How will I lead the effort to identify, articulate, and share what my school community believes about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply?
An interesting and difficult question for any sort of community, the question posed above is one that may take an initial look followed by considerable re-visiting. So here goes iteration one:
I believe that an institution must commit to a principal identity so that it can sustain its mission…and change its directions in order to maintain that identity. But to build that principal identity, a school will need a captain – not to make all the decisions, necessarily, but to pilot the conversation towards the destination. As the journey twists and turns, this captain will need to navigate the obstacles while never losing sight on the destination. In this vein, I am blessed to be a part of an institution with a strong identity. We know who we are in our market, and we embrace the culture we invite wholeheartedly.
This confidence does not arrive without consistent reflection and communication among faculty and parents. Here is how we currently invite the tough conversations to occur throughout the school year:
- Every Monday, teachers have a professional learning committee, division, or content area meeting to attend. These meetings each have specific goals to attain. Some of them are tangible, others are quite abstract. In any regard, the conversations are designed with the endgame being a common language or thought process. We want everyone to be on the same page, and we mix up the individuals in the conversation (and the questions asked, for that matter) so that the individual is responsible both for what he/she thinks, and what the group in the previous meeting has brought to light.
- Parents of our students are invited to numerous “Parent Ed” programs that focus on both the conversations that occur inside our faculty and administrative meetings. Additionally, these meetings allow for time that parents use to ask directed questions about program design and expectations. It is a great time to galvanize trust while still empowering voices to share.
- Finally, I personally encourage faculty members to invest in “innovation days,” or days in which someone may cover their classroom while they pursue ideas that would improve our community. These ideas are vetted and given a framework (by me, together with that faculty member) so that teachers have a voice on sending us in the right direction.
With these three pieces, I believe we create a community that is transparent and trusting of the program we provide our students. I am thrilled at each opportunity to connect and learn!