Climate Check

Photo Credit: Pixbay

I experienced a moment this week when everything seemed to align around one thing.

Normally, this kind of event is a celebration or a I-can’t-believe-it-finally-happened kind of moment.

But this week’s alignment was more of a smack-across-the-face kind of alignment.  

I had a meeting with one of my building teams that shares concerns or issues for discussion and possible solutions.  I always feel good about these meetings because they feel like they are productive.  This meeting with the committee this week was a lot different, but in the end it has been productive for me professionally.

During the meeting, I started to realize that I am not communicating as well as I need to be and that I have not be “reading” the building climate as accurately as I thought I was.  And it became clear to me much later that these two aspects – Communication and Climate – are more closely connected than I had believed.

Things continued to align on Sunday when I read this great post by Peter DeWitt called “Should There Be a 5th C In the Partnership for 21st Century Learning?”.  DeWitt included the feedback he received from teachers around the world that reflected how they felt about their principal in the context of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.  Ouch. It was eye-opening to read because I wondered if some of the comments that were shared by the teachers reflected what some of my staff might say about me.

Before the red flags go waving and the alarm sounds, I firmly believe that the climate in our school is overwhelmingly positive.  How do I know?  Kids are smiling.  All of the time.  In the hallway, at lunch, in the classroom.  It’s a great thing to see.  The other evidence I have is in the handful of parent emails sent to me and to the teachers involved I’ve received over that past two months praising the work and efforts we are making each day at Alton Darby.  Comments like “I am so thankful that this is my child’s school” are the comments that mean the most to me.

So where is the disconnect? Something happened during the meeting that gave me pause.  Without getting too far into the details, the meeting showed me that I have more work to do to improve how I communicate with my staff and students.  I need to continue to find the right balance between “You are sending out too many emails” with “I feel like I don’t know what’s going on”.  I need to make sure my teams and committees are communicating with their teams about the work they are doing for the building.  And I need to create more opportunities for face-to-face meetings. 

When I communicate, I need to remember that communication for me is more about me listening than talking.  I need to remember that one of the main goals I need to have when I am interacting with my staff, students, and families is that I am always working to earn and build trust with the other person.  Trust – The thing that takes years to build and only a moment to destroy.

I believe that improving my ability to communicate will improve the overall climate of the building.

And I’m going to need everyone’s help to get better.

How can you help?  Talk to me.  Tell me what’s on your mind.  Don’t let something that’s bothering you wait.  I may not have an answer you like or an answer at all right away, but I will at least know what’s on your mind.  One thing I’ve learned from being a principal is that many small events can have big positive implications if you are patient enough to wait for it.

In the meantime, I’m going to use my One Word for 2017, Check, to help me stay on target for improving.  “Check” reminds me to check my heart, check my tone, check my focus, and check what the other person is really saying.

“Check” reminds me to think of James Ryan’s 5 Essential Questions In Life (The link is to his commencement address to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is worth the watch). Ryan’s questions have helped me grow as a leader and I believe they can guide me in making sure I am getting better at communication:


1.) Wait, what?

2.) I wonder why/if…?

3.) Couldn’t we at least…?

4.) How can I help?

5.) What really matters?

** Bonus question: Did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?

Earlier last week, I sent out an email called “Always Building Culture” and it’s true:  We are always building the culture of our school.  In order for me to contribute to that process, I need to continue to reflect on my leadership and exercise the gap between Good and Great, making sure that I am better today than I was yesterday and better  tomorrow than I am today.

Thanks for reading this!  Have a GREAT week!


Articles Worth Reading

The “Change” That is Continuously Inevitable

How to Complain Like a Leader via @leadershipfreak

Tim Kight on Twitter: “Are you On-Path?”

Update on School Start Times for 2017-2018:

Elementary I      9:05-3:30 (Building opens at 8:50)           


AM K     9:05-11:30

PM K      12:50-3:30

Elementary II     9:20-3:45 (Building opens at 9:05)           


AM K     9:20-3:45

PM K      1:05-3:45


AM         9:05-11:35

PM         1:00-3:30

Upcoming Dates


9 – KG Data Team Check-in, 11:45

11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8am (Focus on Building Writers!); 2nd Safety Drill, 1:45pm

12 – 1st Grade Musical, 10:15am

13 – Interims go home, if needed; Elementary One2One meeting, 10-11:30am (Herb out);

5th Grade Data Team check-in, 2:45pm

16 – MLK Jr Holiday, No School

17 – 3rd Grade Data Team check-in, 8am; 4th Grade Data Team check-in, 11am

18 – Spec Ed Team meeting, Noon

19 – Admin Meeting (AM)

20 – Meeting with Chamber of Commerce (for Campus Project), 11am; ADE PTO Family

Game Night – Living out my dream as a game show host starting at 6:30 (until 8pm)

24 – 3rd Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 8am

25 – ADE Staff Meeting – One2One Teacher iPad Checkout, starts at 3:30pm

27 – BAC meeting, 8am; 5th Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 2:45pm

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:


8:30 AM-3:30 PM




8:30 AM-3:30 PM




8:30 AM-3:30 PM




8:30 AM-3:30 PM


CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — KG (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — 2nd Grade (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)


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