The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age


Richard D. Sorenson, Lloyd M. Goldsmith & David E. DeMatthews

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    A classic, high-powered muscle car came to a screeching halt at a country crossroad. The driver shouted to an old fellow sitting on the front porch of a run-down house: “Can you direct me to Falls City, sir? I’m lost and I don’t have much time.” “No I can’t,” the elderly man replied. “Then which road to Karnes City; can’t you tell I’m losing precious time?” the driver asked. “Can’t rightly say,” answered the old timer. “You don’t know much, do you?” asked the young man sarcastically. “No, I don’t know much,” replied the old man. “But I’m not the one who’s lost and wasting valuable time!”

    Sometimes it seems school principals are lost when it comes to finding time to properly administer the instructional program in ever-changing schools where technology is continuously advancing and the digital age seems to surpass everyone with each ticking second. Principals ask for directions but all too frequently find themselves bewildered, overwhelmed by the daunting task of playing catch-up, and out of time in a world where keeping all the plates spinning, lest they topple, leaves a campus leader with nothing more than an afterthought—“I guess I’d better pick up the shattered pieces.”

    You think to yourself, “Life as a school leader has to be more than picking up the shattered pieces.” Then you reflect, “I don’t have time, and even if I did, I don’t know where I’m going!” If you find yourself lost as an instructional leader in this digital age, and you can’t seem to manage the time you have, and you are unable to find the time you’ve either lost or wasted, then The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age can help. Consider the adage “You’ll never leave where you are until you decide where you’d rather be!” Where would you rather be, where would you rather lead? How about starting from where you are, but with the right tools to best manage valuable but ever-escaping time? This book has been purposefully written to provide school principals with the right tools to manage time—tools such as instructional leadership expertise and technological skills essential in this digital age. Both are critical to effective and efficient time management.

    Principal leadership has changed dramatically in recent decades. Reasons for changes in principal roles and responsibilities vary, but most are attributed to the accountability movement, requirements to improve instruction and increase student achievement, the extensive expertise demanded as a technological leader, and of course, the continued need to serve as the campus manager, maintaining facilities, managing student conduct, supervising personnel, administering budgets, and playing politics with district administration, policy makers, parents, business leaders, and community members.

    Recall the vintage Oldsmobile commercial (check the YouTube site: with former Beatle Ringo Starr saying to his daughter, Lee, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”! Well, this is not your father’s principalship. More than ever before, effective time management, enhanced instructional capacity, and increased digital proficiency dictate the principal’s role.

    When it comes to time and the act of managing time for self and the benefit of others, The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age prompts an epiphany: “Sometimes I have to forget the time lost, appreciate the time that remains, and look forward to making the best of the time that is coming.” In reality, isn’t that what every principal desires? Take this challenge: Use your time efficiently and read this book. Learn how to become a stronger instructional leader, a better technological expert, and an exceptional manager of increasingly valuable, but fleeting, time!

    To enhance this book’s usefulness as a desk resource, it has been purposely organized into topic-focused chapters. Each chapter begins with an appropriate quote and general overview, and includes numerous visuals, tables, and relevant segments such as Pause and Reflect scenarios, brief vignettes, the Silent Time Thief segments, Ralph and Alice cartoons, and chapter-concluding Self-Reflection activities as well as other relevant and timely examinations and discussions.

    Chapter 1, “Time Management and Your Leadership,” serves as an introduction to the text, reflecting on effectively and efficiently managing time through lenses incorporating the new Professional Standards for Education a Leaders. The standards fall into the six categories, or lenses, of Vision, Mission, and Time; Leading, Teaching, Learning, and Time; the Learning Organization and Time; Collaboration and Time; Ethics, Integrity, and Time; and the 21st Century Education System and Time. The chapter concludes with a case study application and a self-reflection on your time management, and it introduces our Time Management Self-Assessment Instrument (TMSI).

