Michigan! I decided then and there that I would be number two!
The work of the principal has become more and more challenging, particularly or our new and beginning principals. The expectations and high accountability atmosphere has forced a very fast learning curve of sophisticated leadership skills with little or no support. New and beginning principals clearly need help with learning how to manage time, create a vision with clarity, manage professional interactions (between and among adults), and combating isolation and insecurity. Yet in most situations, new and beginning principals are tossed the keys and told to go be a principal with no induction, no support, and no mentors.
Last summer when I went to mentor training in Baltimore, I was surprised to find my friend and colleague from Leadership Matters Cohort Three in the class with me! Susan Townsend is Assistant Superintendent at Jackson ISD. She was a principal in Marshall for many years and is a long time MEMSPA member. We were also pleasantly surprised to be joined with 20 Detroit Public School principals who were training alongside us. Michigan was well represented!
The 2 ½ day training was interactive, focused on our strengths, and began eliciting skills that are different from what I was used to. As a principal, I was used to being a problem solver, more directive, and leading people. The act of mentoring is vastly different, one is more of a coach and asks more questions, probes for insight, provides resources, data and information when asked and mostly is a listener who gives support. There are two major mentor rules: 1. Listen and ask more questions. 2. Don’t try to make your protégée a mini version of yourself.
My journey as a mentor this year has brought just as much learning to me as it has to my protégée. I enjoy visiting his school and hearing of all the wonderful and positive improvements he has brought about via his positive influence. We have developed a great relationship, and I enjoy supporting him and assisting him on this difficult journey of developing leadership skills. There have been times that I have not done as much listening as I should have and too many times that I could hear myself say, “At my school, I used to . . .” I am learning to help my protégée figure out what needs to be done, support his risk-taking and then assist in reflection of what went well and what could be changed. The job of the principal is lonely, as you know, so I enjoy being a listening ear with complete
confidentially. Although the work ensures accountability, the focus is on support.
I am determined to change the support that we give our new principals, so I am making my encore work about mentoring. This June, Susan Townsend and I will become ully certified as National Principal Mentors and added to the Michigan list on the NAESP website. We have learned a lot this year after our initial 2 ½ days of training last summer in Baltimore. We have spent a year mentoring our protégées, meeting monthly with other principals pursuing certification, and writing reflections about our learning.
One of the requirements to achieve certification is to have a capstone project that focuses on mentoring. Susan and I decided to work together to bring the National Principal Mentor Certification Program to Michigan. We talked with Carol Riley, National Mentor Director for NAESP and Paul Liabenow, MEMSPA’s Executive Director, and we are pleased to announce that Michigan will be hosting National Principal Mentoring Certification training this fall!
We want MEMSPA to be the leader and on the forefront of providing our new and beginning principals with trained, certified mentors and the support they need to be successful. What we need is a cadre of experienced principals willing to serve, get trained and certified! Could that be you? If you are a retired or experienced principal who would like to give back to the profession while building the leadership capacity of a new or beginning principal then stay tuned! The details of how you can add your name to the list of Nationally Certified Principal Mentors is coming soon! Mentoring is definitely a journey worth discovering and taking.