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The Principal's Companion

The Principal's Companion
Strategies to Lead Schools for Student and Teacher Success

Fourth Edition
Edited by:

foreword by Kent D. Peterson

March 2014 | 408 pages | Corwin

The classic personal guide for principals, updated to address today’s challenges

As the leader and decision maker in your school, you know that the buck stops with you. But when you’re faced with issues that are unfamiliar or simply overwhelming, where can you turn for advice and experience?

For over a decade, the answer has been The Principal’s Companion. Pam Robbins and Harvey B. Alvy’s comprehensive classic remains a standard reference for principals of all experience levels, providing a wealth of ideas, techniques, and reflective opportunities.

In the fourth edition, new and updated content is delivered in an ultra-efficient format tailored to principals’ busy days. Topics range from big-picture considerations to specific tactics and strategies, including:

  • The principal’s many roles
  • Critical skills for effective leadership
  • Honoring the school’s mission
  • Working together to build a learning community
  • Starting effectively and staying the course

With an eye towards the future, The Principal’s Companion can be referred to over and over again to ensure the school’s most important executive is a strong anchor for educational success.

“This has always been one of the books I recommend to principals, and the latest edition makes it even more important and helpful to principals who face one of the toughest jobs in education today.”
—Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director
Learning Forward

"Robbins and Alvy's ability to explain the sophisticated and complex landscape of today's connected schools in a manner that is easily understandable to both a new leader and a veteran school leader is masterful. They truly understand the role of today's school leader in the classroom, the school, and the community.”
—Joshua Garcia, Deputy Superintendent
Tacoma Public Schools, WA

Kent D. Peterson
About the Authors
Part I. The Principal's Many Roles
1. Leader as Learner
Principal as Lifelong Learner

Learning in Many Contexts

The Expanding Role of the Principal

A Global Perspective

When Old and New Ideas Converge


2. Leader as Manager
Instructional Leadership Requires Effective Management

Management Responsibilities and Strategies

Crisis Management Planning

A Final Observation Regarding School Management


3. Leader as Shaper of School Culture
Core Values and Beliefs Are the Heart of Culture

The Physical Environment Reflects Core Values: Portraits of Practice

Rituals Display Core Values and Call Attention to What Is Important

Celebrations Call Attention to What Is Important

How People Spend Time Reflects Core Values

Norms Are the Unwritten Rules of Culture

Powerful Stories Communicate and Reinforce Cultural Values

Reading, Transforming, or Shaping a Culture

Final Thoughts on Culture


Part II. Critical Skills for Effective Leadership
4. The Art of Human Relations: Getting the Job Done
Task and Relationship Behaviors

Differentiated Support

Personality Styles

Recommendations for Skillful Human Relations

The Role of Emotions in the Organization: Remembering the Heart


5. Managing Time: Leading With Purpose
Brevity, Fragmentation, and Variety

Techniques for Time Management

Managing Bifocally

Multitasking: A Modern-Day Solution or Hazard?

Final Thoughts on Using Time


6. Effectively Working With the Central Office: Coordinating Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development
Caught in the Middle

How Is the School District Governed?

Communication Between the Schools and the Central Office

The District Office as a Teaching and Learning Center

The District Office and Principal Evaluations: Partnering for Success

Management Tips for Working With the Central Office

Maintaining a Strong Relationship Between the Central Office and the School

Forging a School and Central Office Partnership: Putting Staff and Student Learning First


Part III. Honoring the School's Mission
7. Understanding, Planning, and Implementing Change
Guiding the Change Journey: Three Questions

Understanding Change

Change Brings Loss and Resistance

Change Influences Individuals and the Organization

Failure, Risk-Taking, and Conflict: Ingredients for Change

Strategies to Promote Trust

Classical Insights Regarding Change and Continuous Improvement

Three Phases of Change

A Look at Change From the Individual's Perspective

Stages of Concern

Some Final Thoughts on Change


8. Building a Vision and a Mission Together
Reflecting on Vision and Mission

Why Have a Shared School Vision and Mission?

