Schools are about relationships. Learning is about relationships. We learn in relationship to ideas and concepts, and in relationships with others.
As long as we gather our children together in schools, the adults who care for and teach them are without question among the most important people in their lives. Schools are communities that should be first and foremost devoted to learning. All too often other agendas get in the way of learning. Other agendas might include an administrator's desire to advance his or her career, a teacher's desire to do the same or to avoid the additional work that comes with being a member of a team devoted unremittingly to each student's success, or a board's efforts to take the school in a different direction than that of its mission. Agendas in schools other than being totally devoted to learning are sad and unfortunate. But, let's not despair. Many teachers and administrators have as their primary objective the learning and welfare of their students. They approach each day with passion for teaching and learning, and compassion for their students.
Here are some questions that you may wish to ponder about your school and colleagues. I offer them in the spirit of learning. They were helpful during my days as a school leader.
• Do teachers in my school believe that professional growth and renewal are of the utmost importance?
• Do teachers in my school believe that setting the highest attainable academic and social standards for students is essential, and that this constitutes one of our faculty's most basic values?
• Do teachers in my school believe that being on the student's side and wishing for them conspicuous, daily success form two of our faculty's most fundamental goals?
• Do teachers in my school believe that disciplinary steps and/or confrontations with students must be conducted in ways that leave students' dignity intact?
• Do teachers in my school believe that rendering assistance to one's colleagues is of crucial importance?
• Are casual conversations among faculty members constructive, upbeat and professional?
• Do I have complete trust in my school colleagues?
• Do I have great respect for my school administrators?
• Does my school administration give active support to, and establish an active engagement with, all school faculty members?
• Does my school administration powerfully support proactive communication with, and service to, each student's parents?
Imagine being in a school where you and your colleagues are totally devoted to professional growth and your students. What a lovely place to be.
J Daniel Hollinger, PhD, is an experienced school consultant and President of Hollinger International, an international education management consulting firm serving international, private, independent and charter schools, nonprofit organizations and education companies. Hollinger International provides tailored, strategic assistance to establish new schools, improve education and strengthen leadership. Hollinger International's school improvement services include quality review, school improvement planning and leadership coaching. We help schools evaluate and improve curricula, design and implement International Baccalaureate Programmers, and improve education through inquiry-based teaching and learning.
Recognizing that teachers are a school's greatest asset, we provide teacher training, assess and improve faculty culture, and help build highly effective and collaborative faculty and management teams. Our school improvement services also include board development, strategic planning, faculty evaluation and compensation, head of school and board chair coaching, head and mid-level searches, branding and marketing, and change management.