3 Steps to Intentional Instructional Leadership

As a school leader, I know that if my team and I can promote academic success for our students, we can set them up to achieve so much in high school and beyond. If I want to encourage students to excel, I have to equip teachers to excel – and that means working deliberately to provide my team with the tools, structures and support they need. For example, one of my top leadership priorities is working with teachers to promote reading and writing proficiency for all our students. While we school leaders are juggling so many plans for fall, it’s important to stay intentional about achieving our milestones. That’s why I want to share my three steps to meeting key instructional goals with my team:

1. Provide tools to support instructional priorities.

To support my team in meeting our ELA-proficiency goal, I need to build plans for this fall that will prepare students to excel in assessments next spring. One of the most powerful keys to building ELA skills is for students to spend time writing – not just taking notes, but writing. To scaffold those skills, I want our students to tackle critical writing activities at least three times a week. When I first connected with my teachers about promoting more writing practice during class time, I learned that they needed tools they could build right into their lesson plans. So I developed a series of critical-writing exit tickets that invite students to take what they’ve learned and articulate it in their own words. With these exercises, teachers can create space for students to develop and demonstrate their writing skills, even in the midst of a busy day. And they can stay in touch with how students are learning and what support they need next. 

2. Schedule time to collaborate with teachers.

Supporting my team means making sure I’m always providing what they need, when they need it. That’s why, last year, I set a goal to develop a new set of campus exit tickets every six weeks. To meet my goal, I had to preplan times to connect with my team, learn how their students’ writing skills were progressing and design exercises to assess and support that progress. As teachers started using the exit tickets in class, I started adding in time during our meetings to hear how the exit tickets were working, and what new tools they needed to keep up student growth. By creating an intentional schedule, I have a powerful opportunity to show teachers I’m not just asking them to do the work that will empower our students to grow – I’m doing that work with them. By building in time to listen, collaborate and create, I can make sure I’m always putting the tools they need right at their fingertips.

3. Scaffold lesson planning and provide feedback.

My principal, admin colleagues and I set high-achievement goals for our school, and I want to give my team the support and feedback they need. That’s why last year I developed a checklist to scaffold lesson planning throughout the shifts of pandemic teaching – and I’m adapting it for our fall schedule. In the long term, the checklist helps us sustain our campuswide instructional priorities: Teachers can use it to ensure that they’re providing at least three critical writing exercises per week, and I can use it to confirm that we’re scaffolding that skill for our kids over time. In the shorter term, teachers use the checklist to build growth and mastery into each class: Is there a strategy to check understanding? Is there an opportunity to demonstrate learning? And I use it to promote energy for my team with feedback like: “I love the way you’re measuring understanding here. That’s a great way to assess progress.” 

As school leaders, it’s our role to encourage students to aim high – and that means we have to stay intentional about providing the instruction they need to reach those heights. If I don’t know what my team’s teaching looks and feels like, I can’t appraise its impact on our students – and that’s why I rely on this three-step process to elevate the learning experience for all our kids. By becoming an instructional creator, collaborator and cheerleader for my team, I can do so much to support their work – and promote our students’ growth.

Here are a few examples of the exit tickets and lesson planning checklists I use to support my team, as they support our students’ progress: