Confession: I have only been a mediocre instructional leader in my building.

Why the self-reflection? I have heard for the past few years that principals are supposed to be the instructional leaders in their buildings, so I decided to analyze my role. By conventional standards I have been a decent principal, but as an instructional leader, I am lacking. The realizations I deduced were humbling. I found instruction actually gets my leftover time from managing the logistics in my building: discipline, repairs, athletics, building and grounds, compliance reports, custodial, coordinated school health, transportation, etc.

The glaring insight is that my perceived worth as a principal is based on the academic achievement and growth of my students, but I am spending a proportionally small amount of time in that area. That is why I started really thinking about this title of Instructional Leader. It’s pointless to re-title a position if you keep the same responsibilities, so I’ve now decided it is time to be that instructional leader. This is hard for me, and I think it would be hard for most principals.

I am a type-A personality who likes to micro manage. I like being the “The Man” who faculty and staff come to with their problems. But being The Man doesn’t necessarily drive instruction in my building. It might make me feel good to solve issues ranging from too few desks in a class to finding a bus driver last minute for a field trip. But is this the helping improve the ACT composite SCOREs of my students? Is this helping my students become better prepared for college or postsecondary?

My next step is to build capacity in my building to handle issues that do not directly pertain to instruction. This means changing my assistant principal’s title to Operations Administrator. My interaction with teachers will no longer be limited to evaluative conversations. Having additional time to work with teachers and content coaches in a fluid process that isn’t always a formal evaluation will relieve some of the pressure teachers feel, and it will make it a process of pedagogical growth rather than just an obligatory evaluation. Instructional leadership doesn’t have to be confined to fulfilling evaluation obligations. It should work in congruence with the TEAM framework, and the documented evaluation is the compass for an overarching, continuous dialogue between teacher and principal.

I have decided to go “all in” on this. I ordered the stationary with Operations Administrator for my AP, and I’m putting my “The Man” belt buckle in the bottom drawer. I plan to keep you informed of my progress, so this is the first installment of my TRUE instructional leader journey.