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 Congo = New School 
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Location: Freedom & Patton High School
In The Poisonwood Bible, the Congo is the new school you are assigned to. We've either been there, or will be there in a year or two. We go in with our expectations, our history, our "the way it has always been done." Yet, we need to remember that at the new school there is a different culture, a different history, a different "way it has always been done." As administrators going to a new school we need to keep this in mind. As many of our professors have told us - don't go in and make changes! Watch, observe, and learn first. Only when we know the culture and understand the culture can we make effective changes.

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Lisa Fortenberry


Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:57 pm
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Lisa,
After watching the culture at my school for the past year, I feel that I can make some changes; however, I think I will still get resistance from some groups who want to maintain the status quo. Within the school I have several subcultures that have special needs that I think we need to address. One group is the poverty group. They have a whole different set of beliefs and expectations than the majority of the students, but they are the ones who are constantly being sent to the office for discipline and poor performance. I am going to need to research programs that work for this group before I come up with a plan that will change the results we are getting in the classroom.

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Jackie Shaw


Sun Mar 18, 2007 1:58 pm
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Very intelligent. It seems that we as a culture always rush into a situation thinking that we have all of the answers. Jackie and Lisa, you are both showing true maturity in waiting before acting. I guess that is why student teachers are told to observe the class for a little while before taking over.

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Tim Hoffman


Tue Mar 20, 2007 11:50 am
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Nothing is more offensive than an outsider telling you that everything you're doing is wrong. Effective leaders observe, prioritize, seek counsel, and then act. With this process ideas become bigger than one person.

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Neil Atkins


Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:11 am
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Neil, I really think the idea of seeking counsel before acting is an area many leaders forget. My best counsel this year has been my principal and this cohort. Even though we have not all had experience as principals, we have been immersed in the research and the reality of quality leadership. Putting children first has been the mantra that has echoed throughout the courses we have taken and served me extremely well on the BIG TEST and in my job as assistant principal.

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Jackie Shaw


Thu Mar 22, 2007 8:33 pm
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It is quite possible that some of us with be assistant principals for a short time then will be promoted to lead our own schools. I agree with all of you that you do have to observe the situation before making drastic changes, however there are some situations that need immediate change. Failure to make that immediate change may have severe consequences for all involved in the process. I was wondering if any of you have situations that needed immediate solutions. Please describe those situations. Thanks

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Chris McKay

"Our progress as a nation can be no swifter
than our progress in education." -JFK


Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:49 pm
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I agree slow changes work best and I also agree that serious situations, especially safety issues may require immediate change. I believe being an effective administrator requires good salesmanship. We must be able to sell our vision to teachers, faculty, school board, and community. We also have to be negotiators and have the flexibility to shape our vision to the beliefs, values, and culture of the school and community.

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Jeremiah McCluney


Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:14 am
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Chris,
One situation I saw an immediate need for change dealt with the location of the EC folders. Teachers (EC) kept their folders in their classrooms in a locked file. I did not see this as a secure location and immediately found a better central location for all the files. I was not popular for a short time, but after working with these teachers, they agreed that we needed the change. Other areas where I wanted to make changes dealt with scheduling classes. Sometimes I had to move a section because a teacher just did not do the best job of getting to school on time if the planning was first. That meant changing several people, but I did it, and things work more smoothly now.

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Jackie Shaw


Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:12 pm
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Being the new guy on the block in a new school, it might be best to work on the environmental scan of that new school. Going in with a listener's ear while using a select few as a sounding board for what might be needed. It's always good to ask those already there how things work and how things could be better.

I see a classroom set of students being somewhat similar to a school of teachers. Teachers hold a "rank and file" of sorts within the culture of the school. Teachers have a good feel for who the best ones are, who the leaders are, and who the work horses are. I would use a few, kind of like Teddy Roosevelt's "Kitchen cabinet"--(Help me out social studies people...), to find out what's going right and what could go better.

