On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath speaks to Derek McCoy, author and Middle School Principal in North Carolina. Derek is a leader of change and encourages educators to remember what’s most important during these challenging times – the well-being of students.

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Don’t have time to listen to the episode? Here’s a peek at what’s inside…


Operating in the current environment

This is Derek McCoy’s tenth year as a principal but only his first year at his current middle school, Asheboro Middle School in North Carolina. It’s undeniably a strange year to start at a new school, but Derek shared that the teachers and faculty at Asheboro are focused on making sure that students are cared for and loved, which is the most important thing during this time. 

Currently, Derek’s school is operating around North Carolina’s Plan C which means that students are fully remote and teachers and admins are at school, but still conducting virtual meetings. In 2 weeks, however, they will transition to Plan B which will have half of the students come into school two days a week, and the other half come in a different two days, with one day dedicated to planning and Professional Development.

Why change is important in education

Derek believes that change is the key to great leadership. Having a good perspective, understanding, and model for leading change and managing the support and needs of people around you is a skill that drives great leadership. He explained, “If we were to all stay in place and do nothing different, we wouldn’t need leaders, we would need managers or colleagues to hold us accountable.”

Change is the only constant that we have, but change is hard – especially in the world of education. The biggest challenge of making changes in education is that we have to let go of a lot of things that we have fundamentally believed or practiced for years.

From people management to relationship building

As a teacher, Derek had a great principal who held high expectations for him and pushed him out of his comfort zone. In addition, he has always been one to take initiatives and try new things.

When he became a leader himself, he had to get out of the mindset that everyone thought like him and was comfortable taking risks and doing the things that he was comfortable doing. He had to accept that not everyone is comfortable taking risks and experimenting. At this time he did not have the evolved understanding of risk and failure that he now has.

He shared that having the grace and understanding for other people that don’t think like you is critical for evolving as a leader from just managing people to building relationships and leading through change. 

The importance of PLNs

Derek is a huge proponent of PLNs (Professional/Personal Learning Networks). He believes that PLN building is all about making connections, and he attributes a lot of his accomplishments to having a strong PLN. It’s not about the number of followers, but it’s about creating a community and connecting with and learning from people

In terms of where to find and engage with PLNs, Twitter is Derek’s go to. PLNs take leadership to a place where it could not have been a decade ago. PLNs allow for collaboration and thought leadership between various educators and school leaders. The fact that principals and school leaders can share their thoughts and listen to what has worked or not worked for others gives leaders in K-12 a huge advantage moving forward.

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