Monday, February 15, 2021

Virtual AP Leadership Academy Sunday Reflections



Note: As an extension to my weekly Saturday morning Virtual AP Leadership Academy, I write a weekly refection on my Virtual AP Leadership Academy FB page the following morning. I have decided that I would also post them here for those who are not on Facebook. You can expect a new reflection every Sunday here. If you are not familiar with the Virtual AP Leadership Academy, please visit principalkafele.com and scroll down to "Announcements" on the home page.

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic:  What Do I Know?

February 28, 2021 (#17)

 

For the entire month of February, 2021, I devoted all four Saturdays of the Virtual AP Leadership Academy to Black history. Specifically, I devoted the month to discussing why school leaders must be conversant in Black history and aspects within Black history that are just non-avoidable to know. For whatever reason, yesterday’s discussion that covered the 50’s and 60’s was particularly emotional for me to deliver using my Saturday Academy platform. I found myself holding back tears, unbeknownst to my audience. The information was real but continues to be absent in far too many American curriculums. For example, I went in depth with areas such as but not limited to:

 

  • The reasons behind the Brown vs. the Board of Education class action lawsuit and Supreme Court decision.


  • The Little Rock Nine


  • The closure of the entire Prince Edward County Schools from 1959 – 1964 in order to prevent school desegregation.


  • Emmett Till’s murder


  • The Greensboro Four


  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott


  • The 4 Little Girls who lost their lives during the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL


  • The two boys who lost their lives in Birmingham to racial violence on the same day


  • Bloody Sunday and the lead up to Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL

 

My position has been unchanged for the past 37 years: that American history is not the true narrative of America when the narrative either marginalizes, distorts, trivializes, caricaturizes or omits the complete narrative of the African American…who represent the only group in America who came to these shores involuntarily. This is where you come in leader. Change starts with leadership. Your schools and districts go as you go. If we are serious about bringing about real change and real racial healing in America, one of the areas that will require maximum attention is exposing all children to an honest account of the history of the African American, regardless of how painful, sensitive and delicate the narrative may be.

 

Be sure to join Principal Kafele live every Saturday morning at 11 EST on FB Live @ Principal Kafele or Virtual AP Leadership Academy, Twitter Live @ PrincipalKafele or YouTube Live @ Virtual AP Leadership Academy.




KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE Topic:  Are you telling the truth?
2/21/2021 (#16) 

Yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy was one hour and fifty minutes long meaning that I made a one hour broadcast two hours long. It is standard for me to engage in intense self-reflection and self-assessment with any work that I do upon completion. As a teacher, I engaged in it daily and as a principal, I engaged in it daily. I wanted to have an honest conversation with myself daily relative to whether or not I brought the best version of myself to my students and staff. This conversation mattered because it spoke to what adjustments I needed to make going into the next day toward my overall improvement as an educator. This was ritual for me. Well the same holds true for my role as a presenter, whether that be on a stage with thousands in the audience or sitting in my dining room conducting my Saturday Academy with an audience that I cannot see.

 

As I reflected upon yesterday’s session, my focus was more so on my content. “Did I say all that I needed to say? Did I present it in a way that a diverse audience would understand my thoughts and intent and be able to embrace all that was presnted? For a one hour session, did I share too much over a two-hour span of time to digest?” I spent a considerable amount of time on these questions and more. At some point in the afternoon, I received a couple of inboxes from viewers that were very similar. They both stated, “Thanks for having the courage to tell the truth.” These resonated with me because to be quite frank with you, my “honesty” over the years as an educator has been my achilles heel. I’ve gotten “good trouble” for telling the truth…because the truth hurts. I’ve turned people off by telling the truth. I’ve created distance between myself and others by telling the truth. I’ve lost out on opportunities by telling the truth. But you know something…if I had a reset and could start my career all over again, I would continue to tell the truth. Why? Because the truth MATTERS!

 

Now let’s look at you. You are either an aspiring school leader, an assistant principal or a principal (or in some other leadership capacity). For those of you with Black students enrolled in your schools, are you willing to tell the truth as it relates to their history? Are you willing to engage your staff in difficult, uncomfortable, bold conversations on the truth about the history of your students? Are you willing to challenge curriculum and instruction that either distort, marginalize, trivialize or outright omit the truth about the history of your Black students? I am well aware that the questions that I am asking can put your careers in jeopardy in different parts of the country as it did mine so I’m definitely not advocating that you become careless and reckless in your pursuit of “telling the truth” in an environment where truth and honesty in the history of your Black students is unwelcome. That would be careless and reckless on my part. Instead, I am encouraging you to be strategic in all aspects of your work in this regard. As I stated above, I was commended for “telling the truth” on yesterday’s broadcast. Your students deserve the same truth. The denial of truth is a huge contributor of the Black – white achievement gap nationally.  Your Black students' history is a vital component of their academic achievement. Moreover, it is a part of their truth. It is therefore imperative that as you listen to me share their truth on February Saturday mornings, that the message doesn’t remain in Saturday but instead makes its way into the lives of the students whom it is primarily intended for while always keeping in mind that it is imperative that your non-Black students be exposed to the same truth as your Black students throughout. They too need and require this truth about the history of Black people.

