Summer provides some breathing room to review and reflect on the results from a variety of assessments and surveys. One of the more sobering results from an annual staff survey in my last school fell under the category of Educator Feedback. I was very disappointed with the results from two questions:
How much did you learn from the teacher evaluation process?
How useful do you find the feedback you receive on your teaching?
Having devoted countless hours to the evaluation process over the years and priding myself on my conversations with teachers following observations, the results were particularly disturbing – and left me thinking about how DO we provide teachers with meaningful feedback? Douglas Stone was a keynote speaker at the MESPA 2015 Spring Conference. He and Sheila Heen have written a helpful book aptly entitled “Thanks for the Feedback.” One small suggestion they make is that we distinguish between three types of feedback:
Appreciation: Telling someone in specific terms what we value and appreciate about the work they do and who they are as a person.
Coaching: Providing someone with specific feedback that is intended to promote growth or change.
Evaluation: Providing feedback relative to expectations or standards.
They go on to suggest that we need to be clear about what kind of feedback we are offering – and be sure we understand what kind of feedback the other person is expecting from a particular conversation. Most of us find it easy to provide appreciation. And the requirements associated the evaluation process are not going away. That said, how can principals engage in more conversations that involve learning and growth? Two things that I would suggest:
Participate in professional learning with your teachers. This builds credibility and provides opportunities for conversation outside of the evaluation process.
Be sure to follow-up classroom visits (whether part of the evaluation process or not) with a conversation. Be strategic about whether the visit provides an opportunity for appreciation – or coaching.
What ideas do you have? This might be a good topic for #mespachat!
We are working to revitalize the professional development offerings that MESPA provides in the coming year. A complete schedule and registration information will be coming in August, but here a few highlights:
New Professional Learning Partnership with Ribas Associates
We are pleased to announce a new partnership between Ribas Associates and MESPA that will enable us to offer a wide range of workshops this year that will be of interest to you and your teachers (Your teachers can register at the membership rate if you are a member). Two areas of focus will be social-emotional learning and special education. Ribas Associates is a leading provider of professional development, consulting and publication services designed to improve educator effectiveness and student performance (http://www.ribasassociates.com/).
MESPA has had a small leadership coaching program for a number of years. We are working to expand this program in the coming year. If you are interested in serving as a coach, please contact Rick Rogers (
email@example.com). If you are interested in receiving coaching, please contact Brenda Elmes (
Regional Principals’ Groups
We will be organizing low-cost regional groups for principals that will meet 6-8 times during the year (some groups may use a blended in-person/on-line approach). These groups of 8-12 principals from different districts will be facilitated by an experienced or retired principal. If you are interested in facilitating or participating in one of these groups, please contact Rick Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Massachusetts Principals Attend National Conference
National Representative John Quinn reports that ten Massachusetts principals attended the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) annual conference in Washington, DC earlier this month. Judging from the chatter on Twitter (#mespachat), the group found the conference stimulating and rewarding. Congratulations to these four Massachusetts principals who presented at this year’s NAESP conference:
Liz Garden, Shrewsbury: “Are We There Yet? Navigating the School Change Road Map”
Thomas Martellone, Lexington: “Connecting Learners at School: Building a Culture that Engages and Supports Student Learners”
Sandra Trach, Lexington: “The Power of the Unconference Model: Changing the Way We Facilitate Professional Learning”
Julie Vincentson, Quabbin RSD: “Using Voxer to Develop Your PLN (Professional Learning Network)”
If there is anyone else we missed, please let us know.