Does the Peter “Principal” work here?

peter principleSo often in education, we see promotions from within the field.  Perhaps not from within schools or school divisions, but for the most part, it is teachers who decide that they want to take the next step into leadership by overseeing a department, a grade level, moving into an instructional specialist position, or a building principal.  Rarely do we as  educators see or seek  outside executives as direct leaders of schools.  Is it the passion for learning that one must have in order to lead a school?  I have been thinking a lot about this concept as I move into leadership myself-I am fascinated how much of education is run like a corporate business. And so, the question must be asked: Is teaching a classroom the same as running a company or running a building?  Studies have shown that “there is a strong parallel between the decision a teacher makes to move into school administration and the decisions other professionals (e.g., engineers, lawyers, physicians) make to move into corporate administration” (Gates, Chung, et al., 2003, p. 32).  And to make the transition from teacher to leadership, we often must straddle the duties that come with being an effective teacher and the duties of being an effective leader–creating lesson plans while supporting teachers, grading papers while observing classrooms–at some point, you begin to feel like you are running around in the weeds–not being effective anywhere. I often hear conversations surrounding this feeling of being in the “weeds” with my fellow leadership newcomers, which started me thinking…is it a readiness thing? A confidence thing? Or, is it possible that teachers who are recognized as being great in the classroom get recruited for leadership positions, but then potentially fail in the larger arena?  It’s a theory that arises in leadership often–the Peter Principle–developed by  educator, Laurence J. Peter in 1969, suggesting that “as people are usually promoted ‘to their level of incompetence’ (“individuals who are good in one job are not necessarily good in the job into which they are promoted”), it would be natural to expect individuals to perform worse after promotion has been achieved” (Acosto, 2010, p. 975).  We have all experienced or encountered educational leaders,who were once renowned for their exceptional reputation in the classroom, but then as leaders, they fall short with communicating to staff or sticking with decisions.

educator cartoon

As up-and-coming leaders, we must constantly remind ourselves what it is that we want to do with the bigger picture and fall back on ours strengths that we know others see and respect in us.  Yes, The ”Peter Principals” do exist out there–not all great teachers belong in leadership nor should they feel the pressure to take that path.  But, being a lifelong learner, as many of us are, it is important to reflect on our perspective and our place within the leadership field. Of course it’s a confidence thing, a readiness thing–we have to give ourselves some time.

leadership cartoonIn our recent Foundations of Educational Leadership class, we focused on leading change, and as part of that discussion, we looked at Michael Fullan (2014) regarding his perspective of considering “what happens when you find yourself needing new skills and not being proficient when you are used to knowing what you are doing” (p. 175) .  It is at this point where we determine whether we have reached our incompetence level or whether we will use our instincts and knowledge to figure it out and adapt to our own changing roles.  We cannot ask others to follow us into change if we, ourselves, are not comfortable with the unknown.  Are we always ready for what is thrown at us? No, of course not; before we jump to the assumption that we have “reached our level of incompetence,” I challenge us, as new leaders, to remember what got us this far in the first place–our grit, our own experiences, and our competence.  family curcuis







Acosta, P. (2010, 12). Promotion dynamics the Peter Principle: Incumbents vs. external hires. Labour Economics, 17(6), 975-986. doi:10.1016/j.labeco.2010.02.005

Fullan, M. (2014). Leading in a Culture of Change. Wiley.

Gates, S. M., Chung, C. H., Ross, K. E., Santibanez, L., & Ringel, J. S. (2003). Who is Leading Our Schools? an Overview of School Administrators and Their Careers. RAND Education.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reimagining the Classroom

       Theodore Levitt said that “creativity is thinking up new things.  Innovation is doing new things.” Today’s educators are facing the pressures of standardized testing, school accreditation, meeting the diverse needs of students, keeping up with technology, bridging the global achievement gap, and teaching larger classes with fewer resources.  How can we possibly meet these needs?  It takes courage to move from having a traditional teacher centered classroom, with the teacher lecturing to students sitting in rows, to a student centered environment with flexible grouping and hands on activities.  When teachers lead from the heart they “have passion for their work, compassion for the people they serve, empathy for the people they work with, and courage to make difficult decisions.” (George, 2007)  

     I have personally observed teacher leaders revamping their classroom environments with success.  When Kim Poore and April McDonough began working in a collaborative VA US History classroom, at Hopewell High School, they noticed that their students in this urban setting were struggling.  Determined to see their students succeed, they started taking risks and completely transformed their classroom to bring life to their content. When they began reimagining their content through the eyes of comic book superheros,  students became engaged and started making huge academic strides.