 

Be sure to join Principal Kafele live every Saturday morning at 11 EST on FB Live @ Principal Kafele or Virtual AP Leadership Academy, Twitter Live @ PrincipalKafele or YouTube Live @ Virtual AP Leadership Academy.

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE Topic: Who Am I? 2/14/2021 (#15)

In 2008, I wrote a book entitled, Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life. In this book, I share a plethora of thoughts, ideas, suggestions and strategies toward motivating and empowering the Black male learner. As I reflect back on what I wrote, my primary motivation for writing this book was a three word question: Who am I?  I therefore devoted an entire chapter to this question. In other words, Chapter 4 is entitled, “Who Am I?”

 

Since 1984, I have argued that school districts can spend all of the money that they want to spend toward closing the so-called racial gap in achievement but until they come to grips with the fact that the masses of Black children are looking into their mirrors and not recognizing the greatness of who that is looking back at them both historically and culturally, school districts are pretty much “spinning their wheels.” It’s called “historical and cultural amnesia” and historical and cultural amnesia can last a lifetime if there is no intervention. The intervention is curriculum and instruction where Black students see consistent and ongoing representation of themselves across content areas. In other words, they must see the relevance in what they are learning but simultaneously, they must be introduced to the history and experience of the people who look just like them…their ancestors. The information is infinite.

 

In yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy #42 (2/13/21) entitled, “What Do I Know?” – 50 Things School Leaders MUST KNOW About Black History, my premise was that if Black children are going to be properly educated via culturally-relevant teaching and learning inclusive of learning their historical past, you, as a leader in your school have a particular role to play, whether in your present position or your future principalship. As a leader in your school, the passion, drive and determination for this work commences with you because ultimately, it must be a school-wide effort which enables Black children to be in a learning environment that appreciates in earnest who they are historically as Black children. Toward demonstrating this appreciation, I cannot overstate that YOU must be knowledgeable which is why I have devoted February – Black History Month – to providing various themes in Black history that all of the educators in the building should be and must be conversant in, which is inclusive of your Black students’ African past beyond enslavement. Be ever so mindful that helping your Black students to better recognize who that is in their mirrors historically and culturally is not solely for the benefit of your Black students. It’s for all of the students in your school. Not only are the masses of Black children unfamiliar with their historical past (because it is rarely taught), but the masses of non-Black students are equally unaware of who your Black students are historically and culturally as well. Translation – we have a ton of work to do.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE Topic:  If your teachers’ lessons were mirrors, would your Black students be able to see themselves in the reflection?

2/7/2021 (#14)

Now this is a heavy-duty question. Walk with me on this one. I’m asking you if the lessons of the teachers that you supervise were figuratively mirrors, what would your students see in the reflection? But I want to be a little more specific here….what would, your Black students see? If they looked into these “mirrored lessons,” would they see themselves in the reflection? Would they see themselves looking back? I cannot overstate the significance of these questions. They speak to equity, cultural-relevance, cultural-responsiveness and social justice education.

 

On yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy, I referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Specifically I cited:

 

"I wept for my children and all Black children who have been denied a knowledge of their heritage. I wept for all white children, who through DAILY MISEDUCATION, are taught that the Negro is an irrelevant entity in American society. I wept for all the white parents and teachers who are forced to overlook the fact that the wealth of cultural and technological progress in America is a result of the commonwealth of inpouring contributions."

 

Every time I read this, it resonates with me. He’s saying that he felt sadness for Black children existing in learning environments where learning is not reflective of them. Translation – Black children being educated (or miseducated) in learning environments where the prevailing internal questions become, “What’s this got to do with me? How can I use this? How is this relevant to my life? How is this going to enhance my life?” Black children must see themselves in their own learning. Learning must be relevant. If they do not see themselves or see the relevance of what’s being taught, why would you and I expect them to embrace it?

 

As an assistant principal or aspiring assistant principal, this is where you come in. As an instructional leader, it is your duty…your responsibility to ensure that learning is relevant culturally. I will deem this to be nonnegotiable and non-debatable. The closure of the “achievement gap” is probably the oldest, most discussed topic in all of education. Countless strategies have been brought forth, but the one that deserves the most attention and effort but is all too often dismissed is culturally-relevant pedagogy and culturally-responsive relations in the classroom.  Again, as a school leader, this must be at the core of your work because at the proverbial “end of the day,” your students must be able to see themselves in “the reflection of the lesson.”

 


KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic:  “We are Striving to Achieve the Unimaginable, the Unthinkable, the Inconceivable, Yet Attainable!” 1/31/2021 (#13)

 

Back in the early 2000’s, I took over the leadership of a school in which five days after my arrival, it was designated by the NJ Dept of Education as a persistently dangerous school. I didn’t see that coming and it therefore caught me off guard. I went into that school with a focus on raising the achievement levels but now I had to pivot and devote my energy to not only achievement but in removing this widely known horrible stigma quickly. I knew instinctively that there was nothing dangerous about my students but I wanted the world to know as well as the persistently dangerous designation became a national media story.