    Chapter 2, “Vision, Mission, and Time,” reviews the heart of student academic success and explores the connection and influence of time upon an organization’s vision and mission. The first of the new Professional Standards for Educational Leaders and its accompanying elements provide the framework for examining vision and mission. Theory connects with practice as this chapter presents A Voice From the Field (a conversation with a school superintendent) along with sections covering the development and writing of SMART goals and how time management and campus planning go hand in hand. Vision and mission are examined from a digital-age perspective, as the chapter incorporates seven habits for tech-savvy leaders. This chapter includes an examination of personal time management tips and their use and effectiveness. It concludes with a case study application: The Madge Simon School.

    Chapter 3, “Leading, Teaching, Learning, and Time,” examines methods by which a principal can best manage time as the campus instructional leader. The chapter investigates principles of instructional capacity and how to maximize student learning by presenting research-based instructional designs, enhancements, and time-oriented interventions. The chapter concludes with a process for saving time when time counts, followed by a case study application, Death by Meeting!

    Chapter 4, “The Learning Organization: Culture, Climate, Technology, Safety, and Time,” showcases methods by which a principal can create a positive climate and an open, time-efficient culture. This chapter provides step-by-step, how-to time-saving examples. A means for creating effective and efficient campus operations and management is revealed, and a section is devoted to school safety and technology and how each can save time and lives. The chapter concludes with a case study application, As the Sun Sets Slowly in the West, or How to Develop a Learning Community.

    Chapter 5, “Collaboration and Time: Two Keys to Instructional Success,” reflects upon a 21st century expectation of principals—collaboration with all stakeholders. Numerous collaborative and time management techniques are examined, and the chapter concludes with the case study application, If All the Feedback Is So Positive . . . ?

    Chapter 6, “Ethics, Integrity, and Time,” discloses the strong existing and interwoven relationships among ethics, integrity, moral character, and the 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, which create expectations that all principals must follow. The chapter begins with an examination of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders using the Sorenson-Goldsmith Integrated Budget Model. Readers will recognize the essential connection between ethics, integrity, and time, on the one hand, and their campus budgeting process, on the other. Additionally, the chapter provides a school leader’s thoughts on integrity, ethics, and time in another A Voice From the Field segment. Professional behavior, personal integrity, and appropriate ethical and moral conduct must be defining qualities of all principals. These leaders show respect, exhibit honesty, resist temptations, and provide service. Nothing less will do! The chapter includes a vignette, The Concerned Parents Meeting, and concludes with a case study application, The Texting Coach.

    Chapter 7, “The 21st Century Education System: Improvement, Time, and Technology,” explores the role of public education today with a serious emphasis on continuous school improvement, initiating systemwide change, and preparing exceptional lessons—a time-saving means of promoting mutual accountability. Time is showcased as it relates to instructional leadership and teaching and learning, including the need for principals to provide the right professional development at the right time. Additionally, time-saving technological applications are evoked throughout the chapter, which concludes with a case study application, Has Our School eVolved?

    Chapter 8, “Technology: Staying a Step Ahead of the Silent Time Thief,” investigates the process of adopting new technologies and the associated time requirements, and provides an examination of the critical implementation curve. Additionally, the chapter proposes recommendations school principals must consider regarding potential technological and digital adoptions. The reader is provided a crash course in time management relative to digital organization, which details five time management tips integrated with technology. The reader also gains essential information about working with digital tools that allow school principals to “save time and make hay!” Numerous screenshots of digital applications aid the reader in avoiding the Silent Time Thief. The chapter reveals how technology can improve instruction and leadership capacity and concludes with a case study application, A New Leader, an Old Problem: How to Integrate Technology Into a School’s Culture.

    Important elements of the book include

    • The Time Management Self-Assessment Instrument (see Chapter 1),
    • Discussion questions,
    • Case study applications and questions,
    • Technological and digital applications, and
    • References.

    Managing time can be a daunting task. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (2009) revealed that 70% of Americans fail to effectively and efficiently manage time.

    Principals are no different. Finding time, making time, and using time—all are issues that campus leaders can relate to. Time is a precious commodity. However, The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age proves time can be captured by principals and used most efficiently and effectively.

