school culture

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…)

Our Experiences Influence Our Leadership

Thirty years into my public education career, I am still in awe every day of the power of what we do. In 1848, Horace Mann claimed, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery.” At a personal level, education can be a game changer, and principals are leading that charge. We level playing fields, remove barriers, and create hope. (more…)

Lessons Learned About Tolerance From a Walk in the Woods

There we were, crouched down on the side of a mountain, mesmerized by the view of a bull elk through the trees. My husband and I were about two feet apart, neither of us moving and both of us holding our breath in fear of alerting the majestic beast to our presence. And then, as only a married couple could, we started to argue.

“That’s a big bull,” I whispered. “It’s okay,” my husband replied, shrugging.

“It’s looking right at us,” I said. “No, it’s not,” he replied. “Its head is down, and he’s eating grass.”

“No, he’s looking right at me,” I asserted. (more…)

Building Momentum, the Jack Way

With the Lumberjacks as our mascot, the pride of R.A. Long High School dates back to 1927. Ninety-two years later, we have lifted the minds and spirits of our lumber town’s community with a true 97 percent graduation rate, with many students the first high school graduates in their family and the first to go on to college. We built that momentum, with little in the way of additional resources, through a coordinated series of programs and activities we call the Jack Way.  Here’s how: (more…)

Nurturing a Culture of Gratitude

Each year in November, we take time as a middle level school to emphasize the importance of gratitude. While we are an international school, we build off the American holiday of Thanksgiving as a foundation for celebrating recognition and thanks. Abundant research connects gratitude with a sense of purpose and happiness, and focusing on gratitude is an important way to help meet students’ social-emotional needs. (more…)