to win at each stage of the hiring process? No. It's hard work, and the competition can be stiff.

But here's what you must understand: you have the opportunity to change your odds.

Right now, you can't control the basic facts of your résumé—your years of experience, the jobs you've held, and so on. They're facts, fixed in place by reality.

You also can't control the competition—sometimes you'll be up against people with more experience and stronger training.

But you can still beat the competition by giving the hiring team the information they need to make the decision that you are their best candidate. 

What breaks my heart is that so many people believe they have no chance until the facts change—until they have more experience and no competition.

In other words, they believe they have no chance, ever, because there's always someone “better” out there.

So they don't even really try to win the admin job search. They apply for just one or two jobs a year, getting their hopes up briefly, only to be disappointed yet again.

And the years tick by, with nothing other than the dates on the résumé changing. “2007–Present” comes to be eleven years, then twelve, then thirteen.

This is a tragedy, because I promise you no hiring team has ever said “Well, we have these two candidates who are pretty similar, but one has eleven years of experience, but the other has twelve. Let's interview the twelve-year person.”

No—it comes down to the quality of the résumé, not just the facts on it. How you put your résumé together to make it clear why you're worth interviewing is something you can control to dramatically increase your odds.

In fact, here's a template you can follow:

PDF Download

A few tips:

  • List your most recent jobs first—in reverse chronological order
  • For each job, give the details in a headline: “Assistant Principal, Berryville High School, Berryville, OH—2013–Present”
  • In 3-6 bullet points, list your key accomplishments—not duties!—in that role.
  •  

  • Strive for specificity: “As assistant principal responsible for discipline, worked with parents and teachers to reduce classroom referrals from an average of 4.9 per day in 2012-2013 to 2.1 per day in 2013-2014”

You can download the full Résumé Blueprint PDF free of charge here.

Win In Advance, Starting Now

Whether you ultimately prevail in the ed leadership job search depends on the work you do now—whether you put in the effort to get through each “gate” in the process.

The first gate is application screening—to land in the “yes” pile and score an interview, your application materials must be top-notch.

Put in the work now to make your résumé and cover letter stand out, so you make it to the next gate—the interview process.

Then, start practicing for interviews—don't wait until you have one on the calendar. Download 52 sample interview questions for school admin jobs here.

When jobs are posted, you'll be ready—ready to submit a stellar application, and ready to ace your interview.

How To Start Visiting Classrooms After Putting It Off For Too Long

How can you start getting into classrooms mid-year, after several months have gone by?

It feels a bit like forgetting someone's name five minutes into a conversation and having to ask “What was your name, again?”

Awkward. 

“Hey everyone…so, we all know I should have been getting into classrooms all year, but now I'm REALLY going to start…really!”

Don't despair. You can start getting into classrooms at any time of year, without making it awkward, triggering teacher resistance, or setting up unrealistic expectations.

Overcoming the Awkwardness

The awkwardness of starting to visit classrooms—after months of failing to make time—can make it feel safer not to even try.

And make no mistake: this is the norm in our profession.

Most school leaders rarely, if ever, visit classrooms—except when they're required to, as part of the teacher evaluation process. (And even then, not everyone meets all of the minimum requirements.)

But we feel a certain pull to visit classrooms. We know it's where we truly belong if we want to be instructional leaders, because visiting classrooms gives us our best opportunity to have an impact on teaching and learning.

Still, we can resist that pull when faced with the awkwardness of finally getting around to something we've been putting off for too long.

Let's just be honest about the reactions we're likely to get:

“Oh…what brings you here?”

“Can I help you with something?”

“Are you here for a student?”

Or even the dreaded deadpan from first-year students:

“Who are you?”

Ouch!

But there's one simple thing you can do to overcome the discomfort of your first visit:

Be interested. 

Show a genuine interest in what students are learning, what they're doing, and how the teacher is making it all happen.

Express genuine curiosity about the learning that's taking place. Smile, nod, and show enthusiasm.

And for Dewey's sake, leave forms and clipboards out of it. Don't bring anything along—not a laptop, not a tablet, not a clipboard with a 2-part form.

Just show up, pay attention, and express interest.

When instructional leaders express interest in teaching and learning, no one is surprised (even if it's the first time), because it just seems like what we're supposed to be doing.

A form on a clipboard, or an app running on your iPad, sends a different message:

“I'm required to do this. It's a formality. I'm here because I'm up against a deadline.”

