Eight of Eight: Community

It is tattered and torn… taped to the inside of a 5th grade locker.  Who is it from? Who was the lucky recipient? IMG_2730 Why is this letter so important that it stayed in place for an entire school year?  A year ago it was penned and now it is being taken down from the inside of the locker. This is what I learned about on the road this week…

Jackelyn Doyle is a young teacher at Cherokee Heights Elementary School in St. Paul, Minn.  I remember when I met Jacquelyn a few years ago. She had a challenging first year (as most teachers do) and maybe, just maybe, wasn’t sure that this was the career for her.  I am so proud of the teacher she has become.  One thing I truly love about going in her classroom is the sense of community that she builds with her students.  It isn’t just a room where students go for an entire year to work and learn; it is a class community built on mutual respect and care for one another.  I have never heard Jackelyn call her class “students”; they are “friends”. And, on my visit to her school this week, I learned a very real example of how that sense of community among friends starts at the very beginning of the year.

Just by accident, I overheard a conversation this week with Ms. Jackelyn talking about what the students were finding when they cleaned out their lockers.  She just happened to mention that one of them still had his letter that he had received from last year’s fifth grader.  I stopped her to ask what she meant.  “Oh, she said, my fifth graders write three letters at the end of every year; one to someone who has impacted their life, one to themselves and one to an incoming fifth grader.” She said it as if ALL teachers did this with their students… she looked completely surprised that my jaw had dropped and I was so excited! What an awesome way to welcome a fifth grader new to your class by having someone leaving the community tell about it.  What an amazing way to have students be reflective and of course, to write!

My past seven blogs have been about each chapter in Leading with Intention (https://www.solutiontree.com/products/leading-with-intention.html). This week finishes the eight chapters and it is all about community and relationships. Chapter eight begins with the quote, ‘No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” (James Corner). We ask the question, which leader would you rather work with- a leader who tells you what to do, when to do it but says little about why to do it and the value of the work? Or, would you prefer a leader who takes time to build a relationship with you and understand you, and supports your understanding of why the work is necessary? Author, John Maxwell, in his book, The Five Levels of Leadership, describes leading based on permission versus leading from our positions.  In order to reach that level of leadership, you have to gain the respect and confidence of others by gaining their permission to lead.  Jackelyn Doyle embraces “leading with permission” as she builds respect and confidence with her students as she builds community in her room.

I can not write about community today without mentioning my NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. I have been a fan for a long time and this year is a great year to love the Raptors.  I have often talked about their focus of GRIT over Given.  They have proven that hard work, respect for one another and team work creates success. They have a community within their team, led by a strong coach who leads with “permission”. Nick Nurse believes in his players and often has stated that his first job is to get to know his players and build relationships.  This year, the Raptors drew fans from all across Canada and far and away places in the world. They are a diverse team and demonstrated that building on each other’s strengths was more important than making it all about one player or another.  There is a Raptor community that extends beyond the team and the city of Toronto. They have taken their “We the North” theme and created a sense of community among 37,000,000 people in Canada.

Community is built around common purpose. In our schools and districts, learning does not take place in isolation. Teachers work in professional community, learning together and figuring out what our students need them to do next.  When students and parents are included in that community, we have effective schools. Jackelyn Doyle is a teacher who understands that relationships come before learning.  I appreciate you, Jackelyn and so do your students.

Have a wonderful week and summer. This will end my blogs until the fall.  Thank you for reading and staying with me.

 

Seven of Eight: Listening to Understand

Being home in Canada for a few days gave me a chance this week to watch all of the D-Day coverage of the Canadian troops seventy-five years ago in World War I.  The ceremony at Juno Beach was beautiful, thought-provoking and, most importantly, all about the veterans who were able to attend.  I took the time to watch it all and to really listen. I learned facts that I didn’t know. I understand now more than I did before, even though I thought I had a good understanding of this very historical, important day to all of us.

One of the things that really has stayed with me was the critical role that communication played in this event, and I am sure, many other important moments during this war.  I found one local story of the women who were located here in eastern Canada and  provided the quiet support as code-breakers during the war. IMG_8244The WRENS listened for hours and intercepted messages from German ships and submarines. In this story, the women describe the focus and intentionality of their work (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/d-day-code-breakers-women-1.5159789).

