Leadership Strategies to Reclaim the Principalship

Reclaiming the Principalship: Instructional Leadership Strategies to Engage Your School Community and Focus on Learning
By Tom Marshall
(Heinemann, 2018 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Colbert

Are you a school leader? Do you feel like you’re in too deep? Over your head?

Do you feel isolated? Professionally stuck? Does your school need change and you don’t know where to start?

Low morale? Disjointed community? Are your teachers and staff working in isolation? Is your school focused on something other than student learning?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, pick up Tom Marshall’s book – Reclaiming the Principalship – find the applicable chapter(s) and make change happen.

Six career-worthy ideas for innovation

Reclaiming the Principalship offers six innovative ideas that a school leader can use and reflect upon throughout their career. They include

  • professional networking,
  • coaching teachers,
  • managing the school with learning in mind,
  • evaluating to support teacher and student learning,
  • unifying the school community, and
  • nurturing the learner within.

The strategies include impactful stories, templates, tactics, and references applicable to evidence-based practices.

The only chapter I didn’t feel a particular personal connection to was the first one―Professional Networking. Although it’s important for our professional growth and well-being, I feel like this is a strength I possess and I already have professional connections. The chapter included workshop ideas and walkthrough templates, and shared the importance of peer connections. It might be more valuable to other readers.

As a new administrator, I found Chapters 2 and 4―Coach Teachers to Improve Student Learning and Evaluate to Support Teachers’ and Students’ Learning―offered valuable insight into coaching and evaluating, both topics I want to improve upon.

I was excited to see the various coaching strategies. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, I now have many tools to choose from. Thanks to Marshall’s checklists and templates, I have a more robust coaching/evaluation process with embedded questioning techniques that will promote positive and trusting relationships and will continue to keep student learning as the primary focus.

Our school did not have a school improvement plan, common vision and mission, or theme until last year. The new principal and I have already talked about having more impactful walk-throughs that align with our new vision and mission. Marshall’s various walkthrough lenses from Chapter 3―Manage Your School with Learning in Mind―will foster a more relevant and meaningful experience that we can easily tie back to student learning.

Last year our teachers were asking for a way to build more school-wide community and deeper connections across all grade levels, 5-8. Chapter 5―Unite and Lead the School Community with Learning Themes―offers a step-by-step guide and anecdotes to get started. As a creative visionary, I found this chapter gave me warm fuzzies. I cannot wait to get started on this work with our Leadership Team.

When I’m done writing and publishing my own book, I look forward to implementing Tom’s advice about keeping a personal notebook, which is highlighted in the last chapter―Nurture the Learner Within. I look forward to where this may take me professionally both within writing and presenting.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book. Not all of the chapters may relate to your work, needs, or current focus, but I am excited to share the coaching methodology with our District’s three new coaches and look forward to discussing the Unite and Lead the School Community with Learning Themes chapter with the principal. The book will have a special place on my shelf, because I know I will reference it often as I self-reflect and grow professionally.

Laura Colbert earned a Bachelors in Kinesiology from UW-Madison, Masters in Educational Leadership from Cardinal Stritch and a Masters in Experiential Education from UW-LaCrosse. She is a Military Police Combat Veteran, having served 16 months in Baghdad, Iraq. She taught PE in Aylesbury, England, and was the Community Connections Coordinator for 340 clients with special needs in Fargo, North Dakota. She also taught PE and was Dean of Students and the Pathways and Academic and Career Planning Coordinator at Madison West High School. She is currently a Middle School Assistant Principal. Her autobiography―How to Pee Standing Up―outlines her time at war and will be on the shelves this winter.

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