But if you show up with just yourself—your curious, interested, cares-about-learning instructional leader self—the awkwardness melts away quickly.

Skip the Grand Announcement

What you don't need to do is make some sort of big announcement. You don't need to issue a mea culpa that draws attention to your sparse classroom visits.

You don't need to promise to do better, or outline an ambitious schedule that sets you up to fail.

“I'm so sorry I haven't been in classrooms as much as I've wanted to. I've just been very busy with the start of school, and our new initiative, and our accreditation visit, and, and, and…I'm going to visit classrooms for four hours a day, every day for the rest of the year to make up for it.”

Forget the apologies and the promises, and just get started.

When you show up and express interest, teachers get used to it quickly. They'll be glad to see you, and they'll understand if you don't make it around as often as you'd like.

But to go beyond making an appearance, and truly make your visits valuable, you'll eventually need to start asking questions—and the questions you ask will determine whether teachers are happy to see you—or whether they put up a fight.

Preventing Teacher Resistance to Classroom Visits

Some teachers aren't just surprised to see you when you start visiting classrooms—they're downright hostile.

That's why it's so important to show up empty-handed during your first few visits—no forms, no apps, no technology. Just be present and pay attention.

(Smiling doesn't hurt, either!)

If teachers understand that you're not visiting to conduct a “gotcha” evaluation, they'll be more open to actually talking with you and helping you understand what you're seeing. But it's hard to overcome teachers' suspicions when you suddenly increase the frequency of your visits.

Here are three things teachers need to know, in order to trust that your intentions are positive:

  1. You aren't singling me out—you're treating everyone the same
  2. You aren't compiling a secret file on me
  3. You aren't judging me without understanding the context of what you're seeing

In the High-Performance Instructional Leadership model, I recommend visiting all teachers on a consistent rotation—three classrooms a day, every day. In most cases, this will get you around to every teacher about once every two weeks.

It's essential to visit everyone in the same order each time, and not to skip anyone, because teachers will start asking around:

“Hey, she's been in my room twice this month. Is it just me, or is she visiting your classes, too?”

The “Is it just me?” question is how teachers decide whether they're being singled out, or whether you're just doing a better job than ever of getting into classrooms.

If you visit teachers haphazardly, without keeping track, it's likely that you'll make it around to certain teachers more often than others—and this can spell disaster if teachers start to panic.

To make sure you stick to a consistent rotation, and don't skip anyone, I highly recommend keeping track of your visits, with a system like these notecards.

Download

On the back of these notecards, you'll find 10 evidence-based questions for asking teachers about their practice, without triggering defensiveness:

  1. Context: I noticed that you [ ]…could you talk to me about how that fits within this lesson or unit?
  2. Perception: Here’s what I saw students [ ]…what were you thinking was happening at that time?
  3. Interpretation: At one point in the lesson, it seemed like [ ] …What was your take?
  4. Decision: Tell me about when you [ ] …what went into that choice?
  5. Comparison: I noticed that students [ ] …how did that compare with what you had expected to happen when you planned thelesson?
  6. Antecedent: I noticed that [ ] …could you tell me about what led up to that, perhaps in an earlier lesson?
  7. Adjustment: I saw that [ ] …what did you think of that, and what do you plan to do tomorrow?
  8. Intuition: I noticed that [ ] …how did you feel about how that went?
  9. Alignment: I noticed that [ ] …what links do you see to our instructional framework?
  10. Impact: What effect did you think it had when you [ ] ?

You can download a PDF of these 10 questions for better feedback on teaching—without triggering resistance—here.

Relationships Before Rigor

You'll find that the questions in the PDFs above soon take you deep into teachers' thinking and decision-making.

But it's OK if your first few visits are cordial, but lacking in depth. Conversations about professional practice can be powerful, but it takes time, trust, and relationships to truly get to the good stuff.

As you're getting started, be OK with ambiguity. Don't demand closure in the form of next steps or promised follow-up.

It's perfectly fine to end a conversation with “OK, well, great to see you today!”

That's how normal relationships work—you don't always say goodbye to friends by making a firm plan for your next get-together. Sometimes you just say “Bye!” …and that's it, until you run into each other again.

We might feel compelled to be more formal when we're working with teachers we supervise and evaluate, but we don't have to be.

Focus on relationships first, and teachers will be more willing to share their thinking in subsequent conversations.