In chapter seven of Leading with Intention, Jeanne Spiller and I write about the important role that communication plays in school leadership (https://www.solutiontree.com/products/leading-with-intention.html). It might not be the life and death situations that the Canadian women were responsible for in World War I but it really is a critical skill set when we think about improving schools. One of the advantages that we have when we communicate, different from the women listening to the codes, is that we can ask clarifying questions.  Good listeners ask clarifying questions to be sure that they understand the speaker fully and correctly.  Similar to paraphrasing, good clarifying questions help resolve areas of confusion or misunderstanding.

In coaching situations with school principals, our time together often leads to discussions about critical conversations; times when honest, authentic discussions are necessary. These conversations depend on a leader’s ability to listen with positive intent and truly seek to understand. One common mistake that often happens in a leader’s busy day is “assuming” understanding instead of being sure.

There are many reasons that we misunderstand or miss important facts. It takes focus and intentionality to work at being a great listener, asking clarifying questions and seeking first to understand.  We know that the women in World War I worked every single second to listen with extreme focus and intentionality.  So many lives depended on their ability to listen.  And to think that their communication was extremely one-sided; they could not ask questions or have information repeated. They had to get it right the first time just by listening… by being great listeners.

Lastly, I don’t want to end this week’s blog without saying that the biggest message communicated this week was the critical importance of all of us remembering the sacrifices made by those who served in times of war.  Hearing the stories and personal reflections truly helps us understand.  I know what I have referenced here also happened in other countries as well.  Great leaders are great communicators.  Winning a war depends on this.  So does leading a school.  Have a great week.

 

Six of Eight: To Teach

Honoring the educator. It is that time of the year- retirements, graduations, bittersweet good-byes for students and teachers.  A school is one of the few businesses that shuts down and starts over again every year. Once we leave, desks get pushed to one side of the classrooms, floors get scrubbed and waxed, a year of elbow grease is washed off of desks and the halls have an eerie, quiet calmness.  It isn’t about the hallways though, it is about what happens in the classrooms. All year, every day, it is about the teaching and learning…

I remember, when I started teaching in the 80’s being told that anyone could teach; that once I had my education degree I would be a good teacher.  It was as if the degree and four years of university gave me all the tools in my toolbox to ensuring learning. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that being a great teacher was going to take much more than going to my classroom every day. colored-pencils-686679__340I had to practice my craft, continue to learn from other teachers, study, read and, most importantly, get to know my students.  I should be apologizing to the students from my early days… I am very confident that I could have done a much better job of ensuring learning.  I have learned so much over the years and the most important lesson is that to have highly engaged students who are learning means much more than just teaching.  Just because I taught it doesn’t mean students were learning.

As a school improvement coach, I have come full circle.  I am confident in my understanding now of the value and importance of classroom instruction. I see the difference when teachers take the time to learn more about effective instruction and practice their craft. I appreciate authentic collaboration when teachers work side by side and figure out their next steps together.  When they use their knowledge of their students and their curriculum to decide what to do in the classroom. It isn’t about turning to the next page of the textbook and lecturing; it is about knowing what they want students to know and be able to do and working hard, really hard to ensure that what they are doing in the classroom aligns to what has to be learned by students.

In chapter six of Leading with Intention, (https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html) Jeanne Spiller and I share our thoughts, some important research and several suggestions for how instruction can be the focus in a school. Engaging, effective classroom strategies do not just happen.  Yes, I know that there are natural-born teachers who just seem to figure out, on the fly, what has to happen next to make their lessons work. In my years of visiting classrooms, this is not the norm. Most educators, like other professionals, have to study, learn, practice and adjust when things are not working.  And, most importantly, great instruction depends on clarity about where students are on their learning journey and what they need next. It is important that we remember that teaching is about student learning; not covering content.

How can leaders support instruction? Classroom observations are important and not because principals need to “evaluate” or catch teachers doing wrong. It is really about being able to see what students are learning or what they are struggling with and helping teachers see this as well.  Principals who develop their own observation and feedback skills are able to support stronger instructional practices.  Figures 6.2 and 6.3 (https://www.solutiontree.com/free-resources/plcbooks/lwi) are great tools to use when in classrooms.

I know that this might not be the time of the year that you are heading in to classrooms but summer is a great time to consider your leadership practice. It is a great time to read, reflect and reset your own intentions for the next school year.  Once school starts, the “management” of the building takes over and often, the support that you can provide for instruction can be lost.  How you establish collaborative teams so that their discussions lead to improving instruction and what that looks like when it is implemented in classrooms is impacted by you, the school leader.

