6 Ways Principals Can Empower Student Voice and Choice

Student voice and choice is often talked about in schools but rarely implemented with a consistent focus on empowering students. For this to take place, principals need to intentionally find ways to place student voice and choice at the foundation of their school. My school’s Virtual Tour will focus on strategies to empower student voice and choice in your school. Here are six ways you can do so: (more…)

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Using Student Leadership to Make SEL Meaningful for High School Students

A recent focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) has compelled high schools to purchase curricula and add such models as advisory periods or homeroom to teach SEL skills. According to The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, advisory periods provide a regular time for direct instruction on SEL skills, which is most effective when integrated into a whole-school approach to SEL. In my experience, however, many teenagers perceive isolated advisory SEL lessons as fake or irrelevant and disengage from these valuable learning opportunities. They often feel as though the teacher is lecturing to them and not taking their individuality into account. Our leadership team wanted to provide students with a meaningful SEL experience, and we decided to use student leaders to make this happen. (more…)

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District Support Is Key to Principal Success

The following post originally appeared on the Learning Policy Institute’s Learning in the Time of COVID-19 blog, a series that explores evidence-based and equity-focused strategies and investments to address the current crisis and build long-term systems capacity.

In September, Steven Elizondo, principal of Golden Hill K–8, a dual-language immersion school in San Diego, began the complicated task of planning for “phase one” of school reopening. Golden Hill, like all district schools, had started the school year online. But students who needed on-site support, including elementary students who were experiencing learning loss and special education students with high needs, would be back on campus in mid-October, while others would continue with distance learning. The logistics for starting in-person learning safely and getting the correct information to families and staff were daunting. But Principal Elizondo was not in it alone. Thanks to the district’s collaborative learning structure, he and his counterparts at other schools were able to tap the expertise and experience of a colleague who had developed protocols and processes for returning to school, as well as a communications strategy for families and staff. Using these models saved precious time and supported consistent practices across the district. (more…)

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Principals and the Pandemic

NASSP President Robert Motley recently called one of his students to see why he wasn’t logging into synchronous online classes at his Maryland high school. The student’s reply? He had to take a job at a shipping company to help support his family. (more…)

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A Start of School Like No Other

Beginning a new program and opening a new building would be a challenge for any school administration team, but doing so during a pandemic has provided many additional obstacles and unique situations. For this school year, I was extremely blessed to be assigned to our new freshman academy that we are beginning at Harrisburg High School. To host this new program, we built a new addition to our current high school. We added 18 new standard classrooms, four new special education rooms, a new media library, a new lunchroom, and two large common learning areas between the four “houses” assigned to our 415 incoming freshmen. It is a beautiful learning facility, and I am fortunate to be the lead administrator for this program. (more…)

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Restorative Practices: Seven Steps for Facilitators and Mediators

By allowing students and adults to improve and repair relationships, restorative practices are key to a healthy school climate. The steps described below are designed to help facilitate a restorative practice session between two students, two adults, or one student and one adult in a small setting—such as an office or conference room. These steps can be used if the participants have no understanding or background or if they are well versed in restorative practices. (more…)

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Perspective: Care for Adults so They Can Care for Children

As was the situation for many educators, I was on spring break in mid-March of 2020 when I received the news that students and staff would not be returning in person to our school buildings as a result of the COVID-10 pandemic. While the closure wasn’t surprising, the “now what,” feeling consumed my every emotion and thought. Would my students be OK away from their routines at school? What collaborative efforts were needed to support my teachers mentally and physically, to forge into whatever phases of teaching came next? Did we have the efficacy, as a staff, to overcome the barriers before us? My mind and time were consumed in planning mode. The problem was, I wasn’t sure what and how to plan—the variables were too vast and unpredictable. (more…)

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Just Pick the Pineapple: Building Trust in Turbulence

At the veggie market on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 216th Street in Queens, NY, my dad showed me how to pick a pineapple. He said, “It just has to smell like a pineapple and feel right, then it’s good to go.” I nodded in agreement, like I wanted him to really believe that I was following him and that I understood this wisdom. (more…)

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Meaningful Connection: Going Beyond the Virtual Classroom

