Day One: Being a Leader Who Teachers Want to Follow
Experts provide tips on student engagement, technological tools and effective leadership

By Rachel Walters

The first full day of the annual NAESP conference was filled with information, professional dialogue, personal reflection, and goal setting.

The day started early with a powerful session by speaker Paula Noe from Texas. She presented important research and tips on how to reach the boys who are at risk. She highlighted the power of the principalship: “Intentional leadership can shrink the prep time for grooming a new teacher into a seasoned teacher from 10 down to two years with appropriate feedback and good coaching.”

Her modeling on how to teach the 8th grade standard for atoms was effective and will be easy to take back and model for my own staff. It was a great example of how to engage all students in a lesson, and provided an opportunity for the boys to get up and moving while the girls could narrate for the class.

She also noted the importance of teaching vocabulary. Students are required to learn an average of 40 new academic words each week. At the end of the year, we expect students to know 1,440 new vocabulary words. Ms. Noe provided many ideas about digital tools and other resources to engage students in vocabulary challenges: Tarsia, Headbands, Mile a Minute, Connect 2, and Quizlet. Learning new words won’t be boring if you make it feel like a game and make it competitive.

The biggest take away from the session for me was her discussion of implementing a school-wide “Survivor day” to emphasize science standards. My school, Shaw Elementary in Tampa, will be hosting our inaugural Survivor day for our 5th graders next February as a way to build excitement about new ways to learn science.

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman stretched my thinking about “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,” during the Opening General Session. He talked about the best leaders, and those who emerge as the best in their field generally have high levels of emotional intelligence. Mr. Goleman outlined the four components of his Emotional Intelligences Framework:

  • Self-awareness: emotional self-awareness, being in touch with own driving values
  • Social awareness: empathy, organizational awareness
  • Self-management: adaptability, achievement, positive outlook
  • Relationship management: inspiring leadership, influence, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration

He encouraged us, explaining these are all characteristics that we can learn at any time. After reflecting on this, I have decided to intentionally work to increase my emotional intelligence as a leader. I want to be the leader teachers want to follow. I want to make it more about the people and less about the work. My personal goal is to start my conversations with a personal question and wait and listen to the answer before diving into the task. As Mr. Goleman put it, we need to “make the other person feel better after the interaction.”

I’m enjoying the great learning at #NAESP16. I’ve been impressed with the outstanding practices happening in schools across the county, and I’m looking forward to learning even more as the week rolls on.

Remember to interact with me on Twitter @RachelWalters and share your own thoughts about the conference using the #NAESP16 hashtag. You can also find me at my own blog, Clearing the Path. And don’t forget about the #NAESP16 app and this itinerary planner that can help you build a schedule and find the best sessions for you

--Rachel Walters


Rachel Walters, principal of Shaw Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, is the #NAESP16 official blogger.