Take the time now, or once the dust settles, to create space for you to truly be an instructional leader. Read, study, plan.  Consider the needs of your students and teachers and create a work plan to hit the ground running when school starts.   Determine your own non-negotiables- what will you expect to see in classrooms and most importantly, how will you explain, model, support and provide continuous learning in daily practice?

To my principals reading this, I know that you know you have more work to do in this area and you are not alone.  It is a great area to focus on as you have more time to think and reflect. Have a great week. See you next Saturday.

To Women Who Lead

I was extremely lucky. It was the 80’s and I was school teacher. In my wildest dreams, I would never imagine that almost forty years later, I would be writing, publicly, about coaching and leading schools.  This would never have happened without support; tons of support from family and friends and some very strong words of encouragement from a small group of female leaders. It took the women who were already leading in education in New Brunswick, Canada in that era, to wrap their arms around me and to tell me to go for it.

Four school administration positions, two district positions, including nine years as superintendent (all in one district) and one year at the Department of Education later, I retired in 2013 to be a road warrior and work full time in service to schools needing improvement. And, I can honestly say, I would never have stayed the course, without the mentoring of a female superintendent and other strong women leaders in the early stages of my career.

I can still remember the first time I was invited to a WEA (Women in Education Association) event in the early 90s. It was a group of very strong, independent and successful women who were leading schools, districts, university departments and DOE positions in our province. To say that I was in awe and maybe a bit intimidated would be an understatement.  So many years later, I can close my eyes and be sitting in a room with them. I can almost remember all of the first conversations and learnings.  I am sure if they were here with me today, they would be pleasantly surprised at the impact that they had on me personally and professionally. I hope that they would be proud.

During those early years as a school administrator, I was blessed with a small circle of female kindred spirits who were school and district administrators. We became friends while attending a conference together and we were there for each other for years; through very challenging professional struggles and personal hardships. Without these women, I know I would have made an early exit from education. The bottom line was we had each other’s back.

Life comes full circle. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to pay it back, encouraging women to sit at the decision-making table, allowing others to see how they think and feel about what needs to happen in our schools and districts. I am blessed to have two strong daughters and, in my daily work, I have strong female principals to coach and women who are my thought partners, co-workers and dear friends. This week, I had an opportunity to have dinner with two talented women who I have watched grow as leaders.  One is beginning a new career as a school principal and the other is retiring from a district leadership position. I am so proud of the influence and impact both of them have on what happens in education. And, in July, I am fortunate to be presenting at a conference solely dedicated to empowering women to lead in education. (https://www.solutiontree.com/events/women-in-education-san-antonio.html)

This conference in San Antonio is not about male bashing or why women need to take over the world. It isn’t about comparing what men can do and women can do.  That has never been what I am about or what I want to be about. It truly is about seeing women understand their ability to impact and lead and to encourage continuous growth.  In Canada, women continue to make up the majority of workers in education-related occupations.  The proportion of women is especially high at the elementary and preschool levels, where they make up 84% of the teaching staff . In our high schools, it is around 57%. (from Statistics Canada). Screen Shot 2019-05-24 at 6.44.30 AMI was not able to find the statistic that demonstrates how many females lead in education positions in our country but from this image, you see the numbers in the United States. I am sure that Canada’s would be similar.

 

I am surrounded by many amazing women friends who support and lead change.   I also live thirty minutes from a city with an incredible female mayor- Mayor Dawn Arnold. She became the mayor of Moncton in 2016 and she has led by example. She is a visible, forward-thinking, inspiring, organized,  smart, analytic and fun person (just a few of her qualities.).  She shows up, physically and in every way to move this city forward.  She uses social media to connect to her constituents, to celebrate our hockey and basketball wins, to attend an outdoor skating event in the brutal cold, to seek help when she needs advice and support for city projects and reports out with a live video chat.  Of course, she does this in both of our official languages, French and English.  My favorite image of Dawn is her daily posts of her bicycle ride to and from work. She is working hard to promote the city trails and the need for a more healthy lifestyle for all of us.

