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Charles Brock, Elementary School Principal

Administrative Philosophy

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Charles Brock

Administrative Philosophy



I have developed my philosophy of education and the principalship over the past twenty-seven years. These years have given me a healthy and balanced perspective from which to construct practical effective programs to improve student learning. The last six years, working in an overseas, multicultural, international school with students from sixty-three different countries, has had a major impact on this philosophy. In keeping with my recent experience, some of my beliefs have evolved. Many other ideas, developed during my years as an educator in Washington State, have been affirmed. This blending of ideas and approaches, gives me much to offer students, staff and parents in any school under my leadership.



Given the right instruction in the appropriate environment, all children can learn to the peak of their innate ability. Of course there are obstacles, but it is up to educators to ensure that each child receives his or her optimal instructional program in a high quality learning environment. As a principal, it is up to me to provide teachers and staff with the training, resources and motivation to make this happen.



My experiences have confirmed that children from various cultures are subtly different in how they learn and how they present behaviors. This is a result of what is valued in their society, cultural expectations for learning and the amount of parental participation in their child's education. This makes it imperative that we strive to best serve children from all backgrounds to optimize their opportunity for learning. We must celebrate the uniqueness of every child to best help them grow in the broader society surrounding them.



It is my conviction that the way to reach children is to build upon their strengths and not just concentrate on their areas of weakness. This means helping staff members learn to accept all children. Educators must help unlock the door to learning for every child, regardless of their heritage. The foundation for teacher/staff relationships with students should be built on praising children for what they can do, and then gently back-filling to strengthen those areas in need of further development.



Students respond well to positive peer interactions in the classroom at all ages. Experience working in cooperative teams is important beginning with the earliest years in school. In this way, children will learn to support one another in their learning and project work, just as teams in the corporate world work together to share their strengths, in order to produce the best plans for products or services. Yes, we want to develop individuals, but life is a cooperative endeavor.



Instructional Leader:



Principals should be, first and foremost, instructional leaders. They must work with staff, parents and students to lead key constituents to embrace instructional practices and techniques that best meet the needs of the community. Sometimes this means bringing in new ideas and motivating others to see the benefits of adopting them. It means accepting the challenge of being at the forefront of the change process.



A good instructional leader must be prepared for resistance to new and improved ways of doing things, and work to overcome it, by getting to truly know each teacher and staff member and how each best deals with change. The principal must also be ready and able to share expertise and data to convince the school body that change (even though it may be difficult) will benefit the students of the school. Good data producers, such as the WASL or the International School Assessment program are tools that help develop actionable data, to improve student learning. Helping students, after all, is the job of every staff member! Sometimes this will mean starting with a group of forward thinking people willing to pilot a new idea and share their experiences with the rest of the staff. The positive force of groups like this can radiate outward and bring about positive change across an entire school.

Motivator:



An effective principal must be able to be a motivator to students, staff, parents and the larger community. This means planning regular purposeful meetings with each of these constituencies throughout the year. I believe in holding "Coffee Hours" in order to keep in close communication with parents. This sharing time allows for the development of good feelings regarding what the school is, and should be, doing. It is also a time to gently inform parents of their very important role in their children's education.



Humor is highly effective in motivating a staff, as is praise for work well done and quality training for instructional programs. I believe in setting time aside to allow teachers to share the positive steps they and their colleagues have taken for students, school and the community. Another way I like to help motivate the staff, is to take duties from time to time, in order to periodically provide staff members an extra long lunch or planning period. Teachers who are well cared for, pay these small kindnesses back one hundred fold in that which they give to their students, school and community.



Student motivation is sometimes overlooked on the school wide level. It should not be. One of the best ways to motivate children, outside of the classroom environment, is for them to spend quality time with the principal. I make it a goal to go out to lunch with students on a weekly basis, by finding a willing corporate sponsor to pick up the expense. Students who get this attention feel more attached to their schools, their studies and society. Another motivator for students is the grade level assembly. This allows the principal to meet with grade level groups to praise students for the hard work they do, share good news about student life and make academic and behavioral reminders. This is also a great venue for parents who are willing to share their school and work experiences, and the role education has played in their life/career.



Manager:



The role of the principal includes many important managerial tasks. Principals are responsible for large budgets, mainly in regards to personnel, but also in terms of professional development, supplies, maintenance and safety. It is a critical function of the principal to manage the budget in such a way that it best serves the instructional learning goals of the school. In this way, the principal ensures that funds are targeted at those areas in greatest need of strengthening for maximum student learning. The budget must reflect funding realities while supporting the students and teachers with the resources they need to best meet learning standards and benchmarks.



Another key managerial function of the principal is to ensure open lines of communication with all constituencies. Working on district committees which support district and state priorities, as well as school record keeping and reports to the district, state and local community are also under the principal's management umbrella. School safety is an important role of the principal. A safe place in which to learn and work is paramount, if we are to do our best in the education of our children. I monitor this personally to ensure a safe environment for all stake holders in the school.



Team Player:



Being a team player is an important requisite to excellence as a principal. The building principal must interact constantly with other members of the larger administrative team. It has always been my practice to share educational resources (intellectual, material and human), with my colleagues in Washington State, and my administrative team in Prague. This type of collaboration greatly improves the capabilities of all those involved in the sharing.



In the Czech Republic, I have worked with the director and other principals to complete the curriculum, change scheduling procedures, refine the hiring process, develop plans for new facilities and formulate a new appraisal systems for teachers and classified staff. My active role in facilitating the move to web-based curriculum mapping and unit planning, after spending time at a workshop with Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, has benefited the International School of Prague.



In my public school experience, I was a member of our first collaborative contract building attempts. With hard work on everyone's part, they went very well. The key was transparency. Rational people on both teams joined together to solve problems, rather than to make demands and cut deals. It was a challenge and pleasure to serve in this capacity five times.



I was appointed Bethel School District Year-round School Coordinator, in addition to my principalship. I served in that capacity for two years, during difficult times when the district was growing rapidly, and people were unwilling to pass bonds to build new schools. During this time, I researched philosophies, calendars and solutions to the strains of year-round school. I visited seven school districts in California that were on various year-round configurations and attended the Year-Round School Conference in San Diego. I also facilitated a Bethel Year-round School Committee which developed plans for implementation of a year-round calendar. This committee was decommissioned after passage of a construction bond that allowed the district to add needed space.



Summary:



The principalship is a complex and challenging task. It requires caring, energy, risk-taking, a love of the work and an understanding of best practice in instruction and assessment. A principal needs to have and exercise the judgment to deal with personnel considerations, from hiring the best to helping staff in need. The principal must be ready to help employees who are struggling with their professional or personal lives, in any way possible, to benefit the students served. A quality principal understands policy, state administrative codes and the laws they are meant to clarify. A principal has to have the ability to multitask, think outside the box, and possess the willingness and desire to be an integral part of the larger team.



Most of all, an exemplary principal builds a team that works to create a balanced mix of all the factors I have noted in my letter. A mix that places student learning and student welfare at the center of all that is done, and at the same time nurtures the teachers, parents and community for the demanding roles that each play in the education of our children.



I believe my record demonstrates that I can and do create this balance in the schools I am entrusted to lead.