Friday, July 29, 2011

School Culture Considerations

Dr. Romena Holbert from Xenia High School and Margo Gaillard-Barnes from Dayton Public Schools presented “Reboot: Use of Core Propositions to Empower Teachers as Agents of Change” this morning at the NBPTS conference.  The presenters discussed positive changes and collaboration in their own setting while leading us through a number of exercises to foster thought about our own schools.

Since I had just attended an RTI workshop which emphasized the need for cultural shift in order to embrace RTI practices, I was intrigued by this presentation.

First they encouraged teachers to discuss observations, strengths and challenges related to their school culture.  It was interesting to meet with and discuss this information with other teachers in the room.  In many cases, one person’s challenge was another person’s strength.  Hence we were able to share relevant strategies and connections.  This would be an interesting exercise to implement with cross-grade or cross-subject teams in a school.

Later, the discussion led to the elements that make up school culture including observations, assessments, engagement, staff learning, collaboration, developmentally appropriate teaching, whole child lens, available resources, community/university resources, student/teacher motivation, and faculty/student ratios.  Some of the issues found to impact collaboration included hierarchal relationships, dissimilar program expectations, different schedules, communication, the varying sense of urgency and competition.  To maximize effectiveness, collaboration and professional learning communities are essential.

Holbert and Gaillard-Barnes described processes used to foster collaboration and student success including:
  • Getting to know teachers.
  • Developing trust and relationships.

  • Helping teachers set goals.
Implementing a collaborative plan to achieve goals.

  • Integrating action research in the work day.

  • Positive reinforcement and acknowlement of teachers’ personal lives.
Establishing effective routines and a systematic approach.

  • Employing meaningful reflective practices.
Developing ways to foster students’ desire to reach mastery.

  • Keeping motivation alive, not burning out the teachers – realistic growth.

  • Dreaming big!
These presenters, similar to the many speakers at the NBPTS conference, encourage greater collaboration in schools to better foster success for all students.