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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in morale

Posted by on in Education Policy

Repentance: A radical change in mindset and heart, a promise to do better, surrender, a confession filled with remorse

In every school or education organization there must be people you can trust. In spite of bureaucracy, complacency, high-stakes political frenzy, we must guarantee a safe space, a place where anyone can find the rhythm and pulse of our collective humanity. Maybe it takes the form of a kind eye, a warm embrace, a second glance or a genuine asking. Or maybe it’s a kind individual who quietly finds clever ways to make things fair, who listens to truth, who reminds us of the right-minded pathway.

When a tragic incident occurs such as the Ash Wednesday school shooting in Broward County, Florida I think about all the inside people who were perhaps too busy, preoccupied or turned the other way. How could a teenage child be so lost and unfound, so unseen? How could there be such a wide open, emptiness of space for such violence to occur when schools are so micromanaged, organized and contained? What are we looking at in our schools if so many children are lost, lonely and afraid, left to slip away in the fury of desperation, hate and insurmountable shame?

There is something to be said about the loss of humanity inside our schools and education organizations. There is something to be said about our stubborn blindness. This is yet another cry out for change, a desperate plea for us to reconcile with ourselves, our true purpose in education and our moral obligation to design schools that are responsive and sensitive to the inner lives of children and adults.

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Posted by on in School Culture

no excuses

This Might Get Ugly...

I'm going to start by fully understanding the vulgar gestures you may want to make towards your computer screen or the nasty emails you might write to me after reading this, but I think it needs to be said. But I believe that, by the end of this, you will at least partially agree.

First, let me admit

As a teacher I know it's one of the hardest jobs in the world. I fully admit that trying to educate students who are lacking necessary skills, two to three grade levels behind, unmotivated, and we'll just say "challenging" can be extremely challenging. And let's not forget all those ridiculous management issues you shouldn't have to deal with, but do very day because "hey, it's part of the job." Trust me, I get it. I really do.

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Posted by on in What If?

You get what you expect in this world. That is a mantra that I live by, both with raising my children and overseeing students in my school. Having high expectations is paramount to student achievement, good behavior, teacher professionalism, and parent engagement.

When I was the principal of a rural high school high in the mountains of Colorado I took a radical measure based upon my high expectations for all students. I raised the eligibility policy standards to proclaim that students could not participate in any extracurricular activities with any grades less than a C. D did not stand for dance in my building. Students had to have Cs or better in all classes to play sports, go to a dance, or participate in the school play. Was this popular at first? With the teachers, yes! With the students, not so much.

Now granted we had safety nets in place to ensure that we were giving students a lot of support to make this happen. We had tutoring three days a week. Grades were checked by advisors on Mondays with eligibility running on Friday. This way students had all week to retake tests and get items turned in. We set the wheels in motion and did the culture ever change!

Tutoring was packed every day.  Classwork and assessments took on a whole new meaning. Students retook tests after spending time with the tutors and all of a sudden the grades began to improve across the building. Students were excited with their success and often would run into my office to show me their grades. We had turned the culture into one that displayed pride in academics instead of apathy.

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Posted by on in School Culture

Wallpaper

During the 22-inch dropping blizzard of 2016, I was cooking, cleaning, tending to my babies, and even spruce up my 'man cave' in the garage. In the midst of cleaning, I found wallpaper. I could not help but to think of all of the horror stories my mother use to share with me about the horrors of wallpaper. She was adamant about doing all of the home decorating, but anytime wallpaper came into play, I ran for the hills. Wallpaper covers up a lot. It can look pretty to the hanger, ugly to the spectator, and even come off as crummy for some who live in the house. Eventually, it does start to peel. What normally happens when it beings to peel? We ignore it. We ignore it until it becomes problematic. Then we try to quick fix it. The same can go for a school.

When I started in a new District a few years ago, I was given very specific marching orders by the Board that the past was in the past and we don't look at the past. I saluted. When I spoke to staff, it was the same story on how much they did not care for their leader; most wanted to move onward and forget the past. It was like placing wallpaper up on an old wall. I made a new website, pumped folks up with positivity, and went full throttle. I even made a new website. Wallpaper on the old wall. 

