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    Instituting MTSS Leadership in MTSS

    "I believe that being an effective, inspiring leader for my teachers means staying in touch with what it's like for them to work in our building – and striving to make our school a place they'll never want to leave." 

    - Melissa Harvey, Principal, Bobby Summers Middle School, Royse City I.S.D., TX 

    The longer a leader is out of the classroom, the easier it is to forget the day-to-day reality of a teacher.  

    …How frustrating it is to be constantly interrupted during a lesson

    …How challenging it is to teach while handling classroom management issues

    …How mentally and physically exhausting a full day of teaching can be

    That's not to say that being a leader doesn't have its own challenges, but leaders carry different burdens. One of the most important parts of being a leader is to build a positive school culture, and that starts with maintaining realistic expectations and empathy for the everyday experience of teaching.

    Many teachers cite the administrators as a deciding factor in staying in a school. As Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy says, "Behind every teacher story is an administrator who is interpreting policy, setting expectations, and establishing a tone that will determine the quality of their teachers' work, and by extension, the education their students receive." 

    Here are four things that can easily creep up and steal a teacher's joy!

    1. Meaningless Meetings

    Faculty meetings, team meetings, professional development meetings, last-minute meetings, crisis meetings, IEP meetings, parent meetings, and committee meetings, and any meeting that could have been an email. Teachers are understandably frustrated when their precious time is taken up in unnecessary or unnecessarily long meetings.  

    So, some quick tips for meetings:

    • Schedule out ahead of time so teachers know what to expect, for the whole year if possible! 
    • Set a clear agenda
    • Cancel any meeting that isn't necessary, or offer additional options for getting the information out, such as watching a video, zooming in from their classroom, or reading a document. Choice + accountability make for happier teachers and leaders. 
    • It should go without saying, but avoid scheduling meetings after school on a Friday!
    The Branching Minds MTSS platform will make your MTSS meetings faster and more productive. The platform saves teachers' time by doing the hard work of data collection, making the data easy to understand and visual, with everything they need to collaborate on data-based decisions in one place. Learn more here! 

    As Jennifer Gonzalez from Cult of Pedagogy says, "Time is a finite resource that can't be recovered once it's lost, and although your teachers might still show up, the quality of their instruction is what's ultimately going to suffer." Do what you can to protect your teachers' sacred time, which they have to spend doing what you hired them to do. 

    BRM x Angela Watson graphics for pop-up"There's one thing that I think makes a bigger difference than anything else that I always recommend when I'm working with administrators, and that is to protect teachers' planning time. That's the number one thing teachers have been asking for.  There are meetings, there are so many other things encroaching on their time. And when we look at the aspects of a teacher's job that are the most important…one of the most important things is your lesson design. Right? It's knowing your curriculum, knowing how you're gonna teach it, being very thoughtful and reflecting on it, and then assessing afterward right to look at the results. What did students learn? How did they learn? 

    Well, there's no time for that in the school day. Planning and assessment are way too important to expect teachers to just relegate them to the margins of their day. Teachers need unstructured time. They need to be trusted to have that autonomy."

    - Angela Watson, Truth for Teachers

    Learn more, watch the on-demand webinar with Angela Watson now: 

    Practical Ways to Address Educator Workload and Help Teachers Thrive

    2. Scattered Communication

    With all that teachers are juggling, they need a "just-right" amount of information - not too little, but not so much that the important details are lost. Information gathered in a central, accessible location, along with a regular cadence of communcation makes a huge difference. 

    Here are a few tips to consider for your communication:

    • Be concise, with bullet points and short sentences. They will skim it anyway! 
    • If you are asking for something, put that in the subject line. This is a great way to get their attention and indicate that you need a response. 
    • Try a once-a-week newsletter sent at the same time every week. Staff will begin to depend on the consistency.
    • Avoid blanket emails meant for 2-3 people, which often cause panic or confusion. 

    3. No Opportunity for Feedback or Follow-Through

    Stay in tune with what your teachers experience by gathering feedback regularly, and then using it. "Asking for feedback also creates a culture of trust and transparency." (Scott, Fosslien, and Duffy 2023). One kind of feedback you may not have considered is a "Stay Interview."