    The authors of this text certainly understand the issue of time and are sensitive to its many constraints. The authors have “been there and done that,” as they are former school administrators with a combined 93 years of experience in the public school and higher education arenas, and they have extensive practical experience managing time in service as instructional leaders in the digital age. This experience has enabled them to create a text that provides the necessary skills, relevant information, and functional tools needed to promote and incorporate time management, instructional leadership, and technological ideals into real school applications.

    Special Features of the Book

    Three special features are interwoven throughout the book:

    • The Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) 2015;
    • The Silent Time Thief series; and
    • The Ralph and Alice cartoon sequences.

    The newly adopted PSEL 2015, previously the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards, were approved and adopted by the National Policy Board for Education Administration on October 22, 2015, and the full standards and elements were published in November 2015. These ten standards and their accompanying 83 elements are possibly first introduced in book format in The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age. This is an important distinction, as these new standards are cutting-edge criteria and models for practicing educational leaders.

    The standards are designed to ensure that district and campus leaders, as well as university principal preparation programs, are able to improve student achievement; meet new, higher expectations; and receive essential support. The new 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders were developed to guide preparation, practice, support, and evaluation for school leaders.

    While adopting the standards is voluntary, most states adopt them to fit their educational leadership needs. Additionally, these new standards and elements will replace or enhance state principal preparation program standards. For example, the state of Texas has formed a Preparation Standards Committee that will develop a set of standards, based on the national standards, to guide the preparation of building-level leaders. One of the coauthors of this book, Dr. David DeMatthews, serves as a core member of this committee.

    The Silent Time Thief series has been purposefully incorporated into each chapter as a means of revealing how essential time is to all school administrators and how time can be “stolen” by multiple means and parties. This particular series provides the reader with methods of preventing the theft of time.

    The Ralph and Alice cartoon sequences are designed to add a unique learning perspective to the chapters. Two cartoon characters, Ralph and Alice, present the reader with a different or unique spin on chapter-related material. Ralph and Alice, like most married couples or working colleagues, find moments of personal and collective reflection. In The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age, the reflections of these cartoon characters are frequently related to a school leadership issue or problem. Enjoy the camaraderie and humor displayed by our own Ralph and Alice!

    Finally, as you take time to journey through The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age, think back to the opening paragraph of this preface. Then reflect upon these words of Frank A. Clark, American writer, cartoonist, and creator of The Country Parson newspaper vignettes: “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere” (n.d.). Excellent words of wisdom. Know where you are going, and know how to get there in a timely fashion. The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age is the next best thing to a leadership GPS. Enjoy the trip!

    A Note to the Reader

    Recognize that technology is an integral part of The Principal’s Guide to Time Management: Instructional Leadership in the Digital Age. Schools, like society, cannot function without recognizing the importance of technology and adopting it for instructional uses. We do live in a digital age. As a result, principals must lead the technological and digital charge. To best meet this expectation, principals need a tool kit that contains specialized equipment for bringing the most up-to-date digital measures into their schools. The first item or instrument that a principal must grab from this tool kit is a list of questions to be considered before moving further into technological enhancements. Listed below are fifteen essential, if not critical, questions for examination and contemplation.

    15 Questions Principals Must Ask About Technology

    The authors of this text strongly believe in the use of technology in schools. Each chapter within this book exemplifies this. However, the authors never purposefully pursue technological utilization in schools and classrooms, nor do they advise others to do so, without addressing serious research, analysis, and “students-first” considerations. Further, while the authors believe it is imperative that technology be incorporated into all aspects of schooling, they strongly recommend that principals first ask fifteen important questions.

    • Does the school culture emphasize students first?
    • Does the culture of the school emphasize caring about students?
    • Do the principal and faculty acknowledge the problems that confront effective instruction in classrooms?
    • Does the existing school culture allow for new, technological methods (changes) to solve time-sensitive instructional problems?
    • Does the principal offer technological innovative solutions that motivate students to explore, love learning, and incrementally improve by examining mistakes made?
    • Are the digital delivery processes accessible, inexpensive, time saving, and easy to use?
    • Do the principal and team focus on high-quality technological content that is incorporated appropriately, efficiently, and effectively by experienced teachers who use the technology to promote deep-learning strategies and critical thinking?

