What We Model is What We Get – Raise Your Leadership

What We Model is What We Get – Raise Your Leadership


Principals wear a variety of hats including instructional leader, motivator, assessment coordinator, counselor, behavior specialists, nurse, and the list continues. The job is demanding and rewarding at the same time. Outstanding principals are always searching for ways to collaborate and improve. As you continue your quest to serve others, here are some strategies that will assist you to RAISE your leadership.  The topics focus Relationships, Assessments, how to Inspire, Shared Leadership, and how to Elevate.  It is essential to foster your own growth, so in turn you can support the growth of your students and staff.


Relationships with students, staff, and parents are critical to a successful learning environment. According to Payne (2003), for students from backgrounds of poverty, their primary motivation for success would be in their relationships. Take time to be visible, students need to know you are present and that you have a good relationship with staff.  Solid relationships are crucial in dealing with students, staff, and parents throughout the year. People trust and go the extra mile for leaders that they know are on their side and are loyal, be that person.

I had a student tell me, “I like coming to school because you have fun with the teachers.”  I completely agreed with the student, but did not think about how students felt a sense of joy in knowing that the adults get along and enjoy each other.

Tips to Build Relationships:

·   Staff members like to know in advance of upcoming events at the school and in the district, so remember to provide consistent communication by having a weekly or monthly schedule available and send it to the staff.

·   Attend community events, it is wonderful to connect with parents and staff outside the school environment. 

·   Be present by pocketing your phone and picking up your head as you walk purposefully through the building.  Take time to notice and acknowledge the people around you.

·   Be in their classrooms, know what is happening in all the classrooms and comment on what you enjoy about teachers and students.

·   Ask about things that interested them, know staff and students, their likes and hobbies.

·   Try a Friday note, this technique asks for feedback from the staff. The Friday note has teachers indicate their thoughts for the week, any custodial needs and any positives they would like to share.


We use information from our assessments to form instruction and guide student learning.  Common assessments are significant in examining data and having consistency around student data and among staff. Data is the protein in a diet for continuous improvement.

Data by itself does not affect change. It requires a process of predicting, analyzing, and asking “why?” to get to the root cause and form strategies. Done in isolation, this can be insightful; but when done collaboratively, the desire and accountability to implement change in practice becomes contagious and real.  Staff working together with data reviews, data carousels or data gallery walks are powerful. Staff are able to take time to process student data, discuss, review, and plan together. There are many methods of analyzing data, but as a school/district you want a consistent process that all staff can understand and participate.

These Teaching Channel videos below show examples of data walls and data carousels.  I use these in my graduate course and one teacher took the idea of data carousels back to her school and they implemented it district wide, she even was able to secure curriculum pay for the teachers since it was after school.  This is an amazing teacher leader!

Teaching Channel Videos

·    How Data Carousels Help Improve Instruction

·    Differentiated Instruction with Data Walls


Administrators often feel swamped and have so many irons in the fire, but remember the staff needs you!  You are the rock for so many and you must be present with students and staff to show you enjoy your job and are there to support them.  Inspire staff by provide relevant resources so they can excel in their profession. The professional libraries and lending book baskets that are in staff lounges are a way to begin sharing resources.

If you are not having fun at work…then you are just at work.  Staff, parents, and students know when you have enthusiasm for your work, your motivation is contagious.  Inserting staff positive examples in your week’s schedule and quick motivational quotes and video clips are well received from staff.

If you see success and highly effective instruction happening, share these examples with staff at a staff meeting.  You don’t want to start out your staff meetings with items you can communicate via email. Start out the meeting with a collaborative activity, get staff moving around so they do not try to plant themselves by the same person each meeting.  You are the lead teacher of the staff, we want to see highly effective teaching and learning!

Shared Leadership

Teachers are amazing people and want to help others, empower your teachers.  A idea to help teachers learn and grow is Classroom Learning Labs. Classroom Learning Labs allow peer observation under a guided protocol process that promotes collaborative educator learning.  The impact of Classroom Learning Labs on teacher efficacy, teacher professional growth, instructional quality in our classrooms, and collaboration amongst staff has been nothing short of the most transformational change to the craft of teaching.

The results have been teachers, both new and veteran, who are reflective and speaking a whole new dialogue about student engagement, student learning, academic conversations, looking at data, providing feedback and accepting feedback. Instructors have tied their evaluative goals to this work and are excited to be a part of a learning community. Amazing things happen when teachers are allowed the time to observe one another and collaborate!

Being a great principal is more than having a mission focused on all students succeeding, it is living and modeling that mission. Effective leadership means more than knowing what to do—it’s knowing when, how, and why to do it (Waters, Marzano, McNulty, 2003).

Through articulating a clear vision, developing and empowering teacher and student leadership structures, collecting and analyzing both student performance and perception data, setting goals in alignment with the vision based on this data, monitoring instruction, being highly visible in classrooms, holding students and staff accountable to school-wide expectations, and through relentless positive affirmation, a school culture develops which supports both student and adult learning.

Through these efforts, trusting relationships are forged. In due time, staff and students claim ownership to the culture they have been a part of forming and students and staff who are new to this culture embrace it as the way of the organization. The principal must be cognizant to consistently model the cultural norms and be willing to allow others to have a hand in shaping and leading this effort.


Elevate yourself, then in turn you will elevate others.  Some ideas for you to grow are professional books, online courses, workshops, learning videos, Twitter, and podcasts.   Select your professional development carefully, use recommended resources from colleagues. I coordinate professional learning (ifireup.com) tied to certification renewal and salary advancement.  My goal is to provide current practical professional learning that elevates others. Our reviews are fantastic and that brings be joy in helping other educators.

Teachers need to be current on instruction and assessment, so do administrators.  Remember, you are the teacher of teachers and need to be up to date on your learning regarding teaching and learning, special education, policies, among other topics.  Teachers will turn to you for guidance, input and advice, so be prepared to share your learning. If you do not feel solid on a topic, be honest and tell them you will do some more research and get back to them. Make sure you do provide them resources and do get back with them or they will not seek you out for guidance.

Share with staff grant opportunities, these may be through your local education foundation or through a company such as Office Max or MEEMIC.  I completed an Office Max application for a staff member and the staff member was awarded $1,000 for her classroom. It really does not take long to complete the grant applications.

As you continue to RAISE yourself, you are raising your staff and that is beneficial for the entire community of learners.  I so appreciate our caring dedicated teachers and administrators. Your love of students and teaching elevates us all to another level. Thank you for all you do!

This Post Has 14 Comments

    1. Thanks for reading Karen!

  1. Dorthy this was great. I’m looking forward to reading in more I’m depth soon.

    1. Thanks Lalena!

  2. I enjoyed this post, Dorothy. We often hear “…the key to leadership is relationships” however, it’s often without actionable ideas. Your tips for relationships are spot-on. I agree wholeheartedly, “People trust and go the extra mile for leaders that they know are on their side and are loyal.” Thanks for providing tips on how to build that trust with people.

    1. Thanks Matt!

  3. Great article to remember all that our principal does in our building to inspire us.

    1. Thanks!

    1. Thanks lady! Stay safe traveling all over the country!

  4. This article nicely outlines all of the responsibilities of the principal and his/her role to set a good example and role model. I like the emphasis on positive ways to engage and inspire teachers.

    1. Thanks Dionie!

  5. So many great reminders in this article! we are all role models with the principal taking the lead, the teachers modeling for the students and so on.

    1. Thank Dionie!

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