Chester A. Moore Elementary School
Fort Pierce, Florida
1) Instructional Leadership: A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. – John C. Maxwell. This is the model I follow as an instructional leader. This was never more evident than when I transitioned to being an elementary assistant principal after an eleven-year career in high school. I spent last year becoming a student of my teachers and of everything elementary math related. My teachers taught me what it meant to be an elementary teacher and were honest about their anxieties when teaching math. In turn, I used my math content expertise and high school knowledge to show them how important they are to a students’ mathematics trajectory in high school and eased their anxieties by teaching them not only how only do the math, but also how to explain the math.
Robert J. Meehan said, “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited by our own perspectives.” As an instructional leader I attend, support, and if needed, co-facilitate our daily K-5 math plannings. The goal for collaborative planning is to use the strength of each teacher to bring out best in all teachers and classrooms. We first focus on building strong whole group lessons by implementing best practices. But we take it a step further and practice what we teach during our collaborative plannings. It is no surprise to walk into our meetings and see teachers or administrators at the board working out a problems and discussing how each problem will be explained to students. We discuss common misconceptions, so teachers can plan for them before the lesson is implemented. I also make it a common practice to support teachers in the classroom. Sometimes I am coaching or pulling small groups, and other times I am modeling lessons. Both lend themselves to rich conversations that improve teaching and learning in the classroom.
Data can be overwhelming between classroom, district, state, and national assessments. It can be so easy to focus on the data points and forget the most important factor, the students that create the data. I had a college professor ingrain me that “data has faces”. So, as an instructional leader, I always remind my teachers that analyzing data is about more than improving the numbers. It is about impacting students socially, emotionally, and academically. As a result, our weekly data meetings do more than show us areas that we need to improve instruction, who should be grouped together for reteaching, or who needs to be evaluated for additional academic supports. We also find solutions for students who are facing homelessness, missing out on school, or have had changes in their behavior. Our school counselor, dean, interventionists, and specialists attend every grade level data meeting, so we have every person in the room that can help support the whole child. It is these type of data meetings that have shifted school culture, connected students and families with proper resources, and as a result, increased student achievement.
2) Build Relationships with All Stakeholders: Dr. James Comer said, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Before school begins each day, you will find me greeting each staff member as they sign-in or walking through classrooms to ensure that their technology needs are met before instruction begins. While greeting teachers is a great start to my day, my greatest joy is being the start and end to most of our students’ day. Each morning during breakfast I stand outside the cafeteria door and greet every student entering with a “Hello” and a hug or a high-five. The hugs are such a constant that students come back and find me if we miss our hug that morning.
Putting students first also means putting their families and caregivers first. During parent pick up, I sit with students and help them with their homework as needed. If needed, I also use that time to have quick parent pick-up conferences at car doors. These unconventional meetings connect families with school and community services and help us problem solve issues that families or students are having. Once our after-school tutorial program starts, you will find me serving meals to our 80-plus students who attend one of our programs or opening the school Saturday mornings for content bootcamps. In addition, I also build relationships with students’ parents or caregivers by making home visits. We are a neighborhood school, so many families are within walking distance. A knock and a smile from a caring adult go a long way when checking in on students who are missing school. During the summer, I supported families who wanted students to attend summer school but did not have a bus, by arranging for alternative transportation. Every student who wanted to come to summer school was able to attend.
Our teachers deserve all we can give them. During the pandemic I utilized Cameo ® to have WNBA star Lisa Leslie give a supportive message to my teachers acknowledging all their hard work with the pivot to online learning and thanking them for continuing to teach students at the height of the pandemic. The video was shared across the district and Cameo was used to have other celebrities celebrate teachers across the district. Another way I build relationships with teachers is through a program I brought from my previous school called the Crystal Apple Monthly Awards. Each month our staff nominate a colleague who shows leadership, excellence in the classroom, motivates others, or shows creativity and imagination. While there is a “winner” each month, every staff member who is nominated receives a certificate with the reason why they were nominated. It is wonderful to show staff that they are noticed, and their colleagues think highly of them. Other ways I have built relationships with teachers is by writing personalized thank-you cards and dropping their favorite snacks by their rooms. As administrators, we must fill our teachers’ cups. If their cups are full, then our students’ cups will be filled, and true learning happens.