    Does the technology:

    • 8. Save time, improve instruction, and increase student achievement?
    • 9. Make it easier for faculty to focus on what they do best?
    • 10. Motivate students to be proactive and complete their assignments?
    • 11. Deliver customized content based on detailed individual feedback as related to the performance of each student?
    • 12. Provide fun and/or interesting learning tools, games, and/or relevant experiences that engage and motivate students and manage instruction in a timely manner?
    • 13. Extend beyond the textbooks, providing searchable, accessible, and more extensive content?
    • 14. Allow for time-saving interactive user experiences that encourage students to think critically?
    • 15. Generate and integrate time-saving instructional content prepared for and by teachers?

    Comment: The authors have made every effort to provide accurate and up-to-date Internet, technological, and digital information throughout the text. However, technology, the Internet, and digitally posted information are continuously changing. Therefore, it is inevitable that certain websites and other technology-oriented sources, resources, and materials listed within this text will change or become obsolete.


    First, I would like to acknowledge Daniel Correa, who served as a student worker in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso. Daniel in many respects was my personal research assistant, not only as I wrote this book, but for so much more. His untiring diligence with respect to all tasks, his exceptional work ethic, and his digital expertise were always apparent. He always had a smile, and he never failed to lend a helping hand—which I frequently needed.

    Whenever there was a technical glitch (and there always was), Daniel was there to move behind my desk, into my chair, to take over and get it right. For all you did for me, Daniel, I am most grateful and genuinely appreciative. I wish you Godspeed as you work to finish your degree and as you proceed into life and career. You are an exceptional young man and your research for this book proved invaluable. You’re my superhero, Batman!

    Second, I must acknowledge the expertise, competence, and assistance of Rita Monsivais, El Paso, Texas, school administrator. Rita has a keen understanding of technology-oriented educational programs, and she was instrumental in providing essential information and guidance regarding the case study, Has Our School eVolved? in Chapter 7. I have been privileged to serve as a professor to Rita in her master’s degree and principal preparation and certification program, and as her doctoral program advisor. Rita exemplifies the traits and characteristics of those exceptional principals described within this text. She is a strong moral and ethical person and a tremendous asset to our profession! Most important, she is dedicated to the students she serves! Rita, you are the best!

    Finally, in memoriam: Dr. Lalo Garza—good friend, Cohort IV member, and wonderful educator. Your life was cut too short. I miss you.


    I want to thank Mary, my patient wife and confidant, for having patience with me through this process. I want to thank Dr. Karen Maxwell and Dr. Bruce Scott for their invaluable support and advice. I greatly appreciate them as professional colleagues, confidants, and friends.

    I would also like to recognize Alex Carruth, a graphic artist and student at Abilene Christian University. Alex is responsible for the Ralph and Alice cartoon series in the book. He grew up in Brazil and enjoys illustrating and playing keyboard.


    I am appreciative to my family, friends, and colleagues for their unwavering support and love. In particular, I am thankful for my doctoral advisor, Dr. Hanne Mawhinney, and her love, dedication, support, encouragement, and mentoring. I remain grateful for the gifts she imparted to me as a scholar and person, and I hope to live up to her expectations and example.


    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    John Carver


    Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools

    Cresco, IA

    Chris Hubbuch


    Excelsior Springs Middle School

    Excelsior Springs, MO

    Neil MacNeill

    Head Master

    Ellenbrook Independent Primary School

    Ellenbrook, Western Australia

    Alan Penrose

    Assistant Principal, Adjunct Professor of Education

    North Kansas City School District, Rockhurst University

    Kansas City, MO

    Tricia Peña

    Professor, Consultant

    Northern Arizona University

    Vail, AZ

    Lena Marie Rockwood

    Middle School Assistant Principal

    Revere Public Schools

    Revere, MA

    Susan Soderlind

    Coordinator, Student Information Services

    Escambia County School District

    Pensacola, FL

    About the Authors

    Richard D. Sorenson , professor emeritus, is the former department chairperson of the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He also served as the director of the Principal Preparation Program. He earned his doctorate from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi in educational leadership. Dr. Sorenson served public schools for 25 years as a social studies teacher, principal, and associate superintendent for human resources. Dr. Sorenson continues to work with graduate students at UTEP, teaching school-based budgeting and school personnel management. He was named The University of Texas at El Paso College of Education Professor of the Year in 2005, and he remains an active writer with numerous professional journal publications. Dr. Sorenson has authored textbooks, teacher resource guides, and workbooks related to elementary and secondary social studies curricula. He conducts workshops at the state and national levels, and he has been actively involved in numerous professional organizations, including the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) and the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP), for which he conducted annual new-principal academy workshops for 12 years. Dr. Sorenson continues his research agenda in the area of the school principalship, specifically the examination of conditions and factors that inhibit and discourage lead teachers from entering school administration. He makes time each day to exercise, walking 4 to 10 miles, depending on how industrious he feels! Dr. Sorenson has been married to his wife, Donna, the love of his life, for the past 40 years, and they have two adult children, Lisa (a second-grade teacher with Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in Houston, Texas) and Ryan (an exercise physiologist in El Paso, Texas), a wonderful son-in-law, Sam (a petroleum engineer in Houston, Texas), and two grandchildren, Savannah Grace and Nehemiah Timothy—all of whom are the pride and joy of his life. Rick and Donna reside in El Paso, Texas, on the U.S./Mexico border, with their home facing the majestic Franklin Mountains. The Sorenson family is a lover of pugs, most notably Little Bit (wanna go?) and Olive (wanna snack?).

    Lloyd M. Goldsmith is the director of the Principal Preparation Program and former chairperson for the Graduate Studies in Education Department at Abilene Christian University. He earned his EdD from Baylor University in the area of educational leadership. Dr. Goldsmith served public schools for 29 years as an elementary school teacher, junior high school assistant principal, and elementary school principal. Dr. Goldsmith led the migration of the graduate education program to an online format. He is currently involved in developing an online EdD in educational leadership. Dr. Goldsmith and a fellow professor, Dr. Kim Pamplin in the chemistry department, are in their 14th year codirecting a program that enables high school chemistry and biology teachers to develop effective instructional strategies and integrate technology within their lessons. Dr. Goldsmith has served on several state committees for the Texas Education Agency. He served two terms as president of the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration. The research interests of Dr. Goldsmith relate to effective principal practices and practicum design. He enjoys teaching in his church’s inner city outreach ministry, where he helps equip those living in poverty to better handle life’s challenges. Dr. Goldsmith has been married to his wife, Mary, for 30 years and has three adult children—Abigail, Eleanor, and Nelson. Abigail and son-in-law Andrew Harmon are the parents of his two grandchildren, Luke Walling Harmon and Hilary Grace Harmon, for whom “Pa” enjoys being “Pa.” Eleanor has taught fourth grade for two years in Taft, Texas, where her father began his teaching career. Nelson recently graduated with a degree in accounting and finance from Abilene Christian University. Llola, Dr. Goldsmith’s chocolate lab, is spoiled and walks the good doctor every morning.

    David E. DeMatthews is an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He received his PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park, in the area of educational policy and leadership. Dr. DeMatthews has also served as a high school social studies teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools and assistant principal and special education policy analyst for the District of Columbia Public Schools. Currently, Dr. DeMatthews works with graduate students teaching coursework related to school personnel, curriculum renewal, special education, and educational policy. He represents UTEP as the plenum session representative with the University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA) and has published frequently in a number of research journals, including Teachers College Record, Educational Administration Quarterly, Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, and Education Policy Analysis Archives. He is an active educational researcher and has studied school leadership, specifically examining how principals lead for social justice in high-poverty urban contexts and in regard to students with disabilities and linguistically diverse students.

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