School Activities That Highlight the Mission

Mission-Building Activity

Developing Yearly School Improvement Goals to Accomplish the Mission


Part IV. Working Together to Build a Learning Community
9. Enhancing Teacher Growth Through Supervision and Evaluation Practices Designed to Promote Student Learning
Issues and Dilemmas

Essential Ingredients for Successful Supervision

Effective Instructional Strategies

Brain-Compatible Teaching Practices

Guidelines to Successfully Navigate Through Required State and District Teacher Evaluations Frameworks

Increasing Teacher and Administrative Understanding Through Reflective Clinical Supervision

Tips for Conferencing and Observing

Walk-Throughs, Instructional Rounds, Snapshots, or Drive-Bys

Guidelines Related to Evaluation and Legal Concerns

Final Thoughts on Supervision and Evaluation


10. Maximizing Feedback About Teaching: Differentiated Professional Growth Options
Reflections on Feedback

Creating the Environment for Maximizing Feedback

Building a Foundation: Getting Started

Moving Toward Collaborative Feedback

Differentiated Professional Growth Options: How the System Works

Sources of Feedback: Categories and Approaches

Self-Assessment: Establishing Benchmarks of Progress

Individual Reflection and Institutional Renewal


11. Building a Collaborative School: The Power of Teacher Leadership and Community
Portrait of a Collaborative School: A Professional Learning Community

An Image of Reality: Obstacles to Collaboration

The Case for Collaboration

Moving Toward Collaboration

Necessary Conditions for a Collaborative School

Teacher Leadership and the Collaborative School

The Principal and Collaboration

Some Final Thoughts on Collaboration


12. Fueling the Learning Organization Through Professional Development
Why Professional Development?

Professional Development Defined

Standards for Professional Learning

Creating a Context Where Professional Learning Thrives: Some Guidelines

Leadership Teams and Professional Learning

Optimizing the Individual's Professional Learning Experience

Central Office Support for Professional Learning

Final Thoughts on Professional Learning


13. Faculty Meetings: A Tool for Capacity Building
Faculty Meetings as Learning Opportunities--Getting Started

The School Mission and Faculty Meetings

Increasing Teachers' Roles in Faculty Meetings

Some Successful Faculty Meeting Strategies: Stories of Practice

Faculty Meeting Strategies That Work!

A Final Thought


14. Asking the Right Questions About Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: Getting to Know the C.I.A.
We Live in Interesting Times

Asking the Right Questions

Continuing the Curriculum Discussion


Part V. Starting Effectively and Staying the Course
15. First Days of School
Logistical Concerns

Beginning-of-the-Year Faculty Meetings Set a Tone

Departmental and Grade-Level Meetings

Orienting Teachers Who Are New to the School

Teacher Time in the Classroom

Welcoming Students and Parents

Be Visible on the First Days of School


16. Tips: Ideas That Work and Align With the School's Mission
Organizing Your Time

Additional Helpful Ideas to Stay On Task

Tips From a Superintendent: What Makes a Successful 21st Century Principal

The School Budget: Common Sense Efficiency Tips Based on the Mission

Providing Experiences to Celebrate the School's Culture

Tips on Opening a New School

Tips on Using Technology to Enhance a Principal's Performance

Using Tips in Your Setting


Part VI. Embracing Your Constituencies
17. Working With Parents and Partnering With the Greater Community
Effectively Communicating With Parents

Building Bridges With the Parent Community

Additional Ways to Bring Parents and Community Members Into School

Broadening School Support and Partnerships

Community-Based Organizations

Seeking School Support Through Educational Grants

Reaching Out and Working With the Media

A Reflection on Partnering With Parents and the Community


18. Making a Difference for Students: The Heart of the School
The Challenge of Excellence and Equality, Social Justice, and School Leadership

"Those Kids" and Their Stories

The Right to Be a Child and to Make Mistakes

Maximizing Opportunities for Students With Disabilities

Response to Intervention (RTI)

School Discipline: The Principal's Role, the Discipline Gap, and Promising Options

Broad Disciplinary Guidelines

Reducing Bullying Behavior

Cyberbullying and Social Responsibility

Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

Graduating America's Youth: Making Progress on a Long Road

Student and Teacher Resiliency

Final Thoughts on "Those Kids"


VII. The Principal's Professional and Personal Worlds
19. The Newcomer to the Principalship
Problems That Challenge New Principals

A Profile of the New Principal

Helping Prospective and New Principals Make the Grade

Practical Suggestions for Newcomers

Final Thoughts on the Newcomer Experience


20. Taking Care of Yourself
Achieving Success Over Stress

Taking Control of Time

Towards Realizing the Vision: A Personal Mission Statement

Gaining Perspective by Spending Time With Students

Body and Mind: Healthy and Ill Together


21. Keeping the Professional Candle Lit
Institutionalizing Professional Learning

Reflection as a Tool

A Principal's Portfolio

Other Growth Opportunities


22. Reflections on the Principalship
Serving the School Community

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Good School

Take Time to Smell the Roses


References and Additional Readings

"As educators we are so fortunate that Pam Robbins and Harvey Alvy continue to update The Principal's Companion.  It has always been one of the "must read" books I refer to principals, and this latest edition makes it even more important and helpful to principals who face one of the toughest jobs in education today.

Pam and Harvey combine research, practitioner expertise, and personal experiences to provide principals with a resource that will serve them well throughout their career.  The topics, insights, and reflection questions make it a text that principals will find themselves returning to when they are confronting a new challenge or opportunity and seeking new information and insights.

Give the gift of The Principal's Companion to your principals.  You will have given them a compact resource that touches their most pressing issues with suggestions, insights, and findings grounded in research, experience, and practice."

Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director
Learning Forward

"The revised and expanded edition of The Principal’s Companion will be a welcome addition to any principal’s professional library. The authors have crafted a vade mecum for the thoughtful, engaged… and busy! …principal. This is a user-friendly, accessible, and holistic compilation of educational philosophy, solid research, and practical, tested methodologies. It can be read from start to finish with great benefit. But due to its thoughtful structure, one can also dive into it from time to time for inspiration, expert opinion or a bit of challenge. Drs. Alvy and Robbins have made a wonderful contribution to our profession with this, their latest collaboration."

David Chojnacki, Executive Director
Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools, Aghia Paraskevi, Greece

"Alvy's and Robbins's ability to explain the sophisticated and complex landscape of today's connected schools in a manner that is easily understandable to both a new leader and a veteran school leader is masterful. They truly understand the role of today's school leader in the classroom, the school, and the community. Together, they have boiled down complex ideas to practical solutions that leaders can learn from and apply in their daily routines. Through years of research, new learning, and proven experience, they have modeled the way for leaders. This book communicates the need for today's school leaders to develop action plans that produce results. As they say, it is not a matter of 'either/or' but rather 'and' when addressing modern societal demands. Their guidance and reflections provide a road map for schools that will create positive student outcomes for the students they serve."

Joshua Garcia, Deputy Superintendent
Tacoma Public Schools

We used this book for our principal practicum. The students were able to implement what they learned as they engaged in campus activities. They loved it.

Dr Maria Roberts
Clg Of Arts Sciences Education, Texas A&M University-Texarkana
March 4, 2017
Key features

Features an interactive format with reflective questions at the end of each chapter and is intended to help principals feel as if there is an invisible colleague with whom to interact.

Each chapter reflects a topic that is important to principals and offers ideas, experiences, strategies, and techniques described in each chapter are grounded in research and practice.

Moral/ethical responsibilities of the principalship—Affirming that "Character is Destiny" as a key book theme. Embedded in this theme is the notion that school leaders cannot be successful if they lack credibility.

Principal Standards—Examining exemplary state standards and the ISLLC standards, emphasizing that standards offer a "compass" to guide leaders.

Curriculum and Instruction:

  • Addressing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the school principal's role in leading the CCSS implementation process with the help of Teacher Leaders
  • Noting the importance of feedback (referencing the influence of John Hattie's research) as a critical element of student empowerment and teacher growth
  • Presenting major curriculum shifts that have influenced supervision, instruction, assessment and professional development

Supervision and Instructional Leadership:

  • Supervising for growth in a non-threatening, nurturing culture that addresses new performance evaluation programs linked to federal and state mandates with principals and teacher leaders working together
  • Addressing difficult one-on-one conversations related to classroom observations and/or performance evaluation
  • Updating alternative observational strategies such as instructional rounds, walk-throughs and peer coaching with Teacher Leadership input

Social Justice—Revising, updating and adding sections related to race, poverty and the achievement and opportunity gap; bullying and cyber bullying, resilience and hope, and supporting and providing a safety net for homeless children and LGBT youth.

School Culture: Celebrating Teacher Leaders as partners that build teacher capacity, a culture of excellence, and serve to nurture newcomers

Technology: Highlighting the principal's collaborative partnership with teachers, in selecting effective resources to be used as an integral part of instruction, curriculum delivery and assessment within lessons

Updating the "From ESEA to NCLB: Implications for the Future" section

Updating "The Student Learning NEXUS Model"—this helpful supervisory and School Improvement Planning will be revised.

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