 

We put a ton of measures in place to bring about change, but one that stands out to me to this day – 18 years later – was my daily morning message. I would grab that microphone and after greeting my students and staff, I would yell out, “We are striving to achieve the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the inconceivable, yet attainable!” In other words, I was telling my students and staff that despite how the outside world now sees us due to the negative and salacious media attention we received, we are going to prove them all wrong. We are going to defy their perceptions and imagination about who we are.

 

What’s all this got to do with you? Everything! I am saying that my morning statement is applicable to your assistant principal leadership too. In 2021, being a status quo leader is simply not good enough. This is a new day replete with new realities. This will require you to continually renew yourself. Through your team, you must relentlessly “strive to achieve the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the inconceivable yet attainable.” You must be able to demonstrate to your entire school community that whatever the challenges, you and your team are ready to meet them. But moreover, you must be able to demonstrate ongoing ingenuity, innovation and creativity toward leading and achieving at heights never seen before….constantly renewing yourself toward not only adapting to change, but creating change. Your students and staff deserve this from you….they deserve the best version of your leadership.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic:  You cannot be an optimally effective school leader while ignorant of your district’s policies 1/24/2021 (#12)

 

On yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy (Week 39), I spent an hour discussing the importance of being conversant in your districts policies. I cannot overstate the importance of you being knowledge of your district’s policies relative to your decision-making in a plethora of areas over the course of any given day. Pretty much any decision you make will have policy implications but toward making the various decisions that you make on any given day, you more than likely will not have an opportunity to read the policy before you make the decision. You must know the policy prior to. This requires that you spend sufficient time reading and familiarizing yourself with all of the policies of your district. Of course, as it relates to students and particularly your advocacy for your students, you will inevitably encounter policies that you don’t agree with. It happens. It happened to me more times than I can count from an equity standpoint. These were the times that I had to use the appeals process toward ensuring that equity was our reality as a school community. The bottom line though and the purpose of this commentary is to say to you that reading, studying and knowing your district’s policies must be made a priority toward your overall professional growth and development as a school leader.



KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: What do your students know about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said and what he wrote? 1/17/2021 (#11)

 

As I indicated in yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy, it is normal for schools to focus on biographical information and the various different campaigns that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr led throughout his years of Civil Rights leadership. But there also needs to be an equal amount of emphasis on his writings and speeches….speeches beyond his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington – an important speech but not his only speech. In listening to his speeches between 1955 and 1968, it becomes more than evident that Dr. King was steadily evolving in his thinking. The same can be said about his writings. He was the author of the following four books: Strive Toward Freedom (1958), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964) and Where Do We Go From Here (1967). Students should and must be exposed to Dr. King’s words…not just his actions. Between YouTube and the aforementioned books, this is an excellent starting place. In the spirit of “King Weekend,” I encourage you, in your leadership capacity to approach the teaching of Dr. King in your classrooms via not only teaching what he did, but also through what he said and what he wrote.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: It takes guts to lead!

1/10/2021 (#10)

 

On yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy (Week 37), my topic was, School Leadership in Times of Social Unrest, Uprisings, Rebellions and Riots (Part 1). If you missed it and you are in school leadership, I urge you to scroll down and take a look. At the heart of the discussion was the need for leadership to engage staff in the not so easy discussions and conversations about social justice issues and race. These are not easy conversations to even broach, let alone delve into deeply in a lot of places; particularly when the staff is diverse. Within staff for example, there could be a multiplicity of perspectives, beliefs and values politically that are on the opposite end of the spectrum from your own. That’s okay though. The social justice issues that impact your students are real and they are not going away. Looked at differently, as your students enter your school every day (or log on during the pandemic) those social justice issues that impact them, their families and their communities outside of school come into the school with them when the school doors open up in the morning. In other words, your students are a product of those issues. To that end, they must be addressed. To ignore them translates into ignoring significant aspects of your students. These discussions begin with staff. Despite the reality that you may have staff members who do not see the world the way that you do, the conversations are unavoidable. YOU MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO ENGAGE YOUR STAFF. SAID DIFFERENTLY, YOU MUST HAVE THE GUTS TO ENGAGE YOUR STAFF IN THE TOUGH, UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES AND RACE.

 

Of course, I am not suggesting that you utilize an “in your face” approach. You must learn your staff and bring the appropriate people skills to the discussion. As you learn your staff, you learn who can tolerate what (initially) and how to approach them collectively and individually. What’s key is that you have the “guts” to broach these uncomfortable conversations about issues of social justice and race. If you shy away from it, no one benefits. Everyone loses. We are living in very interesting times and as a school leader, you must adapt to these interesting times. That’s what leadership is all about. In other words, a heavy component of leadership is making a series of ongoing adaptations in order to better position yourself to effectively lead your staff. But again, leadership requires courage. Leadership requires audacity. Leadership requires GUTS. You didn’t get into leadership to run away from challenges. You got into leadership…to lead.

 

Much more will be said on this in Week 38 of the Virtual AP Leadership Academy on Saturday morning, January 16, 2021 at 11 ET right here on FB Live, Twitter Live or my YouTube Channel at School Leadership Thoughts.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: Don’t you ever allow anyone to steal your passion for leadership! 1/4/2021 (#9)


On yesterday’s Virtual AP Leadership Academy, my topic was: LET’S START PREPPING FOR THE PRINCIPALSHIP…NOW! I structured the presentation around the following “12 P’s for Leadership Effectiveness.

 

Purpose

Passion

Possibilities

Potential

Planning

Preparation

Prioritize

Perseverance

Persistence

Pressure

Patience

Positivity

 

After the presentation, as I was engaged in my normal decompressing after presentations, I pondered over the “12 P’s” and I wondered if any one of these words is more significant than the other eleven. I considered this for a long stretch of time and I concluded that as it relates to school leadership, there was no one word that stood above the rest, but I kept pondering. As I eventually found myself gravitating to the word, “passion,” I finally concluded to myself that “passion” is a little more significant than the remaining eleven….in my estimation.

 

Your passion for something is a strong emotion toward something. It’s an intense enthusiasm. For example, I am passionate about the Virtual AP Leadership Academy. I REALLY enjoy creating and delivering these presentations…probably more so than the 2000+ presentations I have conducted over my lifetime. In other words, this academy matters! But I was also very much passionate about my principalship. It was my life. I was passionate about my students, my staff, my school, my community and my leadership. It too mattered to me. As I reflect back upon it now, I don’t think I could have endured it for as long as I did if I wasn’t passionate about waking up every morning and walking in my passion. When your passion is gone, it’s equivalent to your energy being gone; your enthusiasm being gone; your excitement being gone; your fire being gone. You MUST be passionate about your leadership. For those of you who are not yet in administrative leadership, you must be passionate about your process of getting to your destination.

 

As I close, I want to caution you – never allow anyone or anything to steal your passion. Difficult people and difficult situations have a way of undermining passion….if you allow them to. You must therefore embrace the reality that you WILL encounter difficult people and situations. That’s just a given. But you must embrace your passion even tighter.

The difference between your leadership effectiveness and leadership failure boil down to the strength of your passion for your leadership. You must therefore protect your passion; shield your passion; guard your passion with everything you’ve got, and if you do, everyone under your leadership will be better for it.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: So, you want to become a principal? Your SELF-DETERMINATION is absolutely essential! 12/27/20 (#8)


As I type, it is the 2nd day of the 7-day African American holiday, Kwanzaa, known as KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination). This particular principle is and always has been my absolute favorite principle. It separates those with the will to achieve their goals from those who lack will. I always say that skill and ability are good but they are not enough. One must have a strong sense of WILL if one is going to be successful at their endeavors.

 

For this short commentary, I am going to make the assumption that if you are an assistant principal, that this role is only a stepping stone and that you are actually in pursuit of the principalship. If my assumption is correct, then I have a question for you…do you have the will to turn your goal…your dream of becoming a principal your reality? How badly do you really want this position? How hungry are you for a principalship? What level of commitment have you demonstrated toward becoming a principal? How much effort have you put into becoming a principal beyond being a good assistant principal? Your answers to these questions matter! If you are going to BECOME a principal, you are going to have to POSITION yourself toward becoming a principal. That means that you must commit yourself to becoming the best version of yourself as a leader but simultaneously positioning yourself in a way that stakeholders who have the authority to open doors for you are aware of your talent and skillset. It all boils down to your self-determination….how bad you want it and your commitment to yourself toward making it happen.

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: While 2020 is Coming to a Close, Be Sure to Keep Your Peace Well Protected 12/20/20 (#7)


What a year! I repeat, WHAT A YEAR! Some of you who will read this message are first year assistant principals. Some have only one year under their belt while others are now veterans. And of course, some of you aspire to become assistant principals. Whatever category you fall in, 2020 has been a challenging year and I am certain 2021 will start off just as challenging if not more so. When I say 2020, I am specifically referring to COVID-19 in this regard...among 2020's multiple other challenges. My message to you however is to remind you that yes, 2020 is a problem for all of us...but it isn't your fault...nor do you have control over it. That means you just have to roll with it...adapt to it...maneuver through it while doing all you can to prevent it from overwhelming you.

 

As I stated yesterday on the Virtual AP Leadership Academy (Week 34), while dealing with the current challenges of the world, you must always strive to PROTECT YOUR PEACE. That is absolutely crucial. Your internal peace matters and you must do all you can to protect it. The challenge is that your peace can be quite fragile. The slightest occurrence can adversely impact it. In fact, the slightest thought can adversely impact it. You must therefore be ever so conscious of your internal peace toward maintaining your sanity, balance and emotional stability. Guard it, shield it, protect it. Build a barrier around it so that no matter how enormous the challenges of life may be, your peace is well protected.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: Everyone loses when “going through the motions” is YOUR reality 12/13/20 (#6)


It is my strong conviction that school leadership ranks amongst the most challenging work that one could ever endeavor to do. When one assumes the position of school leader, one has taken on quite an awesome responsibility….you have taken on the responsibility of ensuring the academic, social and emotional development of an entire student population! This translates into the necessity of you consistently being on top of your leadership game. You must lead to the best of your ability daily. In doing so, you must be highly intentional about maintaining your focus while walking in your leadership purpose and striving to fulfill your leadership vision. This means that you must do all that you can to prevent your work from becoming stale, burdensome and boring. If your leadership is ever reduced to simply “going through the motions,” everyone loses. Your leadership becomes a “job” in this scenario lacking real substance. It is no longer purpose-driven, mission-oriented and vision-fulfilling. It’s just a job with you going through the motions. It’s a “9 to 5” with you watching the clock. Your professional growth and development will more than likely cease to continue in this scenario. Your dream of school leadership will become your nightmare of an ordinary job.

