Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Association
MESPA Monday Memo
February 13, 2017
MESPA Spring Conference: Leading Innovation & Change Spring Registration Is Open!
March 22-24, 2017
Devens Common Center
21 Concurrent Sessions Announced
Click for: 

We hope you will join us for what promises to be three days of powerful professional learning, as well as a welcome opportunity to network with colleagues.     

Click on brochure to see full-size.
From The MESPA Blog:
Lose Control with UDL:
Connecting Student Ownership to Effective Engagement
by Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D., Educational Consultant, K-12 Administrator & College Professor Author of “Universally Designed Leadership ”  
In this week’s post, Kristan connects the work of leading technology thinker (and MESPA Fall Conference Keynote speaker) Alan November and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  Kristan describes what Alan, in his book “Who Owns the Learning?” calls the “Digital Learning Farm” model, which he says “represents a shift of control in the educational process as students take more responsibility for designing and implementing educational experiences.”   She then provides a “crosswalk” of Alan’s model with UDL Checkpoints and provides several real-life examples from classrooms. 

New Job Postings
Peabody:  West Memorial Elementary School
Peabody: South Memorial Elementary School
Seven Hills Charter School (Worcester) – Principal-Superintendent

For details & other postings, go to:
From the Executive Director:
Survey Results Part III: In Your Own Words
In our recent survey of principals and assistant principals, we asked two open-ended questions.
  • What do you find most rewarding about being a principal or assistant principal?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face as a principal or assistant principal?
225 of the 283 survey respondents provided comments.   Last week, I read through all these comments and attempted to categorize and summarize the results.  Reading the heartfelt words was at once compelling (rewards) and daunting (challenges).  Here’s what was trending, beginning with challenges and ending on a positive note:  

No surprise that many principals are feeling overwhelmed, as can be seen in the following list:  

Demands of the Role (89)
  • Time – not enough or time management (39)
  • (Unrealistic) Expectations (27)
  • Management/Paperwork (15)
  • Work/Life Balance (8)
  • Isolation (4)
Increasing Needs of Students (45)
  • Social-Emotional/Mental Health Needs (18)
  • Behavior (12)
  • Needs – Unspecified (8)
  • Poverty/SES (5)
  • ELL (2)
Insufficient Resources, Staffing or Budget (35) Teacher Challenges (34)
  • Difficult/Adversarial Individuals (13)
  • Resistance to Change (9)
  • Union/Contract (7)
  • Teacher Stress (5)
District Challenges (22)
  • Lack of Support from Central Office (16)
  • Meeting time away from the building (6)
Educator Evaluation (21)

State Mandates & Accountability System (20)

Difficult Parents (19)

Leadership Challenges (11) (Leading change, Creating culture)  

On a more hopeful note, principals clearly find their work rewarding with some writing eloquently about why they love the work.    

Principals made clear that Relationships kept them going, particularly being able to connect and work with people over time [Students (84), Staff (40), Families (35)].  

Principals find satisfaction in seeing Student Growth/Progress (43) and Making a Difference in the lives of students in need (14).  

Principals also find it rewarding to work with Faculty by promoting Teacher Growth/Change (24), Supporting Teachers to provide what’s best for students (19), Coaching & Mentoring (13), and Collaborating (9).  

Several principals wrote about finding satisfaction from being able to Impact or Influence a School’s Culture/Environment (29) and Lead Change (16). 

Some principals love the Ever Changing Challenges & Problem Solving (8).  

The first question in last week’s Twitter chat with principal Todd Nesloney (co-founder with Adam Welcome of Kids Deserve It!) asked how one battles negativity.  It was amazing to see how quickly principals produced answers in 10 minutes, including strategies, attitudes and inspirational quotes. (My favorite: “ Negative people need drama like oxygen.  Stay positive and take their breath away.”). For more, go to: #MESPAchat February Transcript.  

In reflecting on the rewards and challenges of the job, I am reminded of the old Peace Corps slogan: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.”   I hope that you are able to stay positive and find satisfaction from doing what Howard Gardner defines as  good work.  Seek inspiration from the work of people like Todd and Adam.  And be sure to build your network, whether through Twitter, Voxer, support groups, EdCamp, or conferences.  You need to find ways to connect with others who do and understand this complex work. Principals supporting principals – and principals inspiring principals!  

Thank you for participating in this year’s survey.  

COMPLETE SURVEY RESULTS Results (including salary information) can be found at this link:  The link brings you to the beginning of the survey.  Use the drop down menu at the top to move among the different sections of the survey.   

Rick Rogers
Selected Quotes - Challenges

"Time and balancing all the different components of the job: paperwork, observations, preparing for faculty meetings, writing, communicating to parents and the community, inspiring and motivating people, living the vision each day, keeping up with assessments and the demands placed upon children, teachers, and the district. Time to reflect on the decisions one makes."  

"There is so much work to do in a week, and not enough time in a day to get it all done. The teacher evaluation process is the black cloud that follows me every day of my life. I have done close to a 100 observations this year already. It is never enough and I'm not sure if the amount of effort makes the difference the State designed the evaluation for. I don't have any additional administrative support, so all decisions are on me….The job is an isolated position... Teachers have coaches, mentors, etc. Principals don't have the same support built into their daily work."  

"As we are aware, the world is constantly changing. Our students come to school with so many worries that should not be a part of childhood but often the families might share these worries with the kids...A challenge that we are looking at as a district is to see how we might rethink and redo what we do in Kindergarten. Looking at putting SEL, social skills, working with others, at the forefront is appearing to be of more importance before we can put math and reading in the forefront."  

"The biggest challenge is trying to get everything done and finding a healthy balance between my professional and personal life."  
Selected Quotes - Rewards

"I love the variation in the job - no two days are alike.  I love having an impact on both children and grown-ups.  I love the daily contact with children.  I love seeing children skipping down the hallways each day and the efforts they put in to their learning." 

"I love what I do each and every day no matter how many curve balls come my way. I love the staff and students that I work with as they are so committed to making learning fun for our Kindergarten through Grade 2 students."  

"Guiding students and staff during difficult moments - finding ways to preserve the dignity of others is an on-going reward." 

"I enjoy working with teachers in collaborative committees even when there is conflict.  I am grateful for an exceptionally talented and knowledgeable staff.  When we have conversations about how to best meet the needs of every student, it's pretty awesome."  

"There are several areas I find rewarding. I enjoy guiding and helping both new and veteran teachers. I also enjoy working with families in helping them their child's academic or personal progress. I want to serve as resource with connecting them to appropriate social services and agencies to provide help support.   I find it rewarding that I take part in creating a learning environment for ALL students that is nurturing, positive and kind. It is very humbling to me knowing that the decisions I take part in affects the lives of so many children and adults."