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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in school culture

Posted by on in General

Building relationships with kids takes time and commitment on both sides of the equation.  A solid connection can be encouraged or fortified by a grand event – an open house evening, a “Donuts for Dad” or “Muffins for Mom” celebration, or a campus carnival – but such an event alone cannot create long and meaningful relationships.  The daily interactions of teachers with their students, with ongoing discourse between the two, is the only thing that I have found to be most effective in developing and nurturing lasting connections. 

Sometimes you just have to listen to each other’s stories of pain and sadness, joy and gladness, and everything in-between. 

By the end of the first month of school, I know quite a bit about a child’s life just from the continuous conversation he/she and I have had.  Tiny bits of information from numerous simple conversations while lining up, while turning in papers, while waiting for lunch, while passing each other on the sidewalk at the end of the day all help to bring us closer together. 

All of that dialogue has informed me of the child’s family situation – parents together or separated, number of brothers and sisters, favorite subject in school, type of pets, names of school friends, fears and worries at home and at school.  

I know each student’s favorite type of music, favorite football team, favorite color, favorite candy, favorite brand of shoe.  I know a little bit about each child’s interests and each child’s goal for the future.  All of these seemingly trivial pieces of information help me to carry on more conversations with each child and help me to further forge the bond between me and them. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

Mention the word, “leader,” and many people conjure up an image of a larger-than-life character who seemingly single-handedly transforms their organization for the better. A leader, as many also erroneously believe, is determined by having a title or position of importance. John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” Teachers all over the world, regularly lead positive changes in their classrooms, schools, districts, and beyond without fanfare, recognition and often without a formal title or position. They lead because their colleagues respect and trust them. Their leadership begins from the heart. Their passion for reaching and teaching young people and love for what they do is evident. Extraordinary teachers are leaders because they inspire and motivate others to be and do their best. How they lead is multifaceted and is only limited by their creativity.

Unfortunately, too many teachers fail to identify themselves as leaders. Many educators share the mindset that leadership is for a “talented” few. This limiting belief stifles the potential of teachers that could otherwise make a larger impact on student learning and achievement. The inclination to think about “my class, my students” or even “my team”  prevents teachers from developing a greater vision. Instead of viewing themselves as leaders that accept not only the responsibility of their class but also the responsibility of all students; they see themselves as “just teachers” and limit their potential impact. Their talents and abilities largely remain an untapped resource that could enrich the lives of many more people.

The paradigm shift from “my” to “our” is subtle but powerful. When this shift happens, when teachers start to view themselves as leaders who are empowered to inspire positive changes not only in the lives of “their students” but in “all students,” they are motivated by an even higher purpose. “Every child, every day” takes on a whole new significance.

Every teacher can and must lead if they care about kids. Not all will become outstanding leaders, but everyone can improve. Leadership skills can be learned. What teachers will soon realize is that they are already leading! They need only to expand their circle of influence beyond their classroom walls.

There are as many ways that teachers can lead as there are teachers. Here are eight ways that teachers can make an even more significant impact on student learning and success. 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

After fourteen years of teaching child care professionals and teachers about preschool learners, one of my college students, with sweet, enthusiastic innocence, told me that her threes understood the word “hypothesis.” That in her center, they teach a “word a week” to the children. And their philosophy? Their motivation? “We have to get them ready for being four.” I suggested that the children are learning to be three. Why push them?

Her program is called an Academy. That says a lot. A Facebook friend, who owns a center, confessed that using the word “Academy” in her school’s title was a marketing decision. She is uncomfortable with it because her program is a process-oriented, creative program where children learn organically—through play experiences, with teachers as guides. But she bit the bullet and chose that word—Academy—to bring parents in.

“Academies” ask two-year-olds to glue noodles to a paper plate, then ask the teacher to glue on the letter “N. They display these almost identical pieces on a bulletin board in the classroom so parents will think their toddlers are learning something (they’re not). They call this academics. Many parents believe that an early academic start (mimicking public school) is good for their children. You can’t blame them. They so want to believe they are giving their children a jump start. All they know is from their own experience, and they don’t remember school any further back than early elementary school. These are the biases they base their choices on. These biases don’t come from developmental theorists, or from the hallowed history of child care and early education. They certainly don’t come from today’s leaders in the educational field. They come from the cultural memory of the industrial age. Ken Robinson calls this a mechanistic approach to education. This approach is outmoded.

We want to prepare young children by allowing them to grow organically, and learn through curiosity, imagination, and creativity. These three qualities are immensely important. They won’t perpetuate the mechanistic, industrial world view of the 19th and 20th century, but will prepare a generation to become the talented, productive, individual human beings that we will need in the future. How can we educate parents to demand the best for their children? By educating them about what the best is.

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Posted by on in School Culture

It’s hard to believe that violence in the workplace still exists in schools. Sadly, there are still incidents that require leadership to step up and alleviate it. 

A few years ago, we decided to go with a computer program that required quite a bit of training and recalibration. Needless to say, some were not happy with the switch, as it required starting from scratch in a variety of ways. One of the seasoned secretaries was just having a rough go at all of the change. While a myriad of training both online and in-person was offered, the secretary just could not understand.  During one session over the summer, a representative from the company came to the school to conduct in-person training. The representative entered into the office to find a group of people around the secretary’s desk trying to assist with the program. When the representative signed in and asked where to go, the secretary responded with, “You’re here for this training? I’d sure like to punch you in the face.”

The representative was taken back, and rightfully so. Never had she, or I either, heard a secretary say she’d like to punch her in the face. The representative conducted her training without a hitch. A few hours later, the CEO of the company called me at the office to inform me what happened. I was furious. I was upset. I was shocked.

I immediately contacted the secretary’s supervisor and asked for an immediate investigation. Naturally, the secretary denied her actions, but the representative had recorded the entire conversation and had it on tape. The secretary was relieved of the position that afternoon.

No association, union, or group will advocate for a member who engages in workplace violence. No leadership will tolerate such behavior, and, if they do, they should be removed as well.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

In the last several months we tackled the topic of relationships over rules in the world of students. You can read that post here. This time around, we’re diving into the world of relationships over rules with teachers.

 

As a second year administrator, I (Brent) have a lot still to learn about how to best serve, support, and care for teachers. In my 15 months that I’ve served in this capacity, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Some small, some not so much. I’ve had staff in the building tell me how much they appreciate my support and encouragement while at the same time unintentionally doing a terrible job of supporting someone the next hallway over. I heard it said recently that students want a supportive, engaging, encouraging environment where they feel known and cared for. I would venture to say adults merely want the same.

 

As an administrator, I (Jeff) get a unique and humbling vantage point into the blood, sweat, and tears that teachers invest everyday into the lives of kids. I try to make it my goal to ensure that I am not making the life of a teacher any harder. Sadly, I am certain that there are times I have probably placed an additional burden or expectation on the back of the teacher that caused stress. Our role as campus leaders is not positional, but rather to support teachers to be successful as they are on the front lines for kids and families.

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