Squeaky Wheels and Squawking Principals

Squeaky Wheels and Squawking Principals

This past school year, I’ve learned that my learning community depends on me to be a ‘squeaky wheel.’ But I need to be careful of becoming a ‘squawking principal.’

As the leader of a relatively small school in an enormously large school district, I’ve had to grow in my ability and willingness to advocate, call out for help, and present data that demonstrates our need for critical supports. Here’s what it has looked like for us this year:

  • Compiling data and trends that demonstrate a drastic increase in newcomers and, thus, a need for added support (personnel and curriculum) from the Office of Language Acquisition.
  • Firmly and politely asking for special consideration to open up another classroom, after all on-site remedies have been exhausted.
  • Bringing in district level architects and safety personnel for advice and support to address safety challenges
  • Voicing displeasure about a board vote to close a pre-school
  • Coupling requests for facility improvement, on the heels of self-help volunteer work days to better our learning environment.
  • Respectfully pointing out inequities in the level of arts programs, compared to neighboring schools, by communicating a desire to grow arts in our community.
  • Anchoring every single request in the stated vision of our school district, “To see quality neighborhoods in each and every school.”
  • Choosing to make first contacts with key personnel in person or over the phone ahead of the incoming email request.

I’ve also seen and experienced where disproportionate and inartful asking can undermine critical relationships and push away partners. Here’s what this might look like:

  • Venting to Human Resource personnel about contractually binding processes that are already in place.
  • Voicing needs in the form of complaints.
  • Neglecting to thank district staff when they have ‘gone to bat’ for us.
  • Failing to recognize that partner schools and leaders are facing similar limitations.
  • Ripping off emails riddled with critique and demands.
  • Becoming the leader that district support staff avoids in a large gathering.

We know that teachers who are “warm demanders” get the most out of their students. This principle applies to principals too.

Be the squeaky wheel. Your learning community depends on your voice.

Avoid being the squawky principal. You’ll likely see limited resource increases. And your reputation will may just limit the supports your students desperately need.

Six Administrative Moves that Encourage Co-Teaching Brilliance

Six Administrative Moves that Encourage Co-Teaching Brilliance

Administrators have a critical role to play in the setup, support, and celebration of exemplary co-teaching on their campuses.  Here’s why:

When teachers collaborate effectively, students are the real winners!


If we are serious about reaching all students, then we need to set up teachers (and co-teachers) for success.  As administrators, here are some concrete action items you can employ to increase the chances for co-teaching brilliance on your campus!

1. Become a purposeful matchmaker.

As a college basketball coach, a central challenge I faced was putting the right mix of 5 players on the court, at the same time. Decisions weren’t always about talent or seniority. Chemistry and decision-making were critical factors too. As school leaders, we should use a variety of factors before we pair co-teachers together.

2. Crank that master calendar.

The master calendar, at any school, can be a bear. Competing priorities, current staffing, and enrollment demographics can create some serious challenges. I am suggesting that administrators take extra efforts to make the most promising teacher pairings a reality.

3. Prioritize a shared prep period.

In the world of sports, we would never put players on the field/ court together, who have never practiced together. Our teachers deserve the chance to plan together, assess together, and be together (without students). With strategic scheduling, we can make this happen.

4. Consider campus location in classroom assignments.

Location. Location. Location. If shared planning time is limited for co-teachers, we can at least do our best to put them in the same region of campus. When teachers share physical space, they are more likely to share updates about students and function as a team.

5. Host a meet up.

Leading up to the first day of school, administrators map out time for their staff to include professional development, classroom prep, and team building activities. Co-teacher pairings should not come as a surprise on the first day of school. Instead, administrators should roll out the pairings, with some rationale, and even more relational runway. Prospective co-teachers should have the chance to get to know one another, on both personal and professional levels. This might take some prompting from administrators through orchestrated activities. Whatever efforts are taken, the benefit will be apparent. Co-teachers, like parents, work most effectively when they: 1) know one another well 2) take advantage of one another’s strengths and 3) share mutual respect for one another.

6. Check-IN and resource-UP.

Many co-teacher pairings will thrive without much support. We work with passionate and skillful teachers who want the best for kids. But administrators can also expect some challenges to collaboration. As leaders, it is our job to keep a pulse on these partnerships. We should be prepared to help teachers work through conflict and toward better collaboration. And we should always be asking, “What do you need to maximize learning for your students?”

Administrative actions make a marked difference for teachers who are asked to co-teach.  What are “moves” you made this school year to benefit students and support teachers?

Image by Campaign Bootcamp via Flickr.