positive school culture

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…)

Tips for Building Meaningful Connections With Students

Guest post by Kelly Parker

South Meadow School (SMS) in Peterborough, NH is guided by our vision: “A caring, cooperative, and respectful community of learners.” We are a family and work hard to instill values that will help students realize this vision by providing the support they need to be successful. One of the most important ways we guide students is by helping them connect to our school and one another in a positive way. We use the following guiding principles to nurture relationships and develop connections for all members of the SMS community: (more…)

The Happiness Advantage: Promoting Positivity in Schools

Guest post by Bart Peery

In January 2014, while shopping in our local Walmart, I received a voice mail from the county sheriff’s office. Assuming that it had to do with our school, I went to the school to call them back. When I returned the call, my life was forever changed. The officer told me that one of my students had taken her life. I remember sitting alone in my office sobbing, not knowing what to do next.  (more…)

Student Voice: The Most Important Sound in the School

Guest post by Bobby Bennett

In 2012, I became principal of my alma mater—only the second alumnus since the 1890s to have such an opportunity. No pressure! Eager to begin the work of serving my community and school improvement, I held a series of meetings with staff and the school community over the course of the first three months. These meetings would shape our work for the next five years. In fact, what we learned and put into practice not only yielded academic success, it transformed the culture of our school. (more…)

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Crafting Meaningful Conversations With Our Stakeholders

Guest post by Chris Koch

A colleague with whom I’d shared a classroom once asked me what the toughest part was about being an administrator. The look on his face revealed his surprise at how quickly I answered, “Having meaningful conversations with staff, students, and parents.”

Several years ago, I was in a unique position. I was finishing my 18th year as a classroom teacher when my school hired me to take over as assistant principal. Despite widespread support, I now found myself having many conversations, some difficult, with the staff, students, and parents whom I had worked alongside or taught just months before. Over time, I began to recognize the importance of making sure that each conversation was mutually beneficial and acknowledging that these conversations were a critical component in building lasting relationships.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned (more…)

Building Community and Literacy: One Book, One School Program

Guest post by Maureen Doyle Kemmett

Compelled to increase literacy skills in students and build a stronger school culture, our leadership team at Furnace Brook Middle School (FBMS) in Marshfield, MA, initiated a One Book, One School (OBOS) program in 2013. After spending the better part of a school year forming a literacy committee, researching OBOS programs, and (more…)

Leadership Lessons From the NASSP Digital Principals

Guest post by Winston Sakurai

Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure to get to know, learn from, and study some of the most innovative educators in the nation: the NASSP Digital Principals. This cohort of school leaders has a passion to improve the educational experiences of students and use sound leadership strategies mixed with a bit of technology in order to deliver on that goal. They share common practices—most notably, harnessing the power of the members of the school community—to drive student success.

What can school leaders learn from our digital leaders? How do our Digital Principals lead the way in creating innovative learning experiences and supportive school environments? Here are just a few key themes of their practice. (more…)

Redefining the High School Experience: A Trauma-Informed Approach

Guest post by Deborah Moya

What makes ABQ Charter Academy (ABQCA) different from any traditional high school or charter school? I believe our mission statement says it all: “The mission of ABQ Charter Academy is to redefine the high school experience.” Many of our scholars have had very negative experiences in traditional high schools. They seek to find a place where they belong, and we offer an environment that is centered on each individual scholar and their unique differences.  (more…)

Using Feedback to Foster a Collaborative Campus Culture

Guest post by Melissa King-Knowles

When I was a teacher, I started using feedback looping processes to survey my high school students about particular units and methods of assessment. I asked what they liked and didn’t like and sought input on my teaching practice. With their brutal (ahem, I mean beautiful) honesty, students brought me to my knees on a couple of occasions. (more…)

The Importance of Staff “Floor Time” and Immersive School Leadership

Guest post by Chris Koch

As a parent of three young girls, I was introduced long ago to the concept of “floor time,” or getting down on the floor and playing with your kids. Through the years, I have been a student in my daughters’ classrooms, a customer at their homemade arts and crafts store, and a judge in a spontaneous dance off. Quality floor time is fun and helps me build deeper relationships with my daughters. It means so much more to my kids than just sitting on the couch and casually watching them play. (more…)