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Tool: Am I doing the right work?

Background: In collegial schools, the major goal is the improvement of teaching and learning. This requires that those participating in the leading of collegial organizations (which includes principals, department heads, subject-matter specialists, mentors, etc.) have knowledge, interpersonal skills and technical skills. These are applied through tasks such as direct assistance, curriculum development, professional development, etc.

With the increasing number of beginning teachers and the assignment of mentors based on need as well as legislation, much of the responsibility for support is typically assumed by mentors. Principals have to determine how great a role to play in new teacher development given that they are also responsible for summative evaluation and making decisions about tenure. Some administrators believe that by spending time supporting new teacher development, the summative component will take care of itself, but in reality both types of support are worthy of principals’ attention.

In general, the school is likely to reach its goals for student learning when the principal takes a collegial/developmental approach and treats teachers in a manner consistent with the way they are expected to work with students. Under such an approach, the summative evaluation process is often more meaningful to teachers and typically leads to positive results. There are exceptions, however. When new teachers perform poorly on summative evaluations, school/district policies and union contracts dictate how such circumstances are to be handled.

Purpose of this tool: The purposes of the following tool are to assist you in monitoring your own practice and to determine the nature of your work. Ask yourself, “Given the amount of professional time that I have, am I doing the right work?”

How to use this tool: To use this tool, allocate a few minutes each week for documenting your activities with beginning teachers in the building. Is it administrative (hierarchical) or staff (line-development) related?  Plot the tasks on the continuum, making sure that you categorize them by line (vertical) or staff (horizontal). Study your pattern over several weeks. If you find the vertical line cluttered with tasks and the horizontal line fairly empty, ask yourself, “Is that the trajectory I want to continue? If not, what might I do differently?  Do I really intend to give the mentor complete responsibility for developing the beginning teacher?”  Consider creating a mini-action plan for yourself if you want to make changes. 

Take a few minutes each week to record your work with beginning teachers.  Is it development (horizontal) related or administrative (vertical) in nature?  Be careful not to rationalize!  Continually check in with yourself.  Are you dong the right work?

Example:  September 14. Had a 10 minute conversation with DK about our new science program.

Example: September 16. Spent 15 minutes with BK going over attendance policy.


Reference: Glickman, C.D., Gordon, S.P., & Ross-Gordon, J.M. (2001). Supervision and instructional leadership. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.