school culture

Using Student Leadership to Make SEL Meaningful for High School Students

A recent focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) has compelled high schools to purchase curricula and add such models as advisory periods or homeroom to teach SEL skills. According to The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, advisory periods provide a regular time for direct instruction on SEL skills, which is most effective when integrated into a whole-school approach to SEL. In my experience, however, many teenagers perceive isolated advisory SEL lessons as fake or irrelevant and disengage from these valuable learning opportunities. They often feel as though the teacher is lecturing to them and not taking their individuality into account. Our leadership team wanted to provide students with a meaningful SEL experience, and we decided to use student leaders to make this happen. (more…)

District Support Is Key to Principal Success

The following post originally appeared on the Learning Policy Institute’s Learning in the Time of COVID-19 blog, a series that explores evidence-based and equity-focused strategies and investments to address the current crisis and build long-term systems capacity.

In September, Steven Elizondo, principal of Golden Hill K–8, a dual-language immersion school in San Diego, began the complicated task of planning for “phase one” of school reopening. Golden Hill, like all district schools, had started the school year online. But students who needed on-site support, including elementary students who were experiencing learning loss and special education students with high needs, would be back on campus in mid-October, while others would continue with distance learning. The logistics for starting in-person learning safely and getting the correct information to families and staff were daunting. But Principal Elizondo was not in it alone. Thanks to the district’s collaborative learning structure, he and his counterparts at other schools were able to tap the expertise and experience of a colleague who had developed protocols and processes for returning to school, as well as a communications strategy for families and staff. Using these models saved precious time and supported consistent practices across the district. (more…)

Building a Successful and Sustainable Bullying Prevention Program

As we observe National Bullying Prevention Month in October, it is a great time for schools across the country to evaluate their bullying prevention strategies. The media attention around bullying has created a sense of resolve around the issue, and as a result there has been a call for action and demands for schools to do what they can to decrease bullying. (more…)

Leading By Example: How School Principals Can Support LGBTQ Students

The following interview first appeared on the Human Rights Campaign website as a guest post contribution.

As equality and acceptance continue to be top of mind for many, many school leaders continue to ask what else they can be doing to support students who face discrimination within the classroom. Ashton Mota, HRC Youth Ambassador and representative of the LGBTQ community at his school, sat down with Chuck Puga, principal of Smokey Hills High School in Aurora, CO, to discuss ways that other school leaders can help their students. (more…)

Culture Outlasts Quarantine

A month or so back, I stopped by my office to accomplish some tasks and to retrieve materials I needed in order to continue working virtually. On my desk were notes about some minor discipline matters that had occurred on the day before we left school. Nothing eventful, just typical middle school “naughtiness.” I have a stark admission to make—I tossed them in the bottom of my desk drawer. (more…)

Maximizing Space and Talent in Your School

I think one of the best parts of being a principal is when a fleeting comment becomes an idea, an idea becomes a conversation, and that idea then becomes an integral part of your school’s DNA. These ideas and conversations might answer the question, “How do we make this better?” or, “What’s the next big thing?”For us, the next big thing involved taking advantage of our space through partnerships that expand learning opportunities for students in our school and others in the district. (more…)

Finding Unexpected Community Resources for Your Student Support Network

When a headline broke in USA Today several years back calling Farmington, NM, “the worst place to raise a child,” my school took it personally. Having raised two daughters in the town, my wife and I had often commented to each other what a great community it was, and the great quality schools were part of that discussion. But the article went solely off of data, and I’m sure the authors had never set foot in our town. (more…)

Cultivating a Culture of Risk-Takers Among Teachers

The focus of any school must be on the student, but emphasizing teacher success pays dividends throughout a school’s culture. Specifically, by encouraging teachers to take risks, we model this positive behavior for students who will need it throughout their academic careers and beyond. Here are five ways we cultivate this at Bernard Middle School. (more…)

Read This, Save Lives: Creating Safer Classrooms for LGBTQ+ Students

I was a curious student who spent my free periods talking to teachers, and I could find my way around the library blindfolded. But for most of my life, I absolutely dreaded going to school. (more…)

Leading Through Crisis

This fall, the Science Leadership Academy faced its biggest challenge in the 13-year history of the school. After leasing our charming but limited space for many years, we were scheduled to move into a refurbished co-located facility. This was a watershed moment for the district, as it marked the first time in recent memory that two existing schools—one citywide magnet and one neighborhood school—would be co-located in the same facility. The district was committing $23 million to the renovation, and it was seen as a potential roadmap for a district with many severely underutilized facilities. We’d spent the better part of two years preparing—designing the facility, getting to know each other’s faculty, and prepping for the students from both schools to get to know their new neighbors in a way that was powerful and positive. (more…)