The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Leaders of Learning

Recently, I published a post about Mike Schmoker’s book, Focus, as part of an ongoing book discussion with some amazing professionals that I call “Team #edfocus” on twitter. Our next meeting is this Wednesday at 8:30 pm, Central Time, and our topic is the first half of “Leaders of Learning” by Rick DuFour and Bob Marzano. This book has been, simply put, a matter of world’s colliding. Two outstanding thinkers in the world of education coming together, and their book answers a lot of the “how questions” leaders face when we read other works about education, and really synthesized a lot of the reading I did this summer.

Specifically, DuFour and Marzano made me think about:

– The notion that we all educators an obligation to be leaders, regardless of our title.

– The fact that our collective capacity as a staff will always be superior to the charisma and capability of one person in the principal’s office.

– A Professional Learning Community is NOT a canned program or “one more thing.” It is a philosophy that will transform how we do business. No two PLCs will ever look identical, however, all should have teams to collaborate and PLCs must be ongoing.

– Principals must not be dictators, but they must dictate some terms. Leaders must be purposeful in not only finding time for teachers to work together, but to also help structure what groups work on. Being specific about curriculum or other topics for teachers to talk about, as well as building teams that will be serve the school is a critical task left to leaders.

– We must be specific and create shared vocabulary and language. The authors point out (correctly) on page 35 that “educators are far more prone to feign understanding and talk through and around the issues rather than acknowledge the concepts are unclear.”

– Schools must be systems with a process.

As I read, I wondered about:

– On page 74, the authors write “there is considerable evidence that when teachers work together on the right work, even for as little as one hour each week, we can expect gains in student achievement.” I’d love to know where they found this information, I’d really like to share it with our staff.

– Can a principal’s impact on one staff member impact other staff members?

– If the deepest learning comes when leaders “do something” how can we create an environment where EVERYONE has those opportunities?

– How do we as leaders be specific about the terms we use and build a common language without alienating people who, as the authors point out, would rather “feign understanding” that “acknowledge the concepts are unclear?”

I hope that Team #edfocus will consider talking about:

– What strategies from this book are already in place in their buildings and how they are working.

– What they found in the book they wanted to learn more about. I looked up a few titles in the References and Resources that I plan to add to my reading list.

– How this book impacts everyone’s planning for the upcoming teacher return to school.

This book made me want to read/revisit:

– Marzano, Walters, and McNaulty – School Leadership that Works (Balanced Leadership Framework)

– Reeves – Finding your Leadership Focus (Impact of Leadership on Student Achievement)

– Haycock – Good Teaching Matters (Significance of Teacher Quality)

– DuFour – Learning by Doing (what teams should focus on)

– The Solution Tree Study Guide for this book.


I found this book really “connected” a lot of the reading I did this summer, specifically:

– Distributed leadership and focusing on people to create an organization that will stand the test of time (Built to Last by Collins).

– We must think systemically and develop the collective capacity of a learning organization (The Fifth Discipline by Senge).

– We must take some steps back and simplify our curriculum (Focus by Schmoker).

– We need a common language, for instance, some students are “developing readers” not “struggling readers” (The Book Whisperer by Miller).

– Create a comfortable environment where people can come outside their comfort zone (Onward by Schultz).




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3 thoughts on “Leaders of Learning

  1. Can’t wait for the #edfocus discussion. This book is an onslaught of awesome research, practice and theory. There is impactful information for EVERY member of the school in this book. One of the topics I can’t wait to get to is about how developing individual teachers won’t get the gains in achievement that developing better collaborative processes will – that is a game changer! It forces you to rethink your teacher coaching model. Hope we have a great turnout

  2. Derek,

    It was a great chat last night! I walked away feeling fired up to read the rest of the book.

    I’m looking forward to connecting again in two weeks!

  3. Jennifer D. on said:

    As I continue to prepare for the upcoming school year many of the ideas and principles shared in “Leaders of Learning” have come to mind. Implementing PLCs continues to be an area of growth that will hopefully come to fruition this year with our new administration. The annecdotes from DuFour and Marzano on recognizing leadership, not just titles, are especially important within my campus. I hope to help others overcome the “one more thing” challenge that has plagued us in the past.
    Thanks for sharing, John!

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