Category: Articles

Is Teacher Appreciation Week Really a Good Idea?

May 3, 2022

Let’s appreciate and recognize our teachers throughout the school year. When I was a principal, I lived close to the school that I led and often saw students’ caregivers at the grocery store, gas station, and local park. It was always a treat to run into them because, very often, they would smile and say, “Tom, we just love New City School.” Hearing those comments about my school made my […]

The School Smile Quotient

March 22, 2022

Let’s measure success by smiles, not test scores. As a school leader, how do you measure the quality of your school? It’s an important question to reflect on—and often. Take a moment to think of two or three indicators that determine success in your building. In my experience, enthusiasm for learning is key. As a former principal and current leadership consultant, I frequently hear questions about school quality posed by […]

Leading Your School as “Chief Empathy Officer”

January 20, 2022

Empathy sets exceptional leaders apart from pedestrian ones. Take a moment to identify the best school leaders you have worked with or encountered—hopefully, several come to mind—and list the qualities that made them so effective. What sets them apart from those perceived as just OK administrators? No doubt, these exceptional leaders are hard workers, knowledgeable about best practice, and focused on student and faculty growth. But in my experience, what […]

Embracing SEL for Success

November 18, 2021

Sometimes as school leaders we are so focused on making progress—improving student academics, streamlining workflow, and engaging professional development, etc.—that we neglect to pause and ask ourselves if we are charging up the right hill. Sure, schools have always been about academics, but the world is changing and we need to reexamine how our teaching impacts our students’ well-being and ability to build community above all else. The Questions We […]

Hey Principals, Let’s Show Some Gratitude

October 19, 2021

What offers great benefits at little cost? Gratitude, taking the time to express appreciation. I suspect this doesn’t surprise you. And yet, many people underestimate the power of gratitude. How recently have you taken the time to thank someone in writing, either in a personalized email or, better, in a handwritten note? When was the last time you truly thanked someone? And by “truly,” I mean more than giving a […]

Ending “Transactional” Teacher Observations

September 21, 2021

Teacher observations: As a school leader, you might see them as an opportunity to help teachers reflect on their pedagogy. We know observations can lead to important changes, but we cannot stop at focusing only on the lesson being taught. Observations should not be mere transactions, short visits that result in us sharing our judgments and handing out recommendations to teachers. Rather, they should be part of a transformational exchange […]

Decluttering the Teacher-Centric Classroom

August 1, 2021

Classroom spaces should tell us about our students, who they are, and what they value. The building was bursting with energy: Empty boxes and welcome banners filled the halls. Teachers were creating and mounting bulletin boards, unpacking boxes and assembling learning materials, and decorating their classroom doors. I still remember how each year our faculty worked late into the night preparing for opening day. And sure enough, when students arrived […]

The Two Pillars of a Productive School Team

June 28, 2021

In determining the productivity of a team, we need to consider both its degree of success and whether its members are improving. How do you define “team”? When you picture a team, do you envision a group of athletes in uniform competing against others? Or maybe a group of students from the same school collaborating to solve a problem? Or perhaps you imagine a group of medical professionals working together […]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Thomas R. Hoerr – The Importance of Reaching All Communities

February 17, 2020

The most important educational factor in a child’s learning is the quality of the teacher. (Parents matter most, but classroom educators come in a close second.) Good teachers go beyond knowing content and pedagogy — they respect, understand and appreciate their students. Those are the teachers we remember; they knew us, cared for us and pushed us. Consequently, an important part of teacher preparation stems from the context in which […]

UMSL Daily: New Education Course Promotes Servant Leadership Model

February 11, 2020

Mindy Bier and Tom Hoerr are teaching a new graduate-level education course called “Leaders Cultivating Virtues,” which utilizes a servant leadership model. It’s designed to give education leaders the tools to fight against empathy fatigue in teachers and to promote social-emotional learning in students. (photo by August Jennewein) Empathy fatigue is an issue for many people. The phenomenon was first widely observed in the medical field, particularly in ICU nurses […]

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