school culture

Out of the School and Into the Community: Why I Became an Adviser

Guest post by Natasha Schaefer, NHS adviser at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, CA. 

When I opened my inbox to find an email from my vice principal, I was relieved that it wasn’t about an upset parent or other administrative tasks. Instead, it was calling for volunteers. Our National Honor Society (NHS) adviser had moved to another school, and the position needed to be filled. While I normally worked with lower-achieving students—a satisfying duty in its own right—I decided I wanted to get to know the kids on the other end of the spectrum. (more…)

How to Reduce After-School Detentions and Make Them Meaningful

Detention has been around for as long as I can remember, and some of us—myself included—have served a detention or two when we were students. When I became principal of Wilson West Middle School, I thought deeply about detention as part of our discipline practice. Do detention policies that have been around for decades work for today’s students? If the same students keep finding themselves in detention, what good do they serve? Are detentions effective and helping students learn from their mistakes or do schools keep them simply because they are so ingrained in our tradition? (more…)

Define a Collective Purpose to Guide Your School’s Culture

As school leaders, it is never too early to plan how you want to begin the next school year. In what manner can you galvanize your staff to start a new year? Many schools have a mission or a vision statement, but I want to challenge that notion. Why change or divert from this philosophy? Many of us in leadership could not recite our specific mission statements by memory. Many of us will have to dust off the document and read it again to refresh our memory. (more…)

Collaborative Practices to Hire for Excellence

A few weeks ago, at Montana’s State Administrator conference, I had the opportunity to listen to Jimmy Casas, author of Start. Right. Now.and Culturize. He asked a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. In talking about the importance of hiring quality teachers, he asked, “How do we train people on hiring committees to hire people for excellence?” (more…)

Building Strong Relationships Within the School Community

It is my privilege to be one of the educational leaders in our rural community with a student enrollment of 400 fabulous kids! There is a magical atmosphere in our school, and though I cannot take all of the credit for our pizazz, I know that my role as a leader contributes to it. To me, the heart and soul of a school district is relationships. How can school leaders cultivate a culture that puts relationships at its center? Here are some of the ways that Timber Lake School promotes strong relationships among our students, staff, families, and the community. (more…)

Creating a Culture of Nourishing Relationships

So much of the principalship is rooted in ever-evolving data, never-ending checklists, and meeting the needs of stakeholders. However, most know that true growth and success come from the ability to not only manage the aforementioned items, but also to create a culture that invites and nourishes relationships. During the infancy of my principalship, I have been pleasantly surprised at the growth of our school family. In reflection, sharing my why, inviting others to share theirs, and creating meaningful opportunities to grow relationships has made a profound difference. (more…)

What FOMO looks like at Glenpool High School

After attending the 2018 National Principals Conference, I had a renewed vision of what kind of school I wanted to give my students. As principal of Glenpool High School (GHS), I had always focused on building positive relationships with students, but I wanted to take it a step further. (more…)

Share Your Passion with Students: School-Wide Clubs

A maximal learning environment cannot exist without students feeling safe and connected with their teacher in the classroom. But teachers quickly get caught up with the demands of covering curriculum and meeting mandates. Most times, it is easier to conform to the system instead of infusing our individual personalities into our school lives. (more…)

Making Connections: Lighting a Fire in Your Staff and Students

I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. On the flip side, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the difference-maker between success and failure. (more…)

It’s Not About You! Keeping Perspective During Difficult Conversations

A day in the life of a principal can be fraught with difficult discussions that require a careful approach. You have likely found yourself in a conversation which caused you to feel anxious, stressed, or even angry. Although these emotions are natural, they can limit your ability to see problems clearly and prevent your openness to different solutions. After experiencing numerous challenging interactions, I have realized that I need to find ways to focus on these conversations and remove any emotional response so that problems can be solved effectively. (more…)