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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

‘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…)

Learn more 

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…)

Learn more 

Four Strategies to Implement Effective PLCs

Richard DuFour’s six characteristics of effective professional learning communities (PLCs) have been around for almost 22 years, and their benefits have been well documented by researchers. So why are some PLCs effective and others not? In a word, implementation. (more…)

Learn more 

Leading During Times of Uncertainty

During times of uncertainty, staff, students, parents, and even members of our local communities turn to school leaders for guidance and reassurance. It is normal for leaders not to have all of the answers during a crisis, but they can build a much-needed sense of community. Amid the pandemic, politics, and the nation’s reckoning with racial inequity, it has been an extraordinary summer. And now comes the start of one of the most unsettling school years in history, with COVID-19 still looming and uncertainty lingering. No matter the model of learning—in person, remote, or hybrid—everyone is trying their best to settle in, knowing there is no guarantee that it will last. (more…)

Learn more 

Getting Students Engaged Through Voter Registration

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and it is critical that we as principals support voter registration efforts in the school as we are preparing the next generation of the workforce and electorate. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” (more…)

Learn more 

Lead Like a Ninja: How a ‘Fringe’ Virtual Program Anchored A District’s COVID-19 Response

A key job of every school leader is to establish and nurture strong relationships with key stakeholders—not the least of which is the faculty. When you have the opportunity to open a school, those relationships are the foundation on which your school rests, and the ways of work you cultivate become the traditions that guide your school’s future. And while it was always my goal to open a high-performing, innovative virtual school for our community, COVID-19 required my school to step up in a big way. Our stealthy school mascot, Neo the Ninja, came to represent the strategic deployment of the skills, strategies, and curriculum our virtual school refined as we stepped out of the shadows to lead our district through distance learning to close the 2019–20 school year. (more…)

Learn more 

Making Time for ‘Time-Ins’

Over the past ten years of being an assistant principal at the middle school level, I’ve come to realize how every meeting in my office—even the timeouts for disruptive behavior—have become “time-ins.” (more…)

Learn more 

Reconsidering Ability Grouping Through an Equity Lens

I have worked in public education for 20 years. I entered the profession because a freshman sociology class in college introduced me to the idea that there were two institutions that impacted socioeconomic mobility—the military and education. The end of segregation in America’s public schools in 1954 is considered a landmark case. But given the critical disparities in graduation rates between Black and white students, how far have we really come? (more…)

Learn more