I ran across this blog post by Jason Markey that describes how he is developing a vision for his school around the simple idea of being kind to others. Markey says,
“Be Kind, Find Your Passion, and Commit to Excellence. This is my new personal vision for education. This is the sentence that I will share repeatedly with every one of our students and more importantly I will bring these thoughts to every conversation and decision I’m a part of.”
I really like this video that Markey included. It features the story of Massoud Adibpour who wanted to make a positive impact. Adibpour got some folks together and put simple messages like “Honk if you love someone” and “Smile” on signs and stood alongside busy Washington, D.C. roads. I love this idea of doing something simple to try and make a big impact.
There’s been lots of research done to see what initiatives can make the biggest difference in schools, but it seems the best approach may look more like the vision of Jason Markey and Massoud Adibpour. Maybe the most influential school change initiative we can undertake is to show kindness every single day. Simple things like saying hello to a student or smiling at them can make the biggest difference.
This post was inspired by a discussion forum conversation that took place for a class I am taking. The focus of the class is communication in educational leadership and how educational leaders go about building relationships with stakeholders through effective communication styles.
We were asked to pick a communication style that we might employ as building principals. I picked a style that involves communicating with and listening to the stakeholders within the learning community. This communication style fits with my philosophy of leadership that recognizes that it takes a strong team to get things done in schools. Giving a voice to all stakeholders and synthesizing those voices to establish a collective vision and mission for the school will be a powerful force.
I also believe this style fits me best because I tend to be an idealist and I often find myself asking “Why not?”. I like to buck the status quo when the status quo no longer works for the school. The parents, students, staff and community members are the heart of the school and a strong partnership with these stakeholders should be a principal’s priority. If I am able to strengthen the school-community relationship through a two-way symmetrical model of communication, then I will use it because it will enable the school to stay focused on a mission and vision that all of its stakeholders agree to.
A great question that was posed during the discussion was “With all the demands on the table for administrators, and the fact that they are constantly being pulled out of buildings for central office meetings (one-way communication), how can the 2-way model be organized in a time conscious way?”
I like that question because it asked us to explain what we are willing to do to make this style of communication work for our school. Time is a precious commodity for everyone and effectively communicating with stakeholders will take a lot of time. So how do we respond?
We have to let some things go.There is only so much we can do and prioritizing our time can help us stay focused on what is important. But before we can let things go, we have to know what we can’t let go of.
I can’t let go of being in classrooms every single day. The interactions between teachers and students are the lifeblood of the school. I need to know what those interactions look like everyday to help my building continue to provide learning experiences that best meets each student’s needs.
I can’t let go of working with teachers to better support kids. If we want teachers to provide excellent instruction for students, we need to give them support. I need to be able to meet with teachers to find out what they need to make their instruction meet the needs of their students.
I can’t let go of working with parents and community members. It takes a team of many individuals with different skill sets and talents to create an excellent school culture. No one can do that alone and working with parents and other community members will be necessary to create a positive school climate and culture.
I will be able let go of time-draining tasks like reading and responding to emails that go on for pages and pages. Chances are there will be a meeting about it anyway.
I will be able let go of being involved with too many activities that take me away from my building. Prioritizing my time and putting my building first will help ensure our progress is maintained.
And I will be able to let go of responsibilities that can be delegated to someone who has a stronger skill set than I do to complete a task. Not every important task or project needs to have direct involvement by the principal. There is a whole building of professionals that I will be able to rely on to get certain jobs done. I will need to rely on those professionals and the strengths they bring to the building.
If you know you need to make something happen in order to improve or enhance the quality of your school, but you aren’t sure how you will make it happen, then something will have to give. Know what your “non-negotiables” are and let them guide you to prioritizing your time and resources towards improving the quality of your school for the students, teachers and families it serves.
This year Hilliard Horizon Elementary established a Twitter account (@HZNElemenary) for our school because we wanted to utilize this social media tool so that we could better communicate with our students, families and our community about the great things that are happening at our school each day.
Many schools use social media platforms such as Twitter to share information about important dates and events. This is a great way to communicate important information, but more can be done with this powerful communication tool.
We have been using our school Twitter account to share information, student learning in action, reflections from staff members and articles for parents that can help them help their child learn.
The point is that there can be many uses for Twitter that can help you not only get your message out there, but also share the great things you are learning about in your building. Just think of what that shows the community – That you value learning something new every single day, and that learning never stops!
Check out what some of our students and staff members have been learning about over Winter Break: