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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 5/22/17 - What can you learn from these three principals?

What can you learn from three principals who have done the SAM process for ten years?

Today’s SAMtastic Weekly Tip features comments from three principals who have been doing TimeTrack the longest. Each principal is approaching their ten year anniversary in SAMs.

Ridgely Elementary principal, Ken Gilmore, Springfield, Illinois, is the longest continuing user of TimeTrack in the same school. Council Bluffs, Iowa, principals Doreen Knuth and Kim Kazmierczak hold the record as the longest TimeTrack users who have changed schools, also ten years. Here’s what you can learn from their experiences.

I think I am like most SAMs principals and we operate with a much different mindset than other administrators in our district. This accountability keeps me from unraveling during those tough times of the year. When someone is monitoring your schedule and the most minute details of your week then how can you feel alone or isolated as an administrator? I don’t. I feel well supported from Jane and my two SAMs. They are the reason I feel that every week is productive and meaningful. I love my work now more than ever. I could retire at the end of next year but I am too energized by this work to consider it.

TimeTrack is an essential tool for me to organize visually where I am devoting my time instructionally and what I am doing that is managerial. The SAMs Program has been a significant learning curve for me where I am continually gaining new insight into my daily challenges. TimeTrack and the data that is right there in front of me causes me to look at how I am accomplishing my work and tasks through a different lens. My challenge continues to be the unforeseen interruptions that can attempt to derail my day. With an instructional schedule already pre-calendared, I am able to look for the next available opportunity to regain the focus of the day and resume the schedule. I will say after all these years, the staff can tell when I have been pulled off course and I sense they are rooting for me to “recalculate”, as my GPS in the car says to me, so I can get back on track. TimeTrack has gifted me with a true sense of movement and that we are always moving forward. This is excellent for morale because nothing is ever sprung on the staff at the last minute, they are much more secure in what is planned for the week because of pre-calendaring. TimeTrack truly helps me to connect the dots so much more can be accomplished in a timely manner. It also shows me where I am not spending enough time or devoting enough attention. This can help me to avoid future pitfalls for neglected areas.

I opened a second office on the opposite side of our building on the second floor at the beginning of April. This allows me a space to meet with teachers and students as well as to meet with my instructional SAM more frequently since she is two doors away. Creating a physical space imbedded with the classrooms provides a close proximity to be much more engaged in the ongoing learning than my official office on the other side of the building, which was separated from the classrooms. This concept seems like an over indulgence in a crowded building for a principal to have two offices (it also doubles as the second floor material storage closet). Yet it has improved my efficiency with time and how I can even catch a teacher and walk with them or interact with a student in a way that I wasn’t utilizing before. It is also a much quieter space and I have noticed people are much more open to conversations than when we meet in the office complex. I found some furniture and must have looked pitiful because teachers brought down items I needed to make it a real office. The district was great and even got me a phone! My next step is to work on recording the briefer feedback and interactions on TimeTrack since they have added a richer dimension to my day. This is my first month of experiences but I love it. I feel like I am a better principal and I am better because of SAMs.

Having a SAM has afforded me to flip my numbers from my initial shadowing. On average I spend at least 70%, if not more, of my time on instruction. Having a SAM has definitely reshaped the work that I do. Over the years I have gained so much more experience as an instructional leader. I have been able to have quality uninterrupted time (which was unheard of prior to having a SAM) with individual teachers and teams of teachers focusing on instructional practices and student achievement. TimeTrack has always been the tool that has helped me stay focused and prioritize the “right” work. I have loved all of the improvements that have been made over time, however the very best for me was when it went from the stand alone version to being cloud based. I was able to utilize Time Track everywhere!! Our district truly hires principals as instructional leaders, and I could not be that without a SAM. As Kate Knudsen, my SAM, reflected over the years as part of a SAM/Principal team she said one thing that is a plus in our district is that it lets teams and individuals work to their strengths.”

The benefits of the SAM partnerships are numerous and hard to quantify. I’m definitely able to get into classrooms more and facilitate professional development consistently. The SAM role continues to support my calendar along with making certain that I am doing my ‘instructional duties’ efficiently. The modifications to TimeTrack over the years have made this job easier as it allows for delineation of who I work with and for what purpose. I also appreciate that we can use a group function and have specifics in each managerial/instructional categories.

SAMs Jessica and Dan are excellent at the many fiscal responsibilities that occur with running a secondary building. They are very efficient and make sure our bottom line always balances.

Ken has shown a lot of growth over the years. He and I credit part of this growth to using two SAMs. One handles the technical aspects of the calendar - scheduling events, coding, reconciling, and encouraging next steps and follow up. The other SAM pushes him to look at data and keeps him focused on improving instruction in the building. She asks reflective questions, and utilizes the work of the ILT to help him think creatively regarding his mission, vision, values and goals.

Ken has a knack for organization, and he is very adept using technology to create tools to collect data and provide opportunities for personal and written feedback. He has been pushed over the years to pre-calendar, and this has helped him stay on track and get done those things that are priorities.

The annual SAMs’ conferences have provided tremendous learning for him. He shares the learning with his staff during PD opportunities. He is also an avid reader of professional books and he incorporates that learning into actual practice.

Ken uses SAMs to think reflectively and to problem solve. He has created opportunities through collaboration and feedback sessions to learn and make changes where needed.

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