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.

I knew I wanted to share my passion with my students and spend quality time in working with the idea that all students, regardless of unique learning needs or labels, are a meaningful and crucial part of our school family. I, along with a former student with autism, Aubrey Bridges, began to share small moments in time with our student body. We spoke to the entire fifth grade, launching the book Wonder and sharing Aubrey’s unique story. When we were waiting on a substitute teacher in music, I took that moment as an opportunity to have a conversation with our fourth graders and focused on the strengths of all students.

Currently, we are teaching a kindergarten class their alphabet and basic reading principles in three modalities: letter, sound, and sign. We have seen dramatic results is the increase of phonemic awareness and beginning reading skills, showing our students that just because you have struggles with autism or learning, you have a gift that you can share that will make a true impact on others. My students love interacting with Aubrey as she volunteers at our school and has become a meaningful part of our school culture. More importantly, students and teachers have begun sharing their passions with me, and we are able to find ways to nourish those passions.

Now, as we move through the most stressful days of the school year, both students and teachers are able to share and nourish their stories and passions. Whether it is helping others through gathering items, raising money through selling cause bracelets, or a participating in a local high school pink out game, we are able to build relationships and celebrate our unique talents and gifts.

How do you as a leader share your “why” with your students? How does your school foster and nourish both student and teacher gifts? 

Meghan LeFevers is the principal at Tryon Elementary School in Bessemer City, NC. She is the 2018 North Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year, the 2017 Milken Educator, and the 2017 Gaston County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanLeFevers

1 Comment

  • Nayely Sanchez says:

    Building positive and strong relationships with students is an extremely important factor in the academic life of students. Having a school wide positive school culture and climate can also lead to higher student achievement. According to MacNeil et al. who conducted a study on school climate and student achievement in Texas with 29 schools showed that there is a positive correlation between both. The article went on to discuss the importance of the principal. Administration needs to build relationships with teachers, staff, parents and students to understand the school culture before making changes. I’m wondering how principals can shape the culture and climate in an efficient way. Coming from a district that values the curriculum and standards more than creating a positive school culture and climate, this post and article reinforce the need for there to be an emphasis in allotting time and support for teachers, staff and students to create this kind of rapport before diving into standards and such.

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