Looking back now, I see a new website, new positivity, and a showing of being "united". Looks great, but truth be told, it's more wallpaper on the old wall. I hope the wallpaper stays, and the new handyman has the ability to patch up holes in the wallpaper when it becomes present. Something very beneficial for the new handyman - the new handyman and the former handymen (plural) talk. A lot. In the meantime, enjoy the new wallpaper. It's very pretty to look at; after a couple weeks, the handyman will start seeing what it was covering up. And then the handyman, with the help of former handymen, will get to work. Stay safe out there.

 

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Posted by on in School Culture

shareasimageback

Many of us head back to work tomorrow after a well-deserved break. All of us need time to relax in whatever way relaxing suits one best. Based on catching up with so many over break, the adult coloring books were apparently quite the hit and a major source of relaxation. I was speaking to a teacher I use to work with and she sounded like she was in the doldrums. Why? She was miserable to go back to work; not so sad to see her students, but to see her coworkers. My heart sank.

Nothing is worse than hearing those in education genuinely dread going back to work. This is a job that requires your A-Game everyday and requires you be your best. If you’re not, you’re hurting our future. This isn’t a cubicle — this is a job that effects the way we will live. I had to ask her why she was so dreadful. Simple. She’s ostracized for enjoying her job and working with her bosses, not being miserable at work and hating leaders. The culture of “past practice” has always been ‘us vs. them’ – no matter who the bosses are. That’s like a whole new level of sad! If you hate me for doing what I do, OK. If you hate the guy before me, and the girl before me, and so on…perhaps the problem lies with your attitude and not the person charged with leading? A few years back, I had to have a conversation with a first year employee (who was transitioning from the medical field to school life — don’t judge me — nobody else wanted the job and she was the only one willing to accept he salary) about a myriad of issues, one of them being so negative. We went over all of the things I did to help her transition (including credit options, certification issues, and professional development) and she rolled her eyes and

The culture of “past practice” has always been ‘us vs. them’ – no matter who the bosses are. That’s like a whole new level of sad! If you hate me for doing what I do, OK. If you hate the guy before me, and the girl before me, and so on…perhaps the problem lies with your attitude and not the person charged with leading? A few years back, I had to have a conversation with a first year employee (who was transitioning from the medical field to school life — don’t judge me — nobody else wanted the job and she was the only one willing to accept he salary) about a myriad of issues, one of them being so negative. We went over all of the things I did to help her transition (including credit options, certification issues, and professional development) and she rolled her eyes and said “Everyone is suppose to hate to the boss!” Really? Yes, we have tons of movies and shows about how the boss sucks and how one can overcome it (ranging from Major League to Office Space to Horrible Bosses), but it does not mean we have to have a culture like this! I have been fortunate enough to say that in six school districts, I’ve only seen one place where there is a strong culture of hatred, bitterness, and general anger towards education, the changes it brings, and yes, superb hatred for the boss. For your first day back in 2016, please don’t embrace the culture of being miserable and hating your job. It’s a new year; you may have a new boss now or soon; your issues may go away. Embracing a mantra of “us vs. them” does nobody good. Not only does it rub off on other people, and it will certainly rub off on your students. You may hate your boss, and you may hate your job, but there’s a simple solution to both of these: just leave. Your students will thank you in the long run. Your students deserve the best in 2016; give it to them.

I have been fortunate enough to say that in six school districts, I’ve only seen one place where there is a strong culture of hatred, bitterness, and general anger towards education, the changes it brings, and yes, superb hatred for the boss. For your first day back in 2016, please don’t embrace the culture of being miserable and hating your job. It’s a new year; you may have a new boss now or soon; your issues may go away. Embracing a mantra of “us vs. them” does nobody good. Not only does it rub off on other people, and it will certainly rub off on your students. You may hate your boss, and you may hate your job, but there’s a simple solution to both of these: just leave. Your students will thank you in the long run. Your students deserve the best in 2016; give it to them.

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