PD for Principals: Sharing Leadership
Leadership Insights

PD for Principals: Sharing Leadership for Facilitation

By Terry Wilhelm January 13, 2014

Modeling is one of the most powerful tools of instruction. When principals share leadership with teachers — thereby building ownership in the work of continuous school improvement in student learning — one simple beginning step is for them to invite teacher leaders to help plan and facilitate staff meetings, including professional development segments.

Rethinking principals’ meetings: Why not use them for PD?

District office leaders can model this concept for principals by employing the same strategy with principals’ meetings. This also fills an important symbolic function of demonstrating trust in principals’ abilities, simultaneously building their facilitation skills and confidence.

It’s simple for district leaders to draft a quick agenda based on informational items various department heads or cabinet members need to share with the principals. However, if some (or many, or most) of those items can be shared via email, it frees up time for administrators to spend on PD for their principals. Likewise, if principals do this kind of rethinking about staff meetings with their teachers, they’ll have more time to devote to instructional coaching and sacred talk time.

Helping principals develop facilitation skills

Once this decision is made, the district meeting facilitator can invite principals, on a rotating basis, to share responsibility for segments of the principals’ meetings. Given Google Docs, Skype, and other kinds of virtual meeting and file sharing tools — not to mention the old standby of email — there should be little need for extra meetings for the purpose of planning the meeting.

Another aspect of sound meeting practice that is easy to model — and that improves meetings and communication — is to assign time frames to agenda items, especially informational or business items. Giving principals the opportunity to facilitate these also provides practice in diplomatically reminding speakers when their time is nearly up, repeating, if needed, to bring their items to a close. This will serve principals well if they have staff members at their own sites with a propensity to monopolize meetings and derail agendas.

Sharing leadership during principals’ meetings

Converting traditional principals’ meetings to professional development meetings is perhaps the most powerful modeling of all, and sharing responsibility for planning and delivery of the PD with principals again sends a powerful message of trust in their skills and abilities. Planning sound professional development — with a balance of presentation and processing, with partner/table interactions and sharing out — may take a little more time up front, but the payoff in principals’ increased skills and confidence is significant.

Many principals enter their role with little or no background in group facilitation, which can prove problematic as they work with their staffs over time. Thus, these opportunities can be highly impactful. Encouraging their advancement as transformational leaders is the key to collective success.

Almost everyone can benefit from more practice in facilitation. Adopting the practice of sharing planning and facilitation responsibilities really takes very little more time. Consider this when planning your next round of meetings!

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