McDonough - Poore pic 1

McDonough-Poore pic 1


McDonough - Poore pic 3

McDonough-Poore pic 2


 Melissa Nelson, an English teacher at Powhatan High School, courageously took the challenge to honestly look at the needs of her students in this rural setting.  Inspired by a blog on having an “eye candy” classroom, Melissa started to reimagine her space.  She replaced traditional desks with an assortment of tables, chairs and posted only the items vital to her content on the walls.  Her students were eager to come to class, allowed to sit where they felt most comfortable, and produced work on a deeper level.  

Melissa Nelson's room

Melissa Nelson’s room

     Last year, I decided to rethink my classroom.  I noticed that the special education students in my consumer classes were embarrassed for their peers to see them enter “The Sped Room.”  I completely redesigned the space to feel more homey.  The room now had a library with comfortable seating, an executive suite (a comfortable workspace with minimal distraction), and student desks arranged in flexible groups.  I also  incorporated activities involving technology.  Students thrived in this space and were eager to participate in projects that moved them toward deeper learning.

executive suit

Executive Suite



Seating in class library

 “The physical structure of the classroom is the critical variable in affecting student morale and learning.” (Phillips, 8/2014)  While these classes look completely different, they have one thing in common – teachers who are innovative in meeting the needs of their students.  What can you do to reimagine your classroom environment? 

George, B. (2007). True North: Discover your Authentic Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gonzalez, J. (2017, March 27). Classroom Eye Candy 2: The Learning Lounge. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from

Phillips, M. (2014, May 20). A Place for Learning: The Physical Environment of Classrooms. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Women in Leadership


According to Beyoncé, “Girls run the world.”  If this is actually the case, then who’s hiding all the women in educational administration?  This is my third class in the ELPS Program.  Ninety percent or more of the peers in my classes have been women.  I was impressed with my fellow females as I considered the number of same-sex-sisters I had working toward similar goals.  It wasn’t until I began reading the research that I realized, just because we are in the programs doesn’t necessarily mean we are getting the jobs.

The Washington Post affirms that 75% of public school teachers are female, yet only 30% of administrators are (McGregor and Tobey, 2014).  E-School News reported, “Seventy-two percent of the education workforce consists of women, yet the number of women in leadership positions falls far short of that statistic. They fare best in the role of elementary school principals, with 54 percent of these jobs being held by women. But at the secondary school level, only 26 percent of principals are women, and in the head job of superintendent, 24 percent are women” (Domenech, 2012).  I read several articles all leading me to the same conclusion: Women are underrepresented in school leadership.  After scouring over the research, I kept thinking-“Where do we go from here?”  I came up with few ideas.

Witnessing women with confidence and passion pushing towards positions of leadership brings a smile to my face.  As women, we need to recognize our ambitions and rather than diminish one another, build each other up.  Why is it that women are often each other’s own worst enemies?  Ladies, we need to drop our egos and work together, supporting growth.  Because, let’s face it, bad attitudes and belittling is not helping our situation.   Hard work pays off.  Believe in the power of perseverance.  We are multi-tasking beasts- raising families, propelling our careers and still setting aside enough time to get that workout in.  We need to celebrate our strengths; keep positive, and most of all continue to push the envelope.  Like with any systematic change, a shift won’t happen overnight. But, if each of us makes a conscious effort to empower those we come in contact with rather than discourage, isn’t that really what leadership is all about?

Domenech, D. (2012, November 2). Why are women so underrepresented in educational   leadership? E-School News.

McGregor, J. & Tobey, P. (2014, January 9). Glass-ceiling update: A snapshot of women in leadership positions. The Washington Post




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who Do You See? The Conversation of Identity…

Multiracial individuals are more likely to have a heightened awareness of race as a social construct than monoracial individuals. (Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, Peck, 2007) With research also showing that racial identity is directly linked to ability and that Asian/White and Black/White multiracial individuals were less susceptible to racial stereotypes than monoracial individuals because of how multiracial participants view race as a social construct and are not assigned one set of stereotypes due to being more than one race according to the authors. When a person’s race becomes, salient or made relevant as part of who he or she is, that person is directly affected by that and the stereotypes that come with their particular race. Whether it be high performing, educated, and affluent versus low performing, uneducated, and impoverished. These are the stereotypes that can follow someone their entire life and yet through it all it does not define who they are and or who they will become.


S.J. is a rambunctious, smart, funny, beautiful, happy, loud, and sassy 4 year old little girl who at a very young age knows who she is as Skylar and a soon to be big sister! What she knows is that her mother and father love each other and love her unconditionally. She knows that she has a Mimi and a Nonna’ a Paw Paw and a Poppy. She has an Aunt Allie, Ashleigh, Lizzy, and a Titi (me). What she does not know is that the world will initially see that she is a product of an interracial marriage and is a bi-racial or “mixed” child and how the world might judge what she can do by that label.


