The Principal's Principles

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

1 thing we can do.

Innovation and data-driven, could there be two more over-used terms in our profession? Having said that, these two words, if done correctly, can be part of one of the biggest contribution leaders can make to their schools.

From time to time, my work can become overwhelming. Balancing the management aspects of my job, along with scheduling challenges, logistics, and the other demands placed on me can sometimes leaves me wondering “beyond building strong relationships, what is one thing I can do that will matter? Where can I make my mark?” I value the bonds I have with members of our staff, our students, and our parents, but should I be seeking to do more? Are these relationships a means to an end, or are they all there is?

The more I thought about those questions, I realized the most significant thing move I can make (aside from building strong relationships) is to start conversations about what constitutes high quality data, work to gather that data, then empower staff to use that data to innovate.

I was talking with a friend of mine who works in the private sector recently, and our topic came around to the term “innovation.” My friend, who has come up with several new concepts for his business said that his new ideas come from the process of “looking at data, finding margins or gaps that are not being filled, then thinking about how to address those areas.”

Building relationships must be our top job, but once those relationships are strong, then what? Our schools must be more than places where adults care for one another and throw a fun gathering. Strong relationships build the trust that serves as the “shell” for real conversations about meaningful data to occur, which will show the gaps for teachers to address with their innovations. This approach makes teachers “researchers and learners” and goes a long way to professionalize our work.

I’m fascinated by the notion of the intrapreneurs and the teacherpreneurs. Developing  professionals who initiate creative ideas, are leaders, and drive policy from within our organization is the strongest teacher induction/retention program schools can offer. These opportunities, which we must look to create will make our school a workplace that is not only comfortable, but offers the chance to contribute significantly.

We talk about being “data-driven” ad naseum. However, are we? Do we collect high quality data, analyze it, and then innovate because of it? Finding the key to unlocking this door is 1 thing we can do, beyond building relationships, to really improve education.


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3 thoughts on “1 thing we can do.

  1. Courtney Holifield on said:

    Hi Mr. Bernia,

    My name is Courtney Holifield. I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. You asked the question,” Do we collect high quality data, analyze it, and then innovate because of it?” I think that teachers do innovate because of the data analyzed. Teachers gather data from co-teachers, administrative staff, and their peers who have experience worth sharing. By sharing our experiences we are able to tweak them, make our ideas better, and address them in a better way. Feel free to follow the links below to view my blog, my class blog, and my twitter. I’ll be posting to my blog a summary of what I have read and learned after reading your post.
    Class Blog
    My Blog

    • Hi Courtney!

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, it’s good to know that your innovations are based on data, which is a strong approach to making changes that will last.

      I took time to check out your blogs, VERY impressive! Here’s hoping we’ll get the chance to collaborate more in the future.


  2. Jenna Reynolds on said:

    Mr. Bernia,
    I definitely agree that, by themselves, the words “innovation” and “data-driven” really have little to no meaning. However, through placing importance on building connections, your conclusion makes perfect sense. You cannot innovate without quality data to use as a base, to present a need for the innovation. However, you cannot have quality data without a core of supporters and collaborators- whether teachers, principals, or lunch ladies- to help realize where change can be made. There is no room for this cycle to end, either. With these strong connections, great minds will always come together to pose the need for innovation and creativity in a different aspect of the school.
    I checked out the articles you highlighted about intrapreneurs and teacherpreneurs. I agree! The concept is fascinating and a great way to put words to the idea of progress and change every school yearns for. I will definitely keep those pages and overall concepts bookmarked for the future. Thank you!

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