Culture

Everyone Has a Story

Guest post by Brandon Mowinkel

The role of a principal is complex, tiring, and stressful, to say the least. Balancing the needs of your staff, students, school, and community can wear on you, especially as the school year winds down. Tensions seem to run high as patience wanes.

It is vital for principals to keep the focus where it needs to be—on the students. The demands of the job can pull us in various directions and our need to keep students at the forefront of what we do becomes muddled in the minutia of school life. Every principal must find a way to remember his “why” and continuously keep the focus on students and their learning. In my practice, I use three constant reminders to keep me focused on what matters most. (more…)

Canines in the Classroom: How Gem Transformed Our School

Guest post by Laurie Wade

When I first proposed introducing a therapy dog to my district in 2011, I was met with a lot of raised eyebrows and skepticism. There was the expected chorus of objections: What about kids who are afraid of dogs or don’t like them? What about allergies? What if the dog hurts someone? Like most problems, all of these had solutions, and once that reassurance took hold the possibilities came forward. Research has shown that therapy dogs in schools bring a host of physical and mental benefits for the community. (more…)

AVID: A Transformative Pathway for School Improvement

Guest post by Nick Nelson

During the 2015–16 school year, The Dalles High School in Oregon was awarded a state grant for AVID training. We didn’t know much about AVID at the time, just that it was a philosophy centered on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading, and that its goal was to close the achievement gap.

The grant allowed a team of five teaching staff, me, and one additional administrator to attend the initial summer AVID-training session. After that session, our team began to grasp more concretely the significance of what we were involved in and the potential impact AVID could have on our instructional practice with targeted students and schoolwide. What we didn’t know was how instrumental AVID would be in creating a powerful cultural transformation for our high school. (more…)

Igniting Every Student’s Spark of Genius

Guest post by Stephen Spahn

As chancellor of Dwight School for the last 50 years, I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing some of the more dramatic changes in education. As the world continues to be transformed at an unprecedented pace, we are living in a new age of educational enlightenment, challenging educators to assess, rethink, and innovate curricula as never before. (more…)

Giving Students a Voice in School Improvement

Guest post by Kasey Teske

In secondary schools, the greatest untapped resource is our students. Most of our students care deeply about school and have numerous ideas about how to improve their campus community. But how often do we, as principals, involve students in our school improvement efforts? Do the students in our school even know our improvement priorities? Are they allowed to give input and help create our school improvement plans? I submit that the more principals give students a voice in their school, the more improvement will move in the right direction. (more…)

iCARE, Part Three: Helping Troubled Students Care

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

Two weeks ago, I introduced you to iCARE, and last week, I shared how this initiative has helped to unite our school community. In this final post, I will explore how iCARE has changed the way we work with our most difficult students.

In 2014, I inherited a unique sophomore class. Within the class there was a particular group of sophomores who were regarded as a notable challenge and needed a lot of TLC. As I got to know them, I realized that only a few of them were truly challenging and the rest were just looking to carve new titles for themselves among their peers. I hadn’t realized it yet, but iCARE was to become a saving factor for many of them and their sophomore academic and social careers. (more…)

iCARE, Part Two: Uniting Our Community

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

In last week’s post, I discussed the beginnings of the iCARE program at Colonie Central High School and how it has given students an opportunity to make a difference in our school. This week, I will share how iCARE has grown and united our entire community around a variety of events that aim to serve others and build a positive culture. (more…)

iCARE, Part One: Students Making a Difference

Guest post by Thomas Kachadurian

In 2011, I attended a character education summit at Sage College with my fellow associate principal Chris Robilotti. After attending a seminar on cultivating stakeholder ownership, we walked away with a new mission to take our successful middle school bullying prevention program and build it in the high school setting.

Using the information we gathered at Sage, Chris and I plotted a course (more…)

Are Your Students Life Ready?

Guest post by Akil E. Ross

As principal of Chapin High School (CHS) in South Carolina, I’m always trying to promote ways to make our students college and career ready. After all, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) calls for our students to meet higher academic standards and for us to help them find success beyond high school. But I often find myself wondering: Does college and career ready mean life ready? Regardless of which path our students take, just possessing the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and a career is only one part of the equation to becoming a productive and happy human being. In addition to making our students college and career ready, my goal is to make 100 percent of our students ready for life.

What does it mean to be life ready, and how can schools prepare students? (more…)

Change Starts With Us

Guest post by Jamie Richardson

A few years ago, I found myself trying to convince my son that he needed to “play the game” of school and figure out how to rack up as many “points” as possible in order to succeed. As these “encouraging” words came from my mouth, I stopped and asked myself, how was it that any of my students—let alone my very own son—needed artificial motivation to feel inspired about school? At that moment, I came to an important realization: (more…)