Substantial Classrooms: Redesigning the Substitute Teaching Experience

In Substantial Classrooms: Redesigning the Substitute Teaching Experience (Jossey-Bass), authors Jill Vialet and Amanda von Moos present an empathetic view of the trials that many substitute teachers experience in today’s public schools. These include numerous hurdles in applying for the job and staff members who are often too busy to answer their questions. As one of the most overlooked topics in education, substitute teaching often results in feelings of isolation and confusion for individuals engaged in such work. But schools can take steps to bring clarity to the job and improve it by reconsidering the entire substitute teaching system. That’s where Vialet and von Moos, the founders of Substantial Classrooms, a national nonprofit committed to improving substitute teaching, come in. 

To help school leaders with the recruitment and retention of substitutes, the authors offer several recommendations, including interviewing substitutes to better understand the issues they are facing, spending more quality time training them in such practical strategies as behavior management techniques, and helping them feel part of the established school team. At a time when schools continue to face significant staffing shortages, this easy-to-understand book is an enlightening read for school leaders seeking to better understand the specific challenges of substitute teaching and what these educators need to succeed in the classroom.

—S. Kambar Khoshaba 
Principal, South County High School, Lorton, VA

Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story
of Black Principal and Teacher Leadership

In Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story of Black Principal and Teacher Leadership (Harvard Education Press), Leslie T. Fenwick, PhD, examines the erasure of an entire generation of Black education professionals in the wake of public school desegregation. Fenwick, a professor of educational policy and leadership at Howard University, reminds us that while the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education intended to open doors of opportunity for Black children, school boards and states slammed those doors shut for Black educators. Instead of being hired to continue engaging, equipping, encouraging, and empowering Black students in their newly integrated surroundings, Black educators were denied chances to teach and to lead alongside white educators. Many were either separated from their vocation or relegated to serve as highly visible tokens of desegregation. As a result, between 1954 and 1975, 2,235 Black principals and almost 40,000 Black teachers lost their jobs. These job losses ultimately denied Black students the chance to see themselves reflected in the teaching profession. Jim Crow’s Pink Slip is a quick and fascinating read that explains how the effects of this “untold story,” as Fenwick calls it, are still with us today. 

—Mike Rumsey 
Assistant Principal, Roxana Senior High School, Roxana, IL

Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives

Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives (Solution Tree Press) challenges school leaders to stretch themselves in their leadership work. By exploring four foundational skills: 1) thinking before we speak, 2) preempting resistance, 3) responding to resistance, and 4) managing ourselves through change and resistance, this book serves as a blueprint for school leaders to build their leadership capacity. Author Jennifer Abrams, an international and educational communications consultant, writes that school improvement initiatives require us to “swim in the deep end,” meaning that the work is hard but worth the effort. Abrams repeatedly uses this metaphor to describe how pivotal it is for school leaders to grow if they wish to see improvements in student and teacher learning and school success. With each chapter devoted to a foundational skill, Swimming in the Deep End discusses ways that school leaders can face challenges head-on, while leading teams in implementing new initiatives. Reflection questions at the end of each chapter and a bountiful appendix of resources make this a practical guide for leading boldly and delivering systemic change. 

—Latrese Younger
Assistant Principal, Patrick Henry High School, Ashland, VA

“The Assistant Principal Podcast”

A podcast designed to develop the capacity of new and current assistant principals, “The Assistant Principal Podcast” is hosted by Frederick Buskey, a former teacher, coach, administrator, and founder of Strategic Leadership Consulting. The podcast’s scope is unique in that it addresses the lack of support for new school leaders who then may become struggling principals. Each week, Buskey invites a guest speaker to discuss powerful and relevant topics to improve the instructional leadership capacity of assistant principals with the goal of helping them develop into effective principals. For example, topics include a look at why instructional leadership is so hard (Episode 27); an interview with Dr. Mary Hemphill, director of academic standards for the North Carolina Department of Education, who explores “living your leadership journey courageously” (Episode 26); rethinking community engagement and understanding what families need from school leaders (Episode 25); and concrete tips to make the job of assistant principals as test coordinators a bit easier (Episode 23). For new assistant principals and those seeking to grow their leadership skills, the variety of topics covered that are specific to this school leadership role makes this podcast an invaluable resource.

—Janeen Ceparano Wilkins
Assistant Principal, Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School, Anchorage, AK