Lastly, I can not write about women in leadership without commenting on New Zealand’s young prime minister, Jacinda Arden. If you have not heard her speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2018 or read about her leadership through the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, NZ, you really should.  Again, a female who leads by example and knows that her words and actions have impact every single day.  My favorite quotes from her (so far) are:

“If you sit and wait to feel like you are the most confident person in the room, you are probably going to be left by yourself.”

and

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

So, I encourage my female readers to come to San Antonio and reflect, learn and grow with us. One of the other presenters, Jane Kise wrote a great blog about ‘why’ this conference and I am sharing the link here. (https://www.janekise.com/2019/02/why-a-women-in-leadership-conference/).  And, to my male friends and thought partners, you know that your incredible leadership and service does not go unnoticed. It is about adding our voices to the table, not removing yours. Strong, male leaders provide us with role models and great work partners.  We all need each other.  Have a great week.  See you next Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Arnold

AUTHOR OF QUOTE: Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand- 38 years old At 37, Ardern became the youngest leader of the Labour Party in its history. She is also the second female leader of the party after Helen Clark.

 

 

Mayor of Moncton- since 2016- Frye Festival (2000)  City Councillor

President of New Zealand

Five of Eight: Celebrating the Student

Schools exist for students. For no other reason, we have schools.  Every decision made about the how, what, why, when and who has to be in service to students.  At every level, the student has to be “in the room” when we plan our next steps. Why we open and close buildings, what curriculum we will use, who we will hire to drive our buses or to lead our schools are decisions that must be made because of the students.  How hard is this to remember?  Does it truly drive our work? On the road this week, I had so many great reminders of why we do this work… the student…

In my schools and districts in the southern states, students are graduating as I type this blog. On Friday, the seniors from the high school visited the intermediate school that I was working in.  As they proudly walked through the school in the caps and gowns, students and teachers cheered.  Graduates stepped out of line to hug the teachers that they recognized from days gone by and young students recognized babysitters or neighbors, beaming proudly at them as they passed by. One teacher was in tears when she saw a young lady who she never thought would make it to graduation day.

Just before the graduation visit, I had spent the morning with the school’s leadership team. We were reflecting on our work this year and planning our next steps for the 2019-2020 school year.  Despite the exhaustion on their faces, the teachers were able to have an honest, careful discussion about their professional growth. We laughed together and even had a few tears over stories that can only happen with trust and mutual respect. And, mostly, we talked about the student.  Their proudest reflections centered on student growth. fullsizeoutput_1091How far students had come in their academic achievement was what brought the most smiles to the room and when I think back to what they suggested as the next steps on our school improvement journey, again, it was all about the student.

Keeping the student in the room. What does it take to be this intentional?  In Leading with Intention, https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html Jeanne Spiller and I dedicate chapter five to this; what does it mean to authentically be about “the student”? We share our experiences about what it does not look like as well as what it should be when decisions are authentically about the student.  We acknowledge that this is not as easy as it sounds.  We see many mission statements written that exclaim the student at the focus of all work, however, when you really dig deep, decisions and actions do not align.

Consider a decision to move an entire student body out of a school to another building only to find out after the move has started that there are not enough classrooms to accommodate all of the students so some will be moved elsewhere.  Imagine being the fifth grader finding out tomorrow that your class will no longer be housed with your friends, teachers and other fifth graders because someone forgot to count the rooms. Or, the high school student who finds out in March that a counselor made a mistake on their course selection options and the potential student cannot graduate.  And, maybe you have experienced witnessing a hiring of a teacher only because of connections to the school board, not based on what the students need.  All true stories in my world.

How do we communicate unwavering belief in students? What do you need as reminders of this important priority? In some schools and districts, a decision-making protocol might be helpful that focuses first on the student causing you to intentionally describe how this decision will impact students before you consider anything else such as resources or policy. It might mean having more opportunities to talk to students bringing their voice to the table through focus groups, lunch and learns, principal advisory groups and daily conversations in service of good relationships. These types of practices can go a long way in increasing the mutual respect and support of our students. Check out this sample template from Chapter five: https://solutiontree.s3.amazonaws.com/solutiontree.com/media/pdfs/Reproducibles_LWI/figure5.1studentcentereddecisionmakingprotocol.pdf.

I remember, one time as superintendent many years ago, having a parent remind me of my purpose. A meeting was about to start with a very angry parent and she quietly placed a picture of her son on the table. It was very difficult, well impossible, to forget about our “why”. Why we were in the room was about her son and the picture quickly brought him in the room. I want to say that even without that picture I would have stayed intentionally focused on why we meeting but I have to say, the picture made it impossible to forget.

