school culture

What is the Title of Your Book?

After leaving a fulfilling job as principal of Pocomoke High School after six amazing years, I began to reminisce on the work that my team had accomplished together. I thought, what if we were to write a book on the work we had done? What would we entitle the book? What would be the theme of the book? And what would the focus of each chapter be? (more…)

Stick Around…It Gets Better!

This year marks the beginning of the seventh year of my second principalship. I’ve learned that years six through nine are where things really seem to come together for me as a school leader; it takes me that long to know the students, the community, and my staff to the depth that is needed to effect positive, long-term change and impact. The school culture at Owen County High School (OCHS) has really taken shape over the last half decade, and we look forward to “making hay while the sun shines” for the next few years. (more…)

New School Year, New Energy: Setting Realistic Goals

New Beginnings

Once upon a time, I had the greatest summer job ever: working at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation in east central Ohio. We were a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings who got to exercise almost total creative control for the camp and its programming. Before the campers or full staff arrived on the reservation, leadership would sit down in front of a whiteboard and simply list all the needs, wants, and dreams for the year—and then go make it happen. (more…)

Student Voice and Choice Through Personalized Learning Time

Each year I invite our teachers at Montour High School to participate in the Shadow a Student Challenge. For one week, a group of teachers spends time following students around the building, attending their classes, and joining them in lunch, activities, and more. Afterward, the teachers and I get together and talk about their shadowing experiences. It was during one of these afternoon conversations that changed the direction of our school community for the better.

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Five Simple Ways to Boost Social Capital in Schools

Guest post by Nathan Boyd, director, African American Student and Parent Services for South Bend Community School Corporation

Whether it’s Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, or the app du jour, our kids are digitally connected to one another in more ways than I can count. Despite their virtual connectedness, kids seem to be more isolated and alone these days. Their sense of belonging and esteem is lacking, which has detrimental effects on their personal and academic success. How can school leaders help students connect to one another in the real world? (more…)

Recalibrate Your School’s Opening During #1st3days

Guest post by Brian McCann

It’s taken me nearly 15 years to get the opening of school “right.”

And in all of the summer planning I did for more than a decade: the refreshing of the building, the supplies ordering, the school’s master schedule, I forgot the most important stakeholder of all: the children.

It wasn’t until I was engaged in a summer Twitter chat a few summer’s back that Craig Vroom, an Ohio middle school principal, introduced me to the #1st3days.

The philosophy of #1st3days has a laser focus on relationship-building and brands from the opening bell that people are the heart of this high school.

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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…)

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…)

Every Student Matters

Guest post by John C. Bartlett

When I woke up the morning after Election Day, my to-do list had a new priority: a visit to my English language learner classroom and a conversation with our 50 students who were getting their first taste of American democracy at work. What did these students want and need from me and their teachers? These students wanted to know that they matter, that someone cared about them, and that they were safe. Essentially, they wanted to know what every student needs to know when they walk through the front door of our schools every day. (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…)