Conduct Your Orchestra Well

9There’s a lot of conversation about school branding happening among educators, and I think that’s time well spent. As a former English teacher, the idea that we both are engaged by and want to be part of meaningful stories isn’t a tough sell for me. How convincing our stories are for our audience greatly depends on our unity as we communicate our message to others.

If you’re the campus leader (or even a campus leader), you have more insight into the vision for your campus than other stakeholders. It’s both your privilege and your responsibility to communicate your school’s story clearly.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to be one voice as you communicate positively with your community. In some instances, an overwhelming majority can overcome a few naysayers, but with a school brand, we are more likely to understand the nuances of our communication if we consider this analogy:

Think of your school’s story as an orchestra that must be conducted. Everyone has a role to play. If parts are missing, the song is not what it should be. Someone who is listening can still follow along if everything isn’t perfect, even still appreciate what he or she is hearing. But the difference between an orchestra that is entirely in tune and one that is almost entirely in tune creates a substantially different sound.

Your role as a school leader is to conduct an orchestra worthy of the efforts your teachers put forth. If a section is out of tune, your story won’t reflect the hard work of the educators in your building. Yes, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there will be inconsistencies. Yes, we all know there are hiccups throughout every school year. Still, it’s your job as a leader (from anywhere in the building) to serve others well and offer support where needed so that you’re all singing the same song again soon.

What elements of your brand need work? What will it take to conduct your orchestra well? (tweet this)

Books Worth Reading: Influencing School Culture

BooksWorthReadingIt’s the last week of school in my district, and my to be read pile is calling my name. In case you don’t have your summer reading list finalized, I thought I would share the titles I’ve learned a great deal from recently.

Each day this week, I’ll share a five books that I think are worth a look. Today’s post focuses on five titles that could help spur you on to lead change in campus culture from any corner of the building.

school culture rewiredSchool Culture Rewired by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker is required reading for anyone looking to make significant change in the prevailing attitudes on a school campus. This text will help you walk through the steps required to initiate an influential change on campus without bogging down into the minuscule details and minutiae that drags other texts down. If you only read one book on school culture, read this one.

power of brandingIf you read two books on school culture (and you really should because this one is a great one), the second should be The Power of Branding by Tony Sinanis and Joeseph Sanfelippo. This is the first title from the Corwin Connected Educators Series in this week’s posts, but it won’t be the last. If you’re not familiar with the series, they offer targeted help for connected educators with useful, easy to implement strategies to improve nearly every educator’s skill set. Telling your school’s story can’t be undervalued; this is a great place to learn how to do that well.

art of coachingElena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching is a great text for educators looking to change the way help is offered to teachers. A coaching model can be transformative for a campus, reshaping our mindsets about how we learn as educators and forcing us to realize the uncomfortable feelings many of our students associate with dealing with their imperfections. This isn’t the only coaching text, but it’s a great place to start your journey into this mode of thinking.

how google worksThis might seem like an odd choice, but How Google Works has had as much impact on me when considering school culture as anything I’ve ever read. As you might expect, you’re not going to find any information about programs, policies, or education lingo here, but the mindset that makes Google so impactful is evident on every page. Authors Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg are experts in their field, and they are both wildly intelligent individuals. We would benefit greatly from listening carefully to their take on what makes Google work.

work rulesWork Rules gives more specifics to the overview provided in How Google Works. Laszlo Bock takes time to get into the nitty gritty of how to shape an organization. Again, you’re going to find a model here that can be transferred to your campus, but you’re not going to see a plan specific to schools. This one isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoyed How Google Works at all, I recommend you at least check this out to see if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading this far! Be sure to check out yesterday’s post on 5 books about creativity and innovation. Tomorrow’s post will feature five books centered around curriculum and instruction. Hope you enjoy some time reading this summer!

That new idea–give it a shot!

Last semester, our coaching crew challenged teachers on our campus to take time to observe other teachers, encourage them in what they were doing well, and look for areas that could be improved in their own classrooms. It ended up being a great success. Our teachers completed 424 observations of 30 minutes and went back to their classrooms with many low effort high impact strategies to help their students learn. To make the deal even sweeter (and thwart any buy in issues on the front end), teachers who completed four observations earned two hours back in their day during a February staff development day.

As great as that experience had been, it wasn’t realistic for us to manage throughout the entire year. So, the conversation began to stall, and I began to wonder how to give new life to the conversation that had been going so well.

A few weeks ago, I found my answer. Perusing Twitter one day, I stumbled upon a question George Couros (@gcouros and absolutely worth the follow) tweeted:

I loved the idea and immediately began to wonder if this could be our solution.

After a little bit of work (and thanks to the services Canva offers that make it easy for me to look more capable of design work than I am), I sent an email to my campus encouraging them to share the great things they are doing in their classrooms. I included this image with my email:

Share great AMCHS teaching (1)
After hitting send, I realized what I’d done.

I’d given a tired, hardworking staff an extra, very optional thing to do two weeks before spring break.But people did it.

That day, ten long days from spring break, people started posting about what was going on in their classrooms.

Click here to see what we’ve seen so far via Storify!

So why share this?

This is not the most successful Twitter campaign in the world. That’s one of the reasons I wanted share it. Over two weeks, all it took for this to be productive was for a few teachers to step out and try something new. 50 posts later, we have a nice little conversation going.

Because of that, teachers are learning, teachers are encouraged, and students will end up better off.

So next time you hear that good idea that might work (whether it’s like this or totally different), do what you can to see that it will work. Don’t sit back passively and wait for others to figure it out. Give it a shot. Take a chance. Do what you can to bring people together and make your campus a place where everyone is learning.

Think about it and commit to it (or it won’t happen).