As I said to the leadership team at my school this week, we are in “service” to our students when we go to work. That is our purpose. That is our why. It is our responsibility to not let this slip away as we made decisions.  District and school leaders cannot lose sight of this. Do whatever it takes for you to check your thinking, revise your plans, correct your mistakes so you get this part of our work right.  What will you do to insure positive impact on students? Have a great week.

Four of Eight: What’s the Story?

As life happens so do our lessons.  We work, we play, we love, we live and how much we actually stop and notice…well, I am not always sure. At least that is true for me.  I hope that I am not missing too many of life’s lessons along the way. I had two of them this week; both very related and totally aligned with what I wanted to write with you about in this weekly blog as it was time for chapter four.  Here is what happened…

Have you ever really felt surprised by yourself?  You know, when you absolutely should have remembered something or knew it without being told?  Especially when you actually do know it but stopped seeing it for some reason?  Last weekend, I attended training for the school improvement work that I do.  It was with several of my colleagues and led by Dr. Sharon Kramer and Sarah Schuhl. These two women have written an amazing book, School Improvement for All (https://www.solutiontree.com/school-improvement-for-all.html) and it is foundational in the work that we do. About half way through the first day, I had my ah ha moment.  I cannot even tell you what we were talking about or why at that moment I had my epiphany, but I did. It dawned on me, that, more times than I should be, in my work, I was relying on my experience to guide my practice rather than the story in front of me. In other words, the current reality, the data, the evidence needed to be the first thing that I truly focused on when making next step decisions. It has always been important to me but I recognized that I needed to do a better job of this.

I know that as I go in to my schools, I bring many years of experiences that are important to our work. What I was reminded of this week is that it cannot be the most important piece of my coaching work. Evidence-Based-PracticeI have to continue to look at the evidence of adult practices, student achievement, the current picture of school routines and procedures and any other real evidence that paints the picture of what is happening in the school. I have to continue to study and be a learner of the most current and first-best practices and while I can rely on my experiences to guide me, I have to let the evidence be the lead factor.

This is the focus of chapter four of Leading with Intention, the book that I co-authored with Jeanne Spiller and what a series of eight of my blogs have been about.  Jeanne and I actually wrote a chapter that states the same thing that my ah ha moment was about.(https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html).    The chapter includes opportunities for learning and reflecting on how to become more evidence- based in our decision-making.  We quote Dr. Doug Reeves who reminds us that it is human nature to use background knowledge, lean on past experiences and influence others from our comfort zone. Reeves states, “however clear the evidence, personal experience remains triumphant in too many discussions of education policy”. As Reeves acknowledges, in education, we work from our experiences and opinions more often than we should when there is evidence in front of us that can inform our decisions.  You see, I knew this (I wrote about it), but I needed reminders this past week.

What does the work look like when we focus on the evidence? It is about digging deep until you find the root cause of why a student isn’t able to read, why students stop coming to sixth period class, what the trends are with staff attendance, what information is found in that state or provincial assessment data when you get it back. It takes honest, professional discussion about what is happening in some classrooms that is engaging and causing student success while right down the hall, the very same students are not being successful.  It means that we hold up a mirror when we need to and examine the evidence of our own habits and any other places that the real story can be told. And, it means we continuously read and learn together to improve our skills in honor of our students. I might be able to provide guidance and support as I work with a school but the real help will come when we unpack the evidence and use it to plan our next steps.

I left our weekend of training feeling energized and eager to see my school this week. We hit the ground running with lots of work with teachers and then, circumstances brought light to this same lesson again. As I was helping my teachers with their planning for the next school year, some of the teachers were having a difficult time understanding why the work we were asking them to do was so important. I think they were truly missing the deep understanding of how this would help the students. And, so, once again, the evidence was needed.

Using evidence to articulate and see what students should be able to do at grade level and what they currently can or cannot do is the driver when planning next steps.  As difficult as the current reality picture might be to see, it has to be on the table.  You cannot improve schools without a deep understanding of what is working and what is not.  That is where our decisions must come from. Luckily for me and my teachers, they were going to have an opportunity that same week to look at data with a colleague of mine. Heather is a rock star with deep understanding of the work that we do and she was able to create a stronger commitment to why the next steps we had discussed were the right steps. I am so appreciative of her.

As we begin to close schools for the summer and set our plans in place for the next school year, we need to move forward confidently because of what we know not just what our opinions might be.  Our decisions and plans for improving schools have to be based on the evidence in front of us. And, if we don’t have the evidence, we need to get it. You may need to look in new places and directions to truly see your story. You might want help with this work and not really be sure, at first, what the evidence is telling you. The important thing is to get started and look for the patterns and discuss the “whys”. In fact, ask the question “why?” enough times until you see the big picture and you are able to tell your story.  Have a great week.

