How Principals Can Spark Summer Learning

Being a school leader is a challenging and complex role, no matter what time of year. Even throughout the summer, principals can be a guiding force in their school communities and inspire professional development. We sat down with principal, lead learner, and Digital Principal of The Year, Derek McCoy, to learn how school administrators can grow in their leadership roles over the summer.

Many principals refer to themselves as “lead learners”. What does being a lead learner mean to you?

“Being a lead learner is about influencing educators to grow as opposed to mandating or micromanaging. They want to stir every pot on the stove — there are many pots and only two hands to manage! Many principals often lose themselves in the micromanaging piece. We need to work together to meet all kids’ needs. As leaders, principals can paint a picture of a vision, develop that vision with colleagues, and support educators to achieve that vision. We have to present our colleagues with conversations and challenges to spark new solutions. I often pose the question, ‘What if?’ It’s great to talk about every situation and see indefinite possibilities. What it boils down to is that you need a relationship with your staff and understand their needs. That way, you can create a vision for your school community together.”

Tip: Ask your staff to use Chat to collaborate with you on-the-go.

What can you do as an administrator to provide that support to teachers throughout the year — even during the summer?

“This summer, I will be changing middle schools and moving to another school district. Even though I don’t know my staff well yet, I’m already connecting with them through email, phone calls, Evernote, Voxer, and a Remind class. I don’t have to wait for back-to-school to connect with them, they are already getting to know me through technology. I’m also sending them helpful resources and strategies that are applicable to the 1:1 classroom.

Technology allows me to keep two-way communication going, no matter where my school community is. I want them to know that I am going to be a resource for them for the rest of the year and let them know that our relationship is an open door. They can send me a Remind Chat at any time!”

Tip: Create a Remind class to send professional development tips and resources over the summer.

Which kinds of resources do you think are most helpful to send to teachers over the summer?

“I want my teaching staff to be able to learn simple, but high impact tools over the summer. I want to help them bend summer slide and sharpen their skills. Through my Remind class and other communication tools, I’ll share helpful blog posts and other quick videos that I find with helpful tips. I also think it’s important to show my staff that Remind is safe through its message history and private contact information. I can model communication that they can later practice with their students.

I know that my teaching staff is at all different levels of comfort with technology, and some need more guidance than others. I’m here for my teachers, but I also encourage them to build out their own PLNS (professional learning networks) and PLCs (professional learning communities) through social media. I also benefit from the wealth of knowledge of my PLN. Just the other day, for example, Patrick Larkin gave me some great insights and tips for starting 1:1 with iPads at the secondary level. Without social media, I wouldn’t be in contact with him! I want to show my teaching staff what digital curation is about and how to effectively curate information. We can really start some conversations that way and look into future learning topics.”

Tip: Create a Remind class for educational Twitter chats to send out resources and reminders for Twitter chat times and topics


Derek McCoy is a middle school principal and lead learner at Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina. He is the 2014 Digital Principal of The Year awarded by The National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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