It’s February! That means we’re talking about the importance of cultivating a Strong Mission & Culture, one of the XQ School Design Principles.
A unifying set of values ensures every stakeholder is not only accountable but committed to helping every student realize their full potential—regardless of who they are or where they come from. Now, let’s get to it…
EXECUTE: GREAT LEADERS GET THINGS DONE
Creating a student-centered environment is easier said than done but not impossible. And great leadership is key to getting it done effectively. So, what are the 5 most effective actions school leaders can take and why?
- Foster a culture of risk-taking and innovation for teachers. This helps them get an understanding of the student’s learning experience.
- Involve teachers in developing a school-wide vision for teaching and learning, and the planning of how to achieve it. This helps them feel more personally tied to the work.
- Build opportunities for collaboration among teachers. It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t.
INSPIRE: ADVICE FROM SCHOOL LEADERS
When veteran school leaders shared tips on how to build a positive school culture, there was a clear consensus: School leaders should model positive attitudes and behaviors for staff and students. Doing so is proven to improve student outcomes and reduce teacher turnover. Here’s where to start:
- Recognize great work by acknowledging that person and extending the conversation about that work to someone else.
- Create an environment where communication is positive and affirming. For instance, replace signs that say, “No standing” with ones that say, “Keep walking.”
BUILD: WHAT MAKES A STRONG CULTURE
A strong school culture is the foundation for the teacher, student, and family experience with any school. And while there’s no simple formula for what makes a strong school culture, Harvard researchers found 5 shared characteristics:
- Fundamental beliefs and assumptions
- Shared values
- Patterns and behaviors
- Tangible evidence
BELIEVE: EVERY STUDENT HAS POTENTIAL
What’s the key to unlocking a student’s limitless potential? Boosting their confidence. That’s the subject All4Ed’s podcast, Critical Window covered when interviewing Dr. Yvette Jackson, a veteran educator about her book, “The Pedagogy of Confidence.” And she shared some tips on how to do exactly that:
- Help students believe in themselves by identifying their strengths.
- Show students how their learning applies to what’s going on in the world.
- Create a school culture that represents the culture of its students.
EMBED: HIGHER EXPECTATIONS, HIGHER ASPIRATIONS
They say it takes a village. (Ain’t that the truth?) But really, it takes effort from every stakeholder—school leaders, teachers, students, and families alike—to create a culture of college-readiness for students. Here are some tips from educators who’ve mastered this mindset:
- Don’t ask, “Are you going to college?” Instead ask, “Where are you planning to go to college, and what are your plans when you get there?”
- Require 9th graders to take the PSATs and 11th graders to take the SATs. By the time they’re 12th graders, they’ll be primed to take it again on their own.
- Encourage students to apply to at least 6 schools: 2 in state, 4 out of state.
XQ X-tra: Like we said, it takes a village.
An excellent school is grounded in a deep understanding of its students and a vision for what they can achieve. And that starts with a strong school mission and culture.