 

 

Two of Eight: Mixed Messages

Confusion sets in.  You can see it in their faces. You think that you are being very clear on next steps and expectations. What is wrong with what you are saying or doing?  How can they not understand? In our personal and professional lives, we experience moments when clarity seems impossible.  To ourselves or to others, sometimes, things do not make sense.

Despite our best intentions, we don’t always match our words with our actions.  First of all, we have to understand what we prioritize and expect.  It takes self-discipline and commitment to stay focused on what we have decided is the right work.  And, we have to know what it looks like when we follow through with what we say is important.

In Leading with Intention, chapter two, (https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html), Jeanne and I share our thoughts and suggestions about ensuring that schools are well organized systems.  We open the chapter with an example of going to two concerts- one is really well organized and the other is, quite simply, chaotic.  Both operators promise the same thing- an amazing experience but only one delivers. The one that is the epic experience is different because of the procedures in place. UnknownThere is clarity on how things are done, there are systems in place for crowd control and procedures for safety and there are people visibly available to support you.  There are no mixed messages. You, as the concert goer are clear on where to park, how to enter, what to bring, how easy it is to get food and beverages and you see the thought that has gone in to aligning the actions with the message of delivering on a great experience.

While we were writing the book, we were saddened by the number of school shootings that occurred. As hard as these situations were, it helped us think about the importance of school safety and how this has to be part of the planning that is done to ensure that a school is well organized and does not feel chaotic. We invited our readers to reflect on current safety practices and procedures and to adjust what you need to bring clarity to what would be expected.  Years ago, I worked in a school where no one knew what the procedure was for a bomb threat. One happened on a day when the principal was out of the building, taking with her the procedures for what we all were to do.  One of the assistant principals was in charge and when the bomb threat came in, she really didn’t know how to inform her teachers and students to evacuate.  Out of desperation, she finally went on the intercom and made a school-wide announcement that we were to evacuate because we had had a bomb threat.  You can likely guess that some chaos followed.  This wasn’t exactly what the principal had in mind with her safety procedures but it was not clear to the other administrators or staff. When she returned, she was quite surprised that we didn’t know what to do. Needless to say, there were mixed messages (or no messages) in our safety plans.

In our school improvement coaching roles, Jeanne and I are often asked if the principal should focus on “organization” or “instruction”. As Jim Collins writes in Built to Last, the Builders of greatness reject the “Tyranny of the OR” and embrace the “Genius of the AND.” They embrace both extremes across a number of dimensions at the same time—purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, discipline AND creativity, humility AND will, empirical analysis AND decisive action, etc.”.  The reason that we lead schools is so each student can succeed. That happens in the classroom and, as Collins writes, it isn’t about or. It also happens because of the structures and practices that school leaders put in place so students feel safe and are clear on expectations for behaviors and learning. Learning happens because of the classroom experiences and the organizational culture of the school. Students tell us all the time when their school is “a mess” as one high school student recently described the way the daily routines were in his building. The adults too-they must have clarity on what is expected. That really is the underlying theme of being organized; the structures have to be in place and people need to know what they are! It cannot be an or.

In many countries and districts, schools will soon be closing for the summer. In other countries, schools are in to their new school year. It doesn’t matter where you are in your timing, it is always a good idea to review and reflect on the “organizational” culture that you are creating. Or, maybe it is about what you are not creating?  Are you avoiding setting things in order because they require making changes and asking people to do different things? Is it because you really haven’t thought about what others “perceive” the expectations to be?  Is there clarity or mixed messages?

We end each chapter with some suggestions of what great leaders do and what great leaders avoid. We also ask you to reflect on what you would do differently based on what you read.  For example, we suggest that you walk the building for eight minutes each day to identify aspects of school organization and safety that you can improve.  Or consider developing a school survey to determine aspects of school safety and organization that are working well and what others suggest that you might need to update or change.  Another great idea is always to ask others what they “perceive” or “understand” your expectations to be. I sure wish that we had done that before a bomb threat, not after one.

Finally, I invite you reflect on what clues will help you know when you are not being clear? How can you determine what actions will provide alignment?  Whom do you need to talk to?  And lastly, how important is this to you? Really?

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned next Saturday for a glimpse of chapter three.