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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In-Loco Grandparentis

In-Loco Grandparentis

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

I felt like a grandparent this week.

While on the road out-of-state, I was asked to join a group of veteran K-12 leaders offering pre-service advice to new, [very] young teachers, just days from launching their careers (and thus, beginning their own “in-loco parentis” relationships with K-12 students). 

Not often do I work with new teachers, as most of my teaching involves school leaders.  However, Dr. Dale Moore, Principal of the Lapeer County Ed-Tech Center outside of Attica, Michigan asked me to present during his back-to-school training session with teachers from a number of school districts around the region.

What a great group! 

Among others offering an array of advice, my own conversations on good teaching included what I consider to be my own, “Big 3” -- (1) Resiliency, Borne of Compassion (Donlan, 2009; Ford, 1997; Quinn, 2001; Phillips, 1998) (2) Uncommon Sense (Donlan, 2009; Frase & Hetzel, 1990; Gardner, 1993; Kovalik & Olsen, 2002; R. Chadwick, personal communication, August 14, 2001), and (3)Process” (Kahler, 2008). 

Beyond those, I also offered specific advice to help new teachers not only survive their first year, but also to thrive.  Included were the following:

1.     Bring your passion, ideas, and talent to your new positions in a manner that respects the wisdom of your elders who know deeply the needs of the students, families, and community.
2.  Put your energy into TEACHING during your first years, avoiding the unintentional over-expenditure of energy in school clubs and extra-curricular activities.
3.   Just as new students encounter those who are good for them and those who are not, realize that at times, staff members who appear more welcoming may, in actuality, be more toxic.
4.   That said, resist pressure to prematurely judge all lounge raconteurs as “negative,” as many of these folks actually may be providing simple comic relief to those who love kids and teach well, yet have great stress thrust upon them by forces outside.
5.     Vary those with whom you eat lunch, yet avoid altogether those from #3.
6.   Ensure that your preparatory tasks are handled outside of the high-student-traffic that occurs just before school, during passing times, and right after school, as students need relationships with caring adults during these times.
7.     Strive for content expertise and organizational effectiveness to the degree that classroom control is the natural byproduct. 
8.  Read books on leadership, and connect theory to your relationships among staff, students, families, and community.
9.   Forgive students in advance, and understand parents who enable, as you must shift to meet people where they are in order to take them where you want them to go (Kahler, 2008).
10. Build an action plan of personal/professional balance into your lives so that you stay healthy, happy, and energized (Kahler, 2008).

Dr. Dale Moore’s professional efficacy as a leader is only outdistanced by his principle-centeredness and deep commitment to children, obvious to those who know him as a person, father, husband, and friend. 

As is typical “Dale,” he engendered a degree of trust and inspiration among new teachers that was joyful to see. 

Might I ask: What advice are you giving?  

I would love to expand my list by visiting with you as well.


Donlan, R. (2009). Gamesmanship for teachers: Uncommon sense is half the work. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, Inc.

Ford, E. E. (1997). Discipline for home and school: Book one, teaching children to respect the rights of others through responsible thinking based on perceptual control theory. Scottsdale, AZ: Brandt.

Frase, L. & Hetzel, R. (1990). School management by wandering around. Lancaster, PA: Technomic.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Glassar, W. (1998). A quality school: Managing students without coercion. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Kahler, T. (2008). The process therapy model. Little Rock, AR: Taibi Kahler Associates.

Kovalik, S. & Olsen, K. (2002). Exceeding expectations: A user’s guide to implementing brain research in the classroom. Kent, WA: Susan Kovalik & Associated.

Phillips, V. (1998). Empowering discipline: An approach that works with at-risk students. Carmel Valley, CA: Personal Development Publishing.

Quinn, T. (2001). National Charter Schools Institute Leadership Styles Presentation. Workshop given at National Charter Schools Institute, Mt. Pleasant, MI.


Dr. Ryan Donlan is continually inspired by conversations with great leaders at all levels in K-12 schools and would love to visit yours as well.  For further conversation, you can reach him at or at (812) 237-8624.

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