Book Review: Now We’re Talking: 21 Days to High-Performance Instructional Leadership


Now We’re Talking: 21 Days to High-Performance Instructional Leadership by Dr. Justin Baeder is a great resource for school leaders who truly desire to invest in their team in a measurable way.  As the principal of a Christian high school, I truly believe that I will stand before the Lord one day and give an account for the way that I led our faculty and the students that were in my care during this season of leadership.  Dr. Baeder and his Principal Center provide a great network of resources and connections with other leaders for those who desire to grow and spend their time in leadership well.  I read this book on Fall Break…a great time to recharge for the rest of the school year!

There were a number of things in this book that further confirmed some things that I am already doing and I definitely picked up some new ideas as well.  I’m grateful for the way that Dr. Baeder regularly talked about how important it is to consider the teacher’s perspective and goals in teaching.  Each teacher, just like each student, will approach things with their own style.  “It’s important to first understand before seeking to be understood” (Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

I’m so blessed to have amazing teachers on our team and I want to be faithful to doing everything I can to support and champion them in their individual calling to be excellent teachers for the sake of the Kingdom.

I highlighted several things and posted those notes below…

  • Instructional leadership-the practice of making and implementing operational and improvement decisions. p. 2
  • Without talking with their front-line employees, solving problems together, and gaining perspective on what the work truly entails, leaders simply cannot lead.  p. 9
  • If we enter each classroom with an open mind, we can focus on addressing the issues that are most relevant to the teacher. p. 19
  • When we seek to understand the teacher’s approach and consider it on its own merits, we can have more substantive, impactful conversations that change teacher practice in meaningful ways and result in higher levels of learning for students. p. 19
  • The teacher learns and improves his or her practice not by accepting suggestions, but by developing a deeper understanding of professional practice through evidence-rich criterion-referenced conversation. p. 21
  • If you are responsible for evaluating teachers, you’ll want to conduct your high performance instructional leadership visits in addition to, rather than instead of, formal observations. p. 24
  • Only with the sense of context you gain from regular classroom visits can you collect the right evidence and draw valid conclusions about teacher performance. p. 25
  • As they recognize the importance of spending time in classrooms, district-and system-level leaders are increasingly turning their attention to learning walks and instructional rounds (City, Elmore, Fairman, and Teitel, 2009; Teitel, 2013). p. 32
  • In the instructional rounds model, the focus is on system and cross-system learning and decision making more than individual learning. Because the individual instructional leader and teacher are not the primary focus, instructional rounds may not include feedback to the teacher or a conversation with the teacher. p. 33
  • Plan to visit three classrooms per day, every day. p. 36
  • The more context you can gain by visiting other teachers in the same grade or department, the richer your conversations with teachers can be. p. 38
  • The foundation of time management is self-discipline. p. 55
  • The work waiting in your inbox, on your desk, and in your voicemail is usually less important than the work of visiting classrooms. p. 62
  • The first act of leadership is to decide what matters. p. 75
  • As an instructional leader, your most valuable resources are time and mental energy. p. 85
  • Our conversations tend to be much richer and more valuable to teachers when we visit with an open mind, rather than a narrow focus on data collection. p. 98
  • Trying to discuss a lesson without clarity about the teacher’s goals will lead only to frustration. p. 111
  • In the grand scheme of things, it does not particularly matter how teachers use any given five- or ten-minute period of class time; what ultimately matters is the long-term impact teachers and their instruction have on students and their learning. p. 112
  • Conversations are professionally rewarding when they both provide information we need and lead to better decisions. p. 125
  • The more you know about teachers’ thinking and decision making, and the more frequently you’ve seen their teaching, the clearer a sense you’ll have of their true level of performance. p. 153
  • Instructional leaders who don’t regularly visit and converse with teachers have fewer opportunities to establish relational trust, and when teachers have limited information about leaders’ actions and intentions, assumptions will fill in the gaps. p. 164
  • When instructional leaders spend time in classrooms and talk with teachers daily, we have the opportunity to both learn from and influence the teachers we serve and support, and this, more than any other factor, catalyzes the formation of a coherent, deeply held, and broadly shared vision for the school. p. 166
  • Celebration rituals are powerful culture-building activities. p. 168
  • When teachers seek feedback, they aren’t asking for unsolicited suggestions and criticism; they want a trusted perspective on specific issues and aspects of their practice. p. 171

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