Fostering the “Goldilocks Zone for Learning” is ensuring your school has the right mix of relationships, high expectations, positive learning culture, and a relentless approach for improvement. None of the four elements can compensate for the other. They each are essential at the foundation of any successful school. As leaders, we need to expect excellence and reflect often. I have included a reflection rubric for your use as a way to help become better today than you were yesterday at building spaces that are just right for learning. Let’s create schools that have relationships and positive school culture at the center of all decisions. Download my FREE reflection rubric today!
It is important for our schools and organizations to have a laser focus on what is important. We need to set SMART goals and create a strategic plan to ensure we are making progress. Using data to inform our decisions, we need to have the contentedness and confidence to do what is right. I can work with your school to develop a purposeful mission and vision.
I am on a journey to deliver student perspectives to stakeholders inside and outside of education to ensure student voices are heard. My hope is that every student is at the proverbial table as we make important educational decisions that will influence the rest of their lives. This is about bringing young people out of the shadows.
The idea for these posts came directly from one of my students. After writing a blog about empowering students and asking for feedback, I waited for responses to come in. I believe the crickets outside my window made more noise than the readers of that post. However, I did receive one piece of feedback and sure enough, the person was a 18-year-old high school student of mine. He helped me realize that I need to start taking my own advice. I needed to listen to my own message. I was offering inspiration on how we educate our young people and I, too, was forgetting to involve the youth voice. Once again, I was taking this journey alone and writing about what students needed without including the most important voice of all. I just needed to stop my roll, drop what I felt needed to be done, and listen to my students. There is an opportunity to be just like my favorite children’s book character, the Lorax. I need to make sure someone is speaking for the students. I will not stand by and underestimate them. I will give them the opportunity to tell their stories. I learn and am inspired every day because of them. I hope I can do the same for you.
My first interview was with Jacob. Jacob is a recent high school graduate. I was humbled and inspired as we spent almost two hours talking at a local coffee shop about his K-12 journey. Throughout the discussion, there were four clear trends that appeared very clearly. I will do my best to share these with you:
“Success of a School Should be Measured By Happiness”
According to Jacob, “You can measure the success of a school by the happiness of the students.” He added, “If a student hates school, they will never learn.” Teachers create learning environments that not only encourage learning, they provide a safe and positive space for kids to be happy. What is the happiness score at your school? In my opinion, the best teachers understand that we must meet the basic needs before we can worry about the learning. At some point in the journey of education, students move from counting down the days for school to start to counting down the days until school is over. How do we create schools where students want to be?
“Great Teachers Make Great Schools, Not the Other Way Around”
Schools do not change lives, the relationships students have with their teachers change lives. According to Jacob, “If I had to choose between a great teacher or a great school, I would choose the great teacher any day because a teacher can take the focus off a bad school and bad policies. They create a positive learning environment for all students.” He went on to clearly state, “Great teachers make great schools, not the other way around.” Funny how as we gear up for a new school year, we can get so caught-up in our school philosophies, policies, and spaces, but the power of a strong teacher and student relationship is what truly makes the difference.
We never realize the impact that we make every day. Students can often be lost in our schools. Students can feel disconnected and unwelcome. Learning spaces should be inspirational and full of opportunities for connection. Relationships matter. We cannot be afraid to invest and dedicate time to ensuring every student has a positive adult in their life. One who believes in them and truly listens.
“Students Are More than a Test Score”
“Don’t be hypocritical,” says Jacob. “On one hand, schools want you to be you, but then it seems as though I was only judged on my test scores.” Jacob, you are so much more than a test score. The world needs so much more than a test score. We cannot take the humanity out of education. Making connections and meaningful relationships with students will bring out the best in each of them. Building individual relationships should be the number one priority. Building powerful relationships needs to be intentional not accidental. Let us help students be noticed, not just recognized.
“You Do Not Have to Know Everything to Inspire Someone”
Jacob was clear, “Students want to learn, and they want to be inspired.” He continued, “Students do not need their teachers to know everything or be the smartest person in the world. Students want teachers who are engaging and make the learning interesting.” Jacob also felt compelled to include, “Be patient with us (students) as we make mistakes because we do not all learn at the same speed.”
Our students deserve to be listened to and they deserve to have a personalized opportunity to learn. Jacob promised me he would help some other students and me write a book. Until then, I hope you can connect with a young person and find the time to truly listen. I am a better person and teacher thanks to Jacob.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! My guess is that Jacob would as well.
I will be presenting at the Midwestern Workshop on Effective Education for the At-Risk held at Marian University in Fond du Lac, WI on July 17-18, 2019. I will be discussing Competency Based Education (CBE). CBE has been receiving much attention, and is being implemented in many educational arenas: primary grades to higher education. Have you or your institution started a dialogue about CBE? If you are new to CBE, or if you have already begun implementation, this workshop is designed to build on your understanding (or lack thereof) of current CBE trends and practices. The goals for this workshop are to broaden your understanding of CBE, and how CBE can raise learning expectations for all students. Secondly, we will explore how CBE can be used to foster student equality, autonomy, and engagement. I hope to see you there!
Team building has become a growing hot topic in the educational and corporate world. What does that word really mean? It is the dedicated process of building functional teams that are willing to collaboratively tackle difficult tasks. Why Team Building? A question we should always ask…if not our students will. I’ve included lots of activities and ideas for team building. Download my FREE Whitepaper today!
Download My Blueprint for Team Building
We cannot learn if we do not want to be at school or work. I believe that the culture of schools, businesses, and classrooms is what ultimately determines their success. If we dedicate time to ensuring a small culture, we will be set to tackle any challenge. Let me know how I can help you continuously improve your school or business culture.