I was asked an interesting question today [through an email]. Essentially it was, “what do I think is important for a school to be successful, and how does an administrator go about making whatever they feel is important actually happen?”
Below is what came out of my brain.
The essential component for any student’s success is an adult who believes in them as a person and a learner. That belief has to manifest itself in actions in order to be effective in cultivating success in others.
I believe in order for students to be successful, adults need to value them as people and learners far more than we value the programs designed to serve those students.
I believe in order for students to be successful, every adult on campus needs to be a positive influence on the lives of the students. Each moment, each interaction with a student matters, so the adult needs to be the driving force of positivity for that moment and that student.
I believe in order for students to be successful, the adults on a campus need to be the filter students cannot be. Negativity is everywhere, if the adults cannot filter it out of the school environment, it will be a negative experience for the students.
I believe in order for students to be successful, adults need to be consistent with expected behavior far more than expecting students’ beliefs to change.
I believe maximizing student success is not about finding the next amazing program or adopting the newest curriculum, but creating a successful culture. The challenge with creating an intentional culture of success is that it is dependent solely upon relationships, which is hard to quantify and navigate.
A wildly successful school has a culture;
- With unwavering expectations, academically and socially, for all stakeholders
- Of celebration
- With a growth mindset
- In which it is safe to fail
- In which differences are welcomed
- Of reflectiveness
- Of collaboration for staff and students
What steps can a site leader take to move towards this culture? The first step is realizing that a school site will match the personality traits of the leader. It may take a while for this to occur, but eventually, it does. So as a site leader, I have to model the traits/actions I want my site to take on.
If I believe people are more important than programs, I have to spend time with people. I have to spend time with the students getting to know their struggles and successes. I have to spend time with parents, even when it seems like an interruption. I have to spend time with teachers, in their classrooms observing and participating in activities.
As the leader, I need to create the culture of celebration. I need to celebrate when students perform well academically and when they make the right choices socially. More importantly, as the site leader, I need to celebrate and advocate for the staff. A teacher that feels appreciated is a teacher that will not become burned-out or complacent.
Difficult and negative experiences happen every day on a school site, how I filter those experiences dictates how the students and staff will. If I have a growth mindset with site level challenges, eventually that will trickle into the classroom when a student doesn’t understand a math problem.
Many challenges on school site come from expectations not being set high enough, not being maintained consistently, and not being based in reality. Though I do believe people should be valued over programs, in the area of expectations I believe it should be very systematic. Students and adults struggle with the unknown, as a leader if I can take that away, there is a greater chance learning will occur at a higher rate.