She does not know that the world will remark her beauty and then feel uncomfortable or unsure of whom to assign it to. Her Caucasian mother or her African-American father. She does not know that she will be judged by those who oppose interracial relationships and the children that they create. She does not know that she will be asked and in some ways told to choose a side, pick an identity, be one and not the other.


sky_w_mom_and_dad.jpgThe conversation that will happen and have already started happening about who she is primarily as an individual and that her race is secondary and that her race has nothing to do with her ability and who she will become. We continue to show and tell her that she can be whoever she wants to be with no limitations. Looking at her face when someone refers to her as “mixed” I cannot help but notice the look of confusion that comes across it, and as she often looks to me for an answer, I simply tell her she is “Skylar”. As we do not categorize her or allow others to, she will not either. She will then have to be ready to educate those around her, some may be strangers and others may be her friends and in some cases her own family.



Take these two beautiful girls, who are second cousins. Both girls are bright, beautiful, and come from highly educated backgrounds and parents and are inseparable, however the world around them has already separated them and deemed them as unequal to one another based on their race. Skylar will never worry about the things Sasha will worry about, she will never second guess herself when she walks into a room, if someone stares at her for a moment too long it will not be because they think she is too dark or different. Skylar will not be marginalized based on her race. I would love to be a fly on the wall in one of their conversations 15 years from now.



Most of all I am doing what I can to prepare her for the conversation she may one day have about her own identity. I will tell her that my racial identity and that of her father’s is one with stereotypes that she may never experience or understand. The world she will know and experience will be vastly different from that of what I knew then, know now, and experience today. I cannot wait for the world to meet Skylar Jade who is already a force to be reckoned with and not a “pretty little mixed girl” to be categorized.


M. Shih, C. Bonam, D. Sanchez, C. Peck (2007) Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, American Psychological Association




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Embracing Culture and Diversity In The Classroom

America has always been a land of varying cultures. It’s classrooms, unfortunately, have not always reflected that. Today, when the US is home to more ethnicity and cultures than ever before in history, that diversity of cultures must be reflected in the classroom. Why?  Because children are learning more than reading, writing, and arithmetic in school. Think of a classroom as a tiny society. This tiny society represents the larger society we all live in. In this tiny society, children are learning how to navigate the world inside and outside of a classroom setting. They are learning how to get along with others. They are learning how to embrace differences and how to handle them. In short, they are learning how to see differences and how to un-see them.

Most of us were in awe the first time we were old enough to understand the beauty of our first snowfall and snowman, our first springtime and new flowers poking their way out of the ground, our first summer of sandy beaches, and our first autumn with its turning leaves. Just as we were in awe of the first time we were aware of the changing seasons, we soon came to take them for granted without ignoring them. That pretty much sums up how diversity should be taught in our classrooms not “the way we do things around here” (Deal, Peterson, 2016) attitude.

A school’s culture is a combination of countless attributes that create the school’s “experience” (Kuntz, 2012).  Teachers must find a way to make the common, uncommon and the ordinary, unique. The goal is that when Sabrina and Tommy meet Abdullah and Ricardo they learn about the differences in the family each child represents. They learn about the varying diets, customs, faiths, and cultures of each other, while finding a way to share their own stories in a safe environment. The teacher, who is the leader, or president, of the classroom, is responsible for the “political climate” created there. They can help the children learn to learn.

Part of what gives cultural differences the potential to be scary is a lack of understanding. Create a safe, trusted atmosphere. True North by George Daniels teaches us the importance of being self-aware and comfortable in your own skin.  Peeling back the onion and begin looking at your outer layers.  Embrace change by inviting children and their parents to bring in a dish that represents their family, photos of ancestors and short selections of music.

Children are actually quite natural at accepting differences. Think about it. They don’t question why Muppets come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes. They simply accept that they are different while still being part of the same species. What teachers really need to do is teach them to accept each other as readily. These simple things go a long way in creating a place where the children who will grow up in, and one day lead, our society learn more than tolerance. They learn trust, appreciation, camaraderie, and respect.

          Cultural Video :  Being Different is Beautiful

Deal, T. E., & Peterson, K. D. (2016). Shaping school culture. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.

George, B., & Sims, P. (2007). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. San Francisco,

Calif: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons.

Kuntz, B. (2012). Create a Positive School Culture. ASCD, 54(9).


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Everyone Matters In The Jungle

There has been much debate and discussion about who really matters? Do black lives matter? Do blue lives matter? One of Aesop’s fables, the Lion and His Army, seeks to answer these questions.