    Learn more about "Stay Interview" on this podcast episode of Schoolin' Around

    Doing "Stay Interviews" with your high-performing staff members can provide insight into what is working and provide insight into blind areas of the school culture. This kind of interview is a deliberate conversation with invited staff members, initiated and performed by the principal to learn more about the motivations and frustrations of staff (Heubeck and Klaisataporn 2022). "Stay interviews are the opposite of exit interviews: They give us administrators a chance to learn about shifts we can make to encourage our most high-performing educators to stay in our buildings." (Harvey 2023) 

    → Resource: Download Stay Interview Questions

    4. Lack of Fun

    One of the perks of being an educator is that kids are FUN. They say funny things, they love to laugh, and they are experts at enjoying life. School should be a fun place to be, for students and teachers alike. Fun is a bridge builder, especially when pressure is high. 

    Some of the best school leaders I know don't take themselves seriously and really enjoy spending time with the students. Silly costume days, jokes of the day, and even playing with them at recess. Although it's easy to think that the fun stuff can be postponed when urgent tasks and crises occur throughout the day, fun isn't frivolous. Playful connection is critical to the relationships students need to be successful at school. Prioritize fun as a critical part of building a healthy culture – students will feel this, and so will your teachers.  

    Idea for fun: Create a free and easy fun tradition, like "High Five Friday," greeting students as they walk into the building with High FIves and music.  

    → Additional Resource: Nurturing a Sense of Belonging in Schools


    School leaders have long days filled with challenges and tough decisions. It is easy to get wrapped up in the daily urgent tasks and lose track of the small things that mean a lot to teachers. With meaningful meetings, consistent communication, opportunities for feedback, and, of course, fun, your school culture will thrive. 

    You are the culture captain! Even the smallest turn of the wheel can get you where you want to go. 

    Give your teachers the gift of time by using Branching Minds to centralize and organize your MTSS data. The Branching Minds platform is built from the ground up to help teachers streamline the work of supporting students.

    Request a Consultation Today


    "One thing that we've been very successful with is those monthly MTSS meetings with each grade level. Before, without Branching Minds, the meetings were just kind of all over the place. Now, we've been able to really hone in on certain things, and we can keep those meetings very data-driven. We're actually spending less time meeting."

    - Jodee Nelson, Lincoln County, Wyoming


    With the Branching Minds partnership, we are gaining both a thought partner who will help us enhance all of our MTSS practices, structures and approach, and a platform that will help make the work easier and more efficient for all of our educators at CMS - from classroom teachers and support staff to school and district administrators.
    — Dr. Frank Barnes, Former Chief Accountability Officer at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, NC

    Key Takeaways: 

    • Effective leaders maintain empathy by staying connected with the challenges of teaching.
    • Leaders can optimize teachers' time by conducting purposeful meetings and employing clear, strategic communication strategies to prevent overload.
    • Regular feedback and actionable follow-through are essential for building trust and transparency within school leadership.
    • Cultivating fun in schools strengthens relationships and resilience in the school community.


    Gonzalez, Jennifer. 2017. "What Teachers Want You To Know: A Note to School Administrators." Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/letter-to-administrators/.

    Harvey, Melissa. 2023. "My 4 tips for holding positive, powerful stay interviews." Principal Project. https://principalproject.org/my-4-tips-for-holding-positive-powerful-stay-interviews/?utm_source=&utm_medium=twitter.feed&utm_campaign=&utm_content=.

    Heubeck, Elizabeth, and Dilok Klaisataporn. 2022. "The Stay Interview: How It Can Help Schools Hold Onto Valued Staff." Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/the-stay-interview-how-it-can-help-schools-hold-onto-valued-staff/2022/06.

    Scott, Kim, Liz Fosslien, and Mollie W. Duffy. 2023. "How Leaders Can Get the Feedback They Need to Grow." Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2023/03/how-leaders-can-get-the-feedback-they-need-to-grow.


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    Tagged: Instituting MTSS, Leadership in MTSS

    April 30, 2024

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