The February 2014 Educational Leadership publication is focused on building school morale and offers several articles reflecting on how to cultivate positive spirits in a school staff. The timing is superb… I note on my calendar at the beginning of February every year to brace for the mid-year slump. While I’m convinced it has a good deal to do with the lack of daylight and cold weather here in northern MN, I also agree Megan and Bob Tschannen-Moran that “bolstering school morale is a primary school improvement strategy” (pg. 38). School leadership teams need to assess, plan for, implement action plans to address, and progress monitor the emotional pulse of the larger school team just as an effective coach of an athletic team or the director of musical must do. An emotionally flat team simply cannot perform well while one wrapped up in the positive synergy of real, results oriented school improvement can knock it out of the park.
12 years after leaving the classroom to serve in school and district leadership roles, the awful feelings tied to being unable to reach every one of my students still haunt me. I remember long nights in my early teaching years spent developing plans for small groups, large groups, and individual activities designed to address a wide spectrum of ability levels and interests. I passionately searched for resources and lesson ideas that might engage reluctant learners, and I worked hard to forge a positive relationships with each child. While I believe I reached more students than the average teacher, I did not reach them all and I believed there had to be a better way to “do school.” There simply had to be a way to structure our work that would increase the engagement and learning of each student. But how??? Read more
Establishing structures and processes for meaningful collaboration focused on delivering better results is a research supported component of nearly every kind of effective organization. Published in the research describing the correlates of effective schools in the 1970s and 80s, we educators have largely struggled to close the “knowing doing gap” to implement focused, meaningful collaboration due to the assembly line structure of our system and an unwillingness to embrace change as a necessary positive. Our more recent focus on implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) has moved collaboration efforts forward considerably, yet the literature and constant conversations about being a PLC continues to make clear just how much we struggle to change our system to facilitate this kind of work. At the end of the day, real collaboration requires protected routine time for teachers to focus on the student achievement results created in their classrooms. The time needs to be led by effective teacher leaders, and a disciplined culture that doesn’t tolerate the all too common tangent or distraction must be cultivated. 15 – 20 hours each week focused on collaborative analysis of specific lessons, student work, and common assessment results is taking place in other advanced countries and the results are beginning to show. Read more