I recently went to visit one of my students who lives in a migrant labor community near the border of our school district. This was already my 18th visit to a home in this area in the past three weeks. Going into this visit, I worried that students in this community were generally disinterested or unengaged in remote learning. (more…)

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Richard Gordon Is NASSP’s 2021 National Principal of the Year

NASSP is excited to announce that Richard Gordon, principal of Paul Robeson High School for Human Services in Philadelphia, is the 2021 National Principal of the Year! The NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have made amazing contributions to their profession and to students’ learning, and we are honored to recognize Principal Gordon with this award. (more…)

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Crushed by the ‘No’

A few years back, the director of counseling and I brought in a group of high school leadership students. We tasked the students with developing a student workroom/support center. The only major job I assigned to both myself and the director was that no matter what questions came from the students, we had to start our response with a “yes.”  While the students fired off ideas that ranged from bowling alleys to giant slides, my director and I found we enjoyed the session. With big smiles, we crafted a yes response to every question. The students fed off our positivity and we found their student workrooms were not only were creative, but they became more practical the more we said yes. Through the process, we developed a student work center that serves as a gathering place for all students seeking academic support. (more…)

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Self-Care Lessons From My Four-Year-Old

As an assistant principal, teachers come to me for advice about dealing with the difficult situations they face, many directly related to the sudden switch from in-person to virtual learning. The increased number of emails and demands upon teacher time that extend beyond the regular school day have created an additional layer of stress. Administrators need to be cognizant of this and make sure that our faculty are taken care of. However, we cannot take care of others if we are not taking care of ourselves. (more…)

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5 Keys to Developing a Future-Driven School

This year has demonstrated in extraordinary ways that we’re preparing students for an unpredictable world. We can’t possibly envision the challenges and opportunities our students will experience in their lives beyond school. But we can know with certainty the world is changing rapidly and continuously, and we must prepare them for the unknown. While there may not be another COVID-19, there will be many surprising developments for the rising generation. We must prepare them to be confident, adaptable learners, no matter what they encounter. We can’t just focus on academic training in isolation and think that’s meeting their needs. It’s critical to have a larger vision that prepares students for the future, a vision that’s bigger than test scores, grades, diplomas, or mastering standards. My school’s Virtual Tour will focus on the keys to creating a future-driven approach to education. (more…)

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In 2020, We Are All First-Year Principals

As we celebrate National Principals Month during this unusual school year, there’s one thing all 90,000-plus of us have in common: Given the continuing challenges our schools and communities face, we often feel like first-year principals. And that’s okay! Even the most seasoned among us are learning at an incredible pace about the best ways to support our students and staff through any combination of remote, in-person, and hybrid learning scenarios. (more…)

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Let National Principals Month Begin!

National Principals Month has officially started, and NASSP, the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) are excited to share the upcoming opportunities we have for the education community to celebrate, advocate, and collaborate on behalf of principals everywhere. (more…)

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Leading By Example: How School Principals Can Support LGBTQ Students

The following interview first appeared on the Human Rights Campaign website as a guest post contribution.

As equality and acceptance continue to be top of mind for many, many school leaders continue to ask what else they can be doing to support students who face discrimination within the classroom. Ashton Mota, HRC Youth Ambassador and representative of the LGBTQ community at his school, sat down with Chuck Puga, principal of Smokey Hills High School in Aurora, CO, to discuss ways that other school leaders can help their students. (more…)

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‘The State of American Education’

Kathryn Procope, head of school at the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Washington, D.C., has been focused on “digital poverty”—what’s now commonly referred to as the “digital divide”—since 2005. “We have always sent devices home with students,” said Procope, a 2020 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. Even so, the challenges have grown greater in recent months as schools shifted to remote learning. (more…)

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The Principal’s Best Protection Against Liability

As the school year gets underway, districts everywhere are grappling with how to ensure safety as they consider strategies and approaches for in-person instruction. One topic that has arisen to complicate reopening plans is whether schools can be held liable if students or staff are infected. There is currently no federal policy in place to protect school and district leaders, and liability remains a significant factor as they carefully measure their reopening plans and how to keep students and staff safe. In addition to the health and safety concerns in their buildings, principals across the country may be wondering how they can stay protected and whether they need liability coverage. (more…)

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