Try It!

So if you've been putting off classroom visits for far too long, today is a great day to get started. Download the notecards, and leave early for your next supervision duty. Stop by a classroom on the way to the cafeteria or the playground.

Smile, express interest in what students are doing. Chat with the teacher if you have a chance.

And let me know how it goes! Hit me up on Twitter @eduleadership if this article is inspiring you to start getting into classrooms.

Robert Avossa—FETC

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Dr. Robert Avossa

Dr. Robert Avossa is Senior Vice-President of Education at LRP Media Group, where he oversees the Future of Education Technology Conference, which we're here to talk about today. Dr. Avossa previously served as Superintendent of Palm Beach County and Fulton County Schools in Georgia.

 

Cinque Henderson—Sit Down and Shut Up: How Discipline Can Set Students Free

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Cinque Henderson

Cinque Henderson is a writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and on TV networks including HBO and Showtime. A graduate of Harvard University, Cinque spent a year as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles area, an experience that informed his new book, Sit Down and Shut Up: How Discipline Can Set Students Free.

 

Kimberly Mitchell—Experience Inquiry: 5 Powerful Strategies, 50 Practical Experiences

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Kimberly Mitchell

Kimberly Mitchell is a writer, workshop leader and speaker with a focus on deeper learning and inquiry-based teaching practices. Currently teaching at the University of Washington's College of Education, her previous experience includes serving as a principal and teacher in Athens, Seattle, Los Angeles, Ecuador, and elsewhere around the globe, as well as serving as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

Amy Jenkins & Kira Keane—Strategic Communication for Families & Stakeholders

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

Communicating Personalized Learning to Families and Stakeholders: Terminology, Tools and Tips for Success: A guide to creating informative conversations and preventing miscommunication about personalized learning

Communications Planning for Innovation in Education: A how-to guide with real-world district examples and tools

Blended & Personalized Learning at Work: A collection of free resources, strategies, and examples of personalized learning in action

Follow The Learning Accelerator on Twitter @LearningAccel

Follow Education Elements on Twitter @edelements

About Kira Keane

Kira Keane is a partner at The Learning Accelerator, where she helps school districts figure out how to integrate technology to personalize learning.

About Amy Jenkins

Amy Jenkins is Chief Operating Officer of Education Elements, where she helps school districts transform learning by moving to more student-centered practices.

Cristal Glangchai—Venture Girls: Raising Girls To Be Tomorrow’s Leaders

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

Get the book, VentureGirls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow's Leaders

Visit Cristal's Website

Follow Cristal on Twitter @luzcristal23

About Cristal Glangchai

Cristal Glanchai, PhD is a scientist, entrepreneur, and mentor with a passion for teaching and engaging girls in entrepreneurship, science, and technology. She is the founder and CEO of VentureLab, and previously founded a nanotechnology drug delivery company and ran the Idea to Product Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Amy Dujon—The Gritty Truth of School Transformation: Eight Phases of Growth to Instructional Rigor

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

Get the book, The Gritty Truth of School Transformation: Eight Phases of Growth to Instructional Rigor

Follow Amy on Twitter @AmyDujon

Visit Amy's Learning Sciences author page

Read Amy's blog post, Lesson Planning: 6 Steps for Aligning Student Tasks With Learning Targets

About Amy M. Dujon

Amy M. Dujon is a practice leader with Learning Sciences International and a former director for leadership development, principal, and teacher. Dujon led one of the first Schools for Rigor in Palm Beach County, Florida, which ignited her passion for student-centered, standards-based instruction. She experienced first-hand the power of a new vision to strengthen core instruction. As a result, she is relentless in her focus to grow professionally and personally, and works with districts and leaders across the country to support their transformation and implementation. Dujon holds an master's of education degree in educational leadership, a bachelor's degree in drama education, and is currently pursuing her doctorate.

Robyn Jackson—Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

Get the book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching (2nd Edition)

Follow Robyn on Twitter @Robyn_Mindsteps

Visit the Mindsteps webiste

Listen to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast

About Robyn Jackson PhD

Robyn Jackson, PhD., is the founder of Mindsteps and the host of School Leadership Re-Imagined, the podcast for school administrators, instructional coaches, and teacher leaders. She's the award-winning author of 10 books including the best selling The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers and Never Underestimate Your Teachers, which was chosen as an ASCD Member Book.