It has to be important to remember that just 'cuz I think my way is better, doesn't mean it is.


Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:55 pm
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In answer to your question Chris, I must preface it with the fact that I taught in the school in which I became Assistant Principal. With this in mind, as I was looking over some of the responses, I realized that I had an advantage in the implementation of some of the changes. The first thing I did was to locate an area in which we could place all of our PEP folders. This has been an issue and a point of embarrassment within our school for quite some time. When a parent comes in and wants to have a conference and the one teacher who happen to be the one in charge of the PEP folders is absent, we miss out on a valuable opportunity. Therefore, I found a central location that is accessible by all. This was so successful that I decided to make this location the IEP room also. All we had to do was add another filing cabinet. It was very beneficial, especially for the receptionist. More often than not, when a parent came in and stated they were there for their IEP meeting the receptionist would have to get on the intercom and call throughout the school to locate where the IEP team is supposed to meet. Now the receptionist can direct all parties to the IEP room. Lastly, I added one more component; I also made this room the testing room. It made sense to me that there should be a room that can be locked with locking filing cabinets in a central location to the office for all of these aspects of the legal side of academic life?

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Stephanie Williams


Thu Apr 05, 2007 6:41 pm
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If we approach the position of school leader with an attitude that " I do not know everything" mixed with solid principles of what we believe to be right and wrong I think we will be well-grounded to in what it takes to lead a school.

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"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." M. Twain


Sun Apr 08, 2007 10:11 pm
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what are some ways people have gotten the staff on their sides, since this is an ingredient to success?
I know at our school when a change is put into perspective for being in the best interest of the students it usually goes over well.

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Kami McKay


Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:41 pm
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In the four systems I have worked for I have found that creating a sense of trust by being honest with teachers and others on the faculty has helped to establish a sense of team. I also found this year as an assistant principal that being supportive of the teachers has helped me when I needed their backing on a concern of mine. Trying to help them see the reasons for doing something a certain way rather than just saying that's the way it is going to be has also helped gain support. Finally, whenever possible, I have gotten faculty and staff involved in making decisions that will impact their classroom practices. Sometimes that means sharing the bottom line directives from the central office and saying to the teachers, "Given these requirements from the powers that be, how can we best meet our student needs?" I am blessed with a wonderful staff and faculty who work so hard to meet student needs that I can't swear this works everywhere, but it works at North.

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Jackie Shaw


Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:29 am
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Transformational leadership is always much stronger and lasting if it is appropriately researched, data driven, consensus worthy, and followed through. As an AP I've made a lot of decisions by default (No one else was willing or available to make a decision) but most of the are edicts passed down by the principal. I've come to a solid conclusion that the key is that decisions that will effect your staff really should not be "your" decision. In fact it should be the leadership team's decision. Of course you also have to be willing to support and back the decision.

I've learned that the best way to get staff on your side is to take an authentic interest in them.... work to build a professional and personal relationship. It's always easier to disagree professionally when you know that it is not personal. Also, know and share the facts. Certainly don't be a know it all, just provide information. Often teachers just don't have time to analyze the facts and are not aware of current trends/issues. By doing this you earn credibility and trust; this can also be used to plant a seed....

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Heath Belcher


Wed Apr 11, 2007 8:35 am
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I agree completely with this watch and observe concept. i think its the best single piece of advice from our program. People will be less likely to follow someone who bursts in and flips thier world upside down. at the same time, we can't be afraid to make changes, but they must be done at the appropriate time to make the most impact.


Fri Apr 13, 2007 4:20 pm
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John Robinson wrote:
If we approach the position of school leader with an attitude that " I do not know everything" mixed with solid principles of what we believe to be right and wrong I think we will be well-grounded to in what it takes to lead a school.


Great point John. It is important that the leader of the school be willing to work as part of a team which means give and take. Administrators need to be open minded to new ideas and strategies. We don't know everything.

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Amy Hord


Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:09 pm
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