 

Toward avoiding “going through the motions” of school leadership, you must constantly remind yourself of your “why”….your purpose. You must remain rooted in your purpose; you must walk in your purpose; you must wallow in your purpose and you can never, ever lose sight of your purpose. It is your reason for doing this work in the first place and it must remain stronger than any distraction that may come your way and undermine or sabotage, your drive, your determination and your passion to lead at a high level. If you ever feel yourself devolving into “going through the motions,” find yourself a quiet place and ponder over your “why,” and if need be, go find your “why” which may actually be lost or mislocated. And once you’ve identified it, keep it close to the vest throughout the duration of your leadership. Your students require that you do just that. #YouGotThis #bam

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: Sometimes, it’s just a “bad fit” that is keeping you unhappy and wearing you down! 12/6/20 (#5)


Yesterday on the Virtual AP Leadership Academy, I delivered the first of three sessions on avoiding school leadership burnout. As I read through the comments, it was more than evident that this session resonated with many of the attendees; particularly, where I focused on “fit.” In other words, I indicated that many “beat up on themselves” when they find themselves in bad situations, not realizing that THEY are actually NOT the problem. The problem in so many cases is that the “fit” is just wrong….it’s a BAD FIT. You can’t excel in this environment because it’s an environment that is not meant for you to excel. Every environment isn’t for everyone. Take it from me, I led four different schools but I was not my best self in all four schools. Every school wasn’t compatible with my purpose, my mission, my vision, my goals and my skillset. The good thing though is that I had the foresight AND the audacity to move on to an environment where I could grow, develop and excel as a leader….a perfect “fit.”

 

I will not use my “pen” recklessly and carelessly and recommend that you walk away you’re your situation….unless you have a solid, well-thought out plan or another position already lined up. In the interim, use your present reality as a learning experience. Treat it is a doctoral level course and use it to become great. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged or to contemplate going back into the classroom due to frustration….no….USE YOUR CURRENT SITUATION AS A LEARNING ACTIVITY ON WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO. Remember, “fit” matters!

 

Lastly, and since today is Sunday, allow me to talk briefly about God relative to this topic. As you know God is STILL in the blessing business. One of the things that I learned about God over the decades is that the blessing may not appear when you want it or within our immediate vicinity. He might leave the blessing in a place that you have to travel to get to via your car, a train, plane or boat to receive it. In other words, the blessing could be 4000 miles away waiting for you. What am I saying? Simply that if…and I mean IF you are in a bad “fit,” maybe…just MAYBE you might need to relocate. Never rule it out. I don’t mean 4000 miles away but maybe your blessing is in another district; another city; another state; another region. At the end of the day though, never allow yourself to become defeated by a bad “fit.” If you purchase a pair of shoes that are too tight, too large or just uncomfortable, it wouldn’t make sense to keep them. Your “fit” is back in the store and if not there, some other store has just what you need….



KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: There’s no excuse…you must intentionally grow DAILY as a leader! 11/29/20 (#4)


A critical, unavoidable component of school leadership is leadership professional growth and development. Obviously, professional development comes in a multiplicity of forms including conferences, academies, institutes, books, journals, articles, blogs, accountability partners, thought partners, etc. They all matter and I encourage you all to immerse yourselves in all of them throughout your leadership development and careers. For this short commentary however, my focus for your professional growth and development is on your own experiences. In other words, there is so much to be learned from just being you. I am suggesting strongly that with everything you experience as either an assistant principal or an aspiring assistant principal, you ask yourself, “How could I have done this differently? How could I have done this better? Was this my best effort? Am I completely satisfied with my effort? Is this the “stuff” that will take me to the principalship? Is there room for improvement? Is my leadership of value to my school?” In other words, I’m saying to you that a part of your professional growth must be an intentional, earnest critique of yourself. You must be intentional about your own professional growth daily but rooted in your experiences on the job. It’s professional growth and development on the job. It’s treating your leadership not solely as your work / mission, but also treating it as a mirror of yourself. It’s engaging in ongoing self-reflection, self-assessment, self-adjustment and self-improvement while always striving for self-actualization in the process. YOU GOT THIS! #bam

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: “So you didn’t get that principal position yet….stay encouraged!” 11/22/20 (#3)


Undoubtedly, many if not most of you are aware of the YouTube playlist I created for assistant principal and principal job interviews. I am elated to know that well over 200,000 interviewees have watched those videos over the past three years and a countless number of them have landed AP and principal positions. But on the other hand, there are those who are yet to land their dream leadership position and that’s who I am writing to today. Understand, there are reasons that you have not landed that position yet – some you have influence over and others are well beyond your control. It is incumbent upon you to be able to discern those situations where no matter how talented or qualified you may be or how much potential you may have, the person on the other side of the desk just doesn’t want to hire you for whatever the reason. As harsh as this may sound, it’s real world. Some of you are dwelling over situations that are well beyond your control and you are allowing it to discourage you. Here me well….YOU MUST NOT ALLOW SITUATIONS THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL TO DISCOURAGE YOU! If and or when you don’t land the position, simply shake the dust off your feet and keep moving. Your dream job is out there waiting for you. It is up to you to get out there and get it.