In the jungle, there are a diverse group of animals. There are tigers, giraffes, elephants, monkeys, hares, donkeys and clever foxes. Fighting has occurred among two groups of animals. The lion, the leader of the army, is wise. To prepare for battle, he assigns tasks to the animals according to their skills and abilities. Despite being challenged, the lion gives tasks to everyone. The moral of the story is that no one is useless, everyone has a skill, everyone matters.

Educational leaders should embrace the lion’s leadership philosophy. They should build relationships with each staff member. When principals are caring and supportive they talk to every faculty member and get to know them personally. Therefore, they are able to assign tasks effectively. This is the true essence of leadership( Northouse, p.69)

Principals must be aware of their school’s culture. When conflict or fighting arises they must address the issue immediately. Like the lion, principals must be fair and dismiss any bias statements by faculty members. They must bring their faculty members together as a team. Everyone must feel that they are valued and supported.

Teachers, especially African American teachers in predominately white schools, want to be valued for their talents and skills.  As one teacher reported in an independent school survey,  ” the school is interested in my expertise in literature and that makes me feel valuable”( Kane & Orsini,2003).

Principals who adopt the the lion’s philosophy of being fair, assigning tasks, addressing faculty bias, building relationships and simply making everyone feel valued and supported are the most effective. They realize that everyone matters not only in the jungle, but in their schools as well.


Northouse, P.G.(2015). Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice. Washington, D.C: Sage Press.

Kane, P.R & Orsini, A. J ( Eds.) (2003). Colors of Excellence: Hiring and Keeping Teachers of Color in Independent Schools . New York:  Teachers College.

The Lion and His Army. Retrieved April 16,2017, from https:






Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Selfie Generation Learns to Lead (or Not)

My four children who are now in their twenties and early thirties belong to the last generation who grew up without owning or being surrounded by cellphones until they were in late high school or even college. They, like the generations before them, did not spend hours in high school checking their social media to see who was having more fun than they were, and who might be having a party to which they were not invited.

Today’s children are growing up surrounded by people for whom cell phone (now Smartphone) use is a daily, or even hourly event: parents who document their children’s every move and development by taking and posting pictures online; teachers who send home to parents pictures of their offspring engaged in some fun/educational/ amazing activity; grandparents, who instead of actually watching the soccer game or the dance recital, are instead, staring through the lens of a smartphone or i-gadget to record the event.

This generation of children knows just how to pose for the photos or video recording. They can make cute fishy faces or stand with hand on hip in a pseudo sorority girl stance. They take for granted that they are often the center of attention. They are learning about their own importance, not in the way Mr. Rogers or a character on Sesame Street might have explained it, but instead in a way that could easily give them a falsely inflated sense of their own importance. Then, once these oft-photographed children get their own Smartphones (which is happening at a younger and younger age), they move on to documenting their own life by taking selfies and posting them online.

I worry about this current generation as they grow and develop into young adults. Are they being set up to think of themselves only as leaders, not followers? Ninety-one percent of teens have posted a selfie. Each of those may have hundreds of followers. If you have “followers,” then, by definition, you must be a leader. Right?

In Piece about millenials written for Slate magazine, James Rosebush writes,

“The Selfie phenomenon might have us becoming so mesmerized by our own images that we may actually think that we are our own leaders — our own individual startup enterprise — and that we don’t need to listen to anyone else for guidance, adhere to orders, or to ever be subordinate to anyone.”

Rosebush recounts a story of seeing a sign in Trader Joe’s which read “Leaders wanted.” What they actually wanted was stockers for the frozen fish department. In this world where every person in the center of his own universe who will be a follower? Who will want to help and support the true leaders. Leaders need followers and vice versa.

An article in Slate calls the selfie, when taken by a girl or woman, “A tiny burst of girl-pride.” But is it more self-absorbtion than self-esteem? When a person constantly puts herself front and center, something about her feeling of herself in the world changes.

When the focus is on the self there can be no common goals. When self comes first, self -confidence gives way to something that does not allow for an ethical and thoughtful group effort. Energy spent on promoting oneself, is energy not used in making the world a better place. Is the current generation of children being raised to see themselves as deserving to be always front and center, always the funniest, the best, the smartest…the Leader. If so, what do we do about that?


(2014, March 11). Why Companies Must Discourage ‘Selfies’ Retrieved April 13, 2017, from

Rosebush, J. (2014, September 30). Why Selfies Are Degrading Leadership. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Simmons, R. (2013, November 20). In Defense of the Selfie as a Tiny Burst of Girl Pride. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment