positive school culture

Promoting an Inclusive School Environment

For students with disabilities or unique challenges, finding a source of understanding at the school level makes a profound difference. For Aubrey Bridges, a student with an intellectual and developmental disability, having a teacher who saw her ability made all the difference for her; however, the impact she had on me forever changed my capacity as an educator. Aubrey grew up with multiple disabilities that include autism, verbal apraxia, auditory processing disorder, and a Vein of Galen Malformation that required surgery at age three. Because it was difficult for her to talk, she learned sign language and uses communication devices. (more…)

How to Keep Staff Motivated Throughout the School Year

I always love the first few of days of each year when the anticipation for school is palpable. The students are eager to get their schedules, see their friends, and make their Friday night game plans. While their excitement for school makes me remember my teenage dreams, it’s the staff who really inspires me. Restored from the summer, the staff is even more eager than the students to get their classrooms organized, collaborate with colleagues on lesson plans, and fulfill the promise of the new school year. (more…)

Transforming School Culture: Know It, Feel It, Live It

When I first arrived, Lake Shore Middle School (LSMS) was on the verge of a state takeover. With an F grade for two straight years on the state report card, LSMS was plagued with a host of problems including discipline issues, an unclear academic focus, a discouraged staff, and students who had embraced a failing attitude. Where was I to begin, and how was I going to turn this school around? (more…)

When Going to the Principal’s Office is a Good Thing

As a child of the 1980s, I cheered on Ferris Bueller as he played hooky to hang out with his pals on his day off and rooted for John Bender as he snuck out of detention with the Breakfast Club. In both of these films, the school administrator served as the villain. Both Dean Edward Rooney and Assistant Principal Richard Vernon had the same goal: Take down the problem student and make his life miserable.

While I have to admit that these preposterous characterizations are often hilarious, they perpetuate a damaging stereotype that school administrators are ruthless disciplinarians who are out of touch with students. (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…)

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…)

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…)