 

On the other hand, there are reasons that you did not land the position that you do in fact have influence over. If you do not land the position, it is incumbent upon you to learn why you didn’t land the position. There is no harm whatsoever in asking the interviewer (after you have been informed that you didn’t get the job) what you could have done better or differently so that you can use this information the next time out. It may not have anything to do with you. It may be that there were simply too many candidates and they could only select a small finite number. The bottom line is to inquire. The interviewer’s responses are good information for you. It’s good data toward your preparation for your next interview.

 

Again, don’t let the process discourage you. I know people who went on 10 to 15 interviews before landing their first position. They hung in there and are now principals. This will be your reality as well. Keep your attitude positive and optimistic. Know that you are qualified for the position. Don’t personalize it when you are not hired…instead LEARN from it. Your dream is YOUR dream. Never give it to someone else. When you become discouraged and ultimately give up, you are essentially giving your dream away to someone else which will translate into you sitting on the sidelines watching someone else STAR in your dream. Keep your head up! Let’s go! #bam

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE

Topic: “YOUR POWER IS IN YOUR ATTITUDE” 11/15/20 (#2)


You would not believe the volume of AP’s that reach out to me every week to express either their displeasure with the way they are being utilized by their principals or the less than productive relationships they have with their principals. There’s so much I could write about that here but I addressed it fully in Week’s 13 and 14 of the Virtual AP Leadership Academy. If you are in this situation, I strongly urge you to watch both videos on my School Leadership Thoughts YouTube channel.

 

Here, I want to approach it a little differently. I want to remind you that you have power within you. Just by virtue of the fact that you are in a leadership capacity tells me that someone saw something in you that spelled L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P. Someone such as a superintendent saw a principal in you and saw fit to recommend you to the Board for an assistant principalship. I am therefore reminding you that despite the challenges that you may be experiencing, you are a leader and your power is in your attitude. I repeat – YOU ARE A LEADER AND YOUR POWER IS IN YOUR ATTITUDE. You did not go to grad school to become an assistant principal. You went to grad school to become a principal. The assistant principalship for you is therefore a training ground only. You must resultantly utilize your attitude productively. Don’t allow yourself to be led and controlled by the emotions of disappointment, discouragement, despair and anger but instead use your power….a positive attitude to keep you balanced, stable and focused. Because things are not going the way you want them to doesn’t have to defeat you. You must always keep your focus on what you worked hard for and not get overly distracted by your temporary situation. It’s temporary and it’s micro. Keep your focus on your bigger picture….your macro and make whatever adjustments and adaptations that are required toward one day getting you to your next level while never burning down the bridges you will need to cross in order to get you to where you want to be.

 

 

KAFELE SUNDAY REFLECTION TO THE AP’S & ASPIRING AP’S OUT THERE 11/8/20 (#1)

Good morning to all of the assistant principals and aspiring assistant principals who are associated with this page. If you are a new AP, I am willing to bet that this has been a rather challenging start and very different from what you imagined it would be. Maneuvering through a global pandemic is a different beast and nothing could have prepared you for this and that includes the vets out there. But I will say this - a lot of what you are doing as a reaction to the pandemic is transferable to post-pandemic. Do keep that in mind. The pandemic is forcing us all to expand our thinking toward connecting with children and staff. For example, as burdensome as virtual learning and meetings may be, the possibilities are endless with this platform moving forward. And that's only one example. As an AP, continue to know your lane, grow and develop in your lane and document the journey along the way. When you become a principal, this pandemic will have given you tools that no grad school could have ever prepared you for. You got this. Let's go! Have a great week and STAY POSITIVE & OPTIMISTIC! #bam 


Monday, June 15, 2020

School Leadership, Black Lives, Systemic Racism, Social Unrest and Social Justice Education


We’re at an interesting place in education in 2020. Although police killings of unarmed Black men is nothing new….in fact, it has been occurring for a very long time, what is new is that these killings are now being captured on cell phone video, surveillance video and police body cam video and broadcasted on television for the world to see. For the first time, the world is seeing what the Black community has been crying out about for over a century. With the recent cell phone-recorded police killing of George Floyd, the surveillance and subsequent body cam videos of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, and the home invasion and subsequent police killing of Breonna Taylor, America has shifted. The America of today, June 15, 2020 is not the America of May 24, 2020. In other words, when George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020 where a Minneapolis police officer (knowingly being recorded) kept his knee on Floyd’s neck to the point of suffocation for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, America shifted. Starting with Minneapolis, the masses immediately “took to the streets” in the form of marches, protests, rallies, demonstrations, rebellions and rioting. As I write on June 15 (21 days after the George Floyd murder), masses of people are still “in the streets” of America and the world, across racial / ethnic groups, demanding justice, solutions and immediate change relative to the policing of citizens of the Black community.

The aforementioned has implications for the classroom every day that cannot be disregarded. The social unrest that we’re all currently observing and will in all likelihood continue to observe for some time to come cannot be ignored, circumvented or “swept under the rug.” At the district and school levels, it must be met head-on. It must be welcomed and embraced. Why? Because it impacts every child sitting in your schools and classrooms. Schools across America must be willing to embrace and infuse America’s new reality into every classroom in the country under the banner of Social Justice Education. Of course, there are many schools that have embraced Social Justice Education long before 2020, but there are other schools where Social Justice Education is “way off the radar.” The times dictate that Social Justice Education is an inherent part of the teaching and learning process across all disciplines…Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, etc. For the purpose of this essay, I am making the case for Social Justice Education in schools where Black children are enrolled because I am writing specifically here about “Black Lives.”

What is Social Justice Education (SJE)? First and foremost, I was a social justice teacher and principal because it was just natural for me professionally as it emanated out of who I am personally. I took on the tough topics and issues with my students because I felt it was my duty to do so. I owed it to each and every one of my students to have the courage and audacity to be a social justice educator...for them. But secondly, I have read extensively about SJE over the years and there are so many definitions and perspectives out there as to what it is and what it is not. For me, it’s simple. SJE is the ongoing student-centered exploration, examination, assessment, critique and analysis of the world upon which your students exist…the world around them relative to their relationship with it and how they fit into it relative to issues of social justice (and injustices) and overall systemic, institutional and individual racism (unconscious, implicit or explicit). As it relates to your Black students for example, the question becomes, “What are the realities of being Black? What are the realities, experiences, challenges, obstacles, needs, interests, goals and aspirations, across genres, of being Black in America? What challenges does being Black pose to your Black students?” Depending on the age of your students, chances are that your Black students have very strong, emotional and intellectual thoughts and opinions about the reality of being Black in America. As I indicated previously, SJE along with your Black students’ thoughts and opinions therefore cannot be ignored, circumvented or “swept under the rug” because the implications and correlation between their world and their academic success in your classroom and beyond are immeasurable. For example, they see the current unrest; they can relate to the current unrest; they understand the current unrest and many even may be participating in the current unrest. You must therefore ensure that SJE is an inherent component of learning and discussion in your school which not only enables your Black students to put their world’s in perspective toward confronting it, but equally enables your non-Black students to better understand and appreciate the world of their Black peers.

So what does this all have to do with school leadership? EVERYTHING. It requires leadership…strong leadership…purpose-driven leadership…visionary leadership…courageous leadership…passionate leadership to ensure that Social Justice Education occurs in all schools toward educating the “whole child.” Toward the implementation of Social Justice Education in your schools, I offer you the following ten self-reflective questions to guide your thinking, planning, organization and implementation:

1.  What do I know about Social Justice Education?

2.  What would Social Justice Education mean for the students of my school?

3.  Why would Social Justice Education be necessary in my school?

4.  What are the reasons that Social Justice Education exists in my school?

5.  What are the reasons that Social justice Education does not exist in my school?

6.  Can our students; particularly our students of color articulate, beyond emotional reactions, the injustices that surround them?

7.  Do the teachers that I supervise have the necessary cultural competency to engage our students in issues of social justice?

8.  What type of PD do we provide staff toward developing a comfort and confidence in engaging our students in issues of social justice?

9.  How knowledgeable am I in issues of social justice?

10.  How competent am I in incorporating issues of social justice in my overall instructional leadership with staff?

Principal Kafele is the author of seven ASCD books including his recently released Amazon best-seller, The Assistant Principal 50: Critical Questions for Meaningful Leadership and Professional Growth. For further writings authored by Principal Kafele visit PrincipalKafele.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

First Year ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP in the Age of the Coronavirus



As we are in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, I have thought about educating children even more so than I typically do…if that is humanly possible.  Specifically, I have been obsessed with how our educational systems will be able to sustain education for our children throughout this crisis upon which we find ourselves. As with most areas of education, I do have a few strong opinions about how to get through it so last Wednesday (3/18/20), I took to FB and Twitter Live and spent an hour and a half offering strategies and suggestions toward maximizing distance learning with an emphasis on the usage of webcam platforms such as ZOOM meetings. On Thursday, I decided I wanted to speak specifically to first year teachers toward addressing their unique challenges so I wrote a blog post specifically for them. On Friday, I decided I wanted to speak specifically to first year principals toward addressing their unique challenges so I wrote a blog post specifically for them. As I type, it is Saturday morning and I have the first year assistant principals on my mind, and I know they have unique challenges, so I decided I would devote my morning to writing specifically to them. From this point on, I will be writing in the second person as I share my thoughts specifically to first year assistant principals (veterans too).

As a first year assistant principal, once you entered the ranks of administration, you essentially entered an entirely new world relative to your previous work; presumably you were a teacher or a counselor. You are now a leader of men, women and children. You are a supervisor of a portion of your school’s staff. You are an instructional leader in addition to all of your other responsibilities including student discipline, cafeteria duty and bus duty. And then came COVID 19 and your world as a new assistant principal took on a change that graduate school could have never prepared you for. In other words, as comprehensive as your graduate school program may have been, chances are good that you didn’t have a course on “Leading Through a Global Pandemic.” Like all of the leaders out here, leading students and staff in the midst of a global pandemic has to be learned “on the job” and in real time. Yes, there are experts providing guidance but at the “end of the day,” this is something very different. To that end, I offer you the following five suggestions as you fight through this global crisis as a first year assistant principal.

1.  Your role is to assist
First and foremost, your title is Assistant Principal. You are there to assist. Although it is admirable and commendable when you take the initiative in areas that you see require your assistance, your first course of action in so many cases is to consult with your principal. I cannot overstate the significance of you and your principal being on the same page; particularly during this Coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to stay in constant contact with your principal who is obviously working out of his / her home. In other words, your principal’s home is now your school’s main office.  Keep your principal abreast of your thinking and initiatives that you want to take before you take them because remember, your principal is trying to figure this thing out too. This is new and different for everyone.
  
2.  You know your staff
As a supervisor of a portion of your school’s staff, chances are that you know these particular staff members, including teachers, a little better than your principal does. These staff members report directly to you. You are their leader. They too are trying to figure out how to maximize distance learning while keeping their students engaged. The reality that you can never lose sight of however is that teaching is only a portion of their lives. They are also individuals with lives outside of their career. In the midst of a global pandemic, they too are dealing with the emotions that accompany the uncertainty of the time we find ourselves. This is where your leadership is so crucial. As an assistant principal and in your case, a first year assistant principal, you must maintain contact with your staff beyond your supervisory role. It would be great if you could just check in on them. Strengthen those relationships that you have with them and assure them that you are there for them. Beyond their school lives, they have their own individual lives. They have their own emotions to contend with. And they have family responsibilities as well. Be therefore sure to compliment, encourage, praise and support your staff as often as possible. This can be done through email, ZOOM meetings (dept. or grade level) or however you deem most appropriate to maintain contact with staff. Some of your staff may be taking the pandemic in stride while others may be really struggling with it. As best you can, you want to be a support for these staff members as we fight through it daily.

3.  You are a resource
As a former classroom teacher and current instructional leader, you are an academic resource. Although there is a plethora of distance learning resources that can be obtained online, you know your students and staff. Theoretically, you know what resources will work well with your students and staff. Therefore, although there’s a ton of great stuff on line, don’t hesitate to offer your own suggestions and resources as well.

4. You know your students’ parents
In your capacity of assistant principal, chances are excellent that you communicate with more parents than anyone else in your school. The parents know you and you know the parents. They too are dealing with their own anxieties and emotions in the midst of the Coronavirus. Many of them just want an ear to talk to. It would be ideal if you could be one of those “ears” and they can continue to reach out to you via email or ZOOM. You could also assist your staff where necessary toward them engaging the parents in ZOOM parent meetings. Additionally, in your assistant principal capacity, you work with a number of students. You have helped a number of students. And quite frankly, you have turned around a number of students. With the amount of time that your students may be away from school, much of what you established could potentially unravel. I therefore encourage you to utilize this time away from school to communicate with several of the parents of the students you have worked with and possibly the parent and the child simultaneous on ZOOM for example toward increasing the probability that what you established can sustain itself.

5.  You’ve got to maintain personal balance
As a first year assistant principal and therefore a first year school administrator, I can only imagine how overwhelming this experience may be. You are in this job you worked so hard to attain, and then out of nowhere, you are leading through a global pandemic. Despite the pressures and demands of your new position, it is absolutely imperative that you maintain a sense of balance. Your physical and emotion health is crucial. Self-care must always be a priority. Yes, work hard toward making education work for your students and staff, but balance out your work life with your personal life. In a pandemic, you have a family that needs a large portion of your attention as well. Attend to their needs, but don’t ever leave out yourself. Take time out for your own peace as well. And never lose sight of the fact that you are not alone. There are first year assistant principals all over the world in this fight with you. In the age of social media and particularly Twitter, you actually have access to many of them. Communicate with as many of them as feasible, including the ones in your own district and geographical area. And at the end of the day, remember, this too shall pass.

Even during a pandemic, your responsibilities can be potentially endless. Many children rely on the school for breakfast and lunch for example. A part of your duties might include distribution of meals at your school. Many children may be having difficulty coping with the realities of a pandemic; particularly students in graduating grades - 5th, 8th and 12th. That is a blog post in and of itself. You along with the other administrators and staff may have to grapple with these emotions until more information is made available. The bottom line is that the work is endless....even during a pandemic and as I said above, the communication between you and your principal is absolutely crucial.

For further reading on school leadership, pick up Principal Kafele’s four school leadership books, The Assistant Principal 50: Critical Questions for Meaningful Leadership and Professional Growth, The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence, Is My School a Better School Because I Lead It? and The Aspiring Principal 50: Critical Questions for New and Future School Leaders – all published by ASCD and can be ordered through principalkafele.com.

Virtual AP Leadership Academy Sunday Reflections

Note: As an extension to my weekly Saturday morning Virtual AP Leadership Academy, I write a weekly refection on my Virtual AP Leadership Ac...