Transform your staff lounge to support teacher wellbeing

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog.]

According to a study done by the University of Missouri, 93% of teachers are experiencing high levels of work-related stress. Mindfulness has already been proven to boost the emotional climate of the classroom by supporting teacher wellbeing; however, many schools still struggle with incorporating mindful practices for staff into school culture. What can schools do to begin prioritizing mindfulness as a daily routine for staff? Peace corners could be a place to start.

Related: 8 ways I practiced mindfulness this year…Read More

How Our High-Poverty School Reduced Suspensions By 97%

Student behavior can have a positive or negative impact on academic achievement. Even just one student who is misbehaving can affect how much and how well an entire class is learning.

When we arrived at Betty Best Elementary in Houston in the summer of 2014 and dug into the school’s data, we saw there were 627 office referrals during the previous year. The problem was that there was no information behind that number. There were no reasons listed for the referrals. There were no breakdowns of the data by students, demographics, grade levels, departments, or teachers.

We set out to create an environment that would yield better social, emotional, and academic outcomes for students. From 2014 to 2018, we reduced the number of office referrals by 37 percent, in-school suspension days by 52 percent, and out-of-school suspension days by 97 percent. During this time, students’ passing rate on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) increased by 17 percentage points as well.…Read More

3 lessons from students about improving school culture

When the administrators at Vestavia Hills High School in Alabama were tasked with creating a leadership program, they knew one thing right away: They did not want to develop another program that tapped only the top students and did nothing the engage the rest of the student body.

The resulting Youth Leadership program has not only had a positive impact on the school’s culture, but also provided the school’s administrators with several important lessons. In their edWebinar, “Build a Positive School Culture with a Student-Run App,” Kym Prewitt, leadership teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, and Whit McGhee, director of public relations at Vestavia Hills City Schools, shared what they learned and how the kids continue to surprise them.

Lesson 1: Let the kids lead the way
Educators cannot make school culture better by telling students what to do and how to act. This does nothing to create honest connections among students. At Vestavia, their first step was to give students opportunities to connect, to provide them with a place to meet, and to encourage the connections. The core issues were kindness and acceptance, and the students needed to take the lead in creating a welcoming culture so they would feel ownership of the program.…Read More

How SEL inspired a transformation in my school

When I accepted the position as principal at Langley Elementary in Washington, D.C., I had two objectives in mind: one, to empower teachers who truly care about supporting the whole child, and two, to inspire a schoolwide culture shift.

Langley Elementary has historically struggled with dropping student enrollment numbers, a rise in suspension rates, and an unimpressive student satisfaction rate—all factors linked to an incohesive school culture. A rise in charter schools in the area has resulted in a competition between public and private education, and the gentrification of area neighborhoods has tension at an all-time high. With behavioral challenges and no defined philosophy of how to interact with students, Langley Elementary didn’t feel safe.

There was a disconnect between teachers, students, and parents that was impeding on the learning process. My answer to this was to ingrain social-emotional learning (SEL) in every aspect of the curriculum.…Read More

3 ways small districts can go big on PD

As a leader in a district in Indianapolis with nine schools and limited resources, I’m well aware of the fact that most districts don’t have the time or money to devote to one-off workshops and training sessions that may or may not improve instruction. An effective, efficient professional development (PD) initiative has a few key components: It must be grounded in a culture of student achievement, it needs to be systematized, and it needs to be based in student need.

In the past, each of our schools handled PD differently. There was no unified system. However, over the past year, we have developed an approach that allows us to run an affordable and sustainable PD program aimed at systematically identifying and addressing student needs through instructional leadership and personalized teacher coaching. The system has three parts, each of which works together to help schools improve instruction in order to ultimately drive student achievement.

1. Form instructional leadership teams that focus on strategy and action.
Our instructional leadership teams (ILTs) are highly structured school-based teams that drive each school’s most important school improvement initiatives. They are made up of lead teachers and mentor teachers. We believe we couldn’t do the work of improvement well without teachers at the table.…Read More

Can we design learning environments geared for maximum motivation?

What can we learn from human psychology about designing learning environments geared for maximum motivation?

Let’s start by identifying core human motivations using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow studied human motivation as a whole, rather than the discrete pockets of motivation prior studies had identified. Maslow’s Hierarchy is depicted as a pyramid, with the base of the structure housing the most basic needs and more rigorous needs building on top of those. Maslow referred to the first four levels of the hierarchy as deficiency needs, which is to say each lower-level need must be met before moving on to the next level. Should any lower-level need become deficient in the future, people will work to correct the deficiency before moving forward.

All this motivation builds toward the tip of the pyramid: self-actualization. This may seem like a stretch for students, given that most adults spend their lives striving toward this lofty goal. When we build a safe, motivating place for students to turn their focus inward, they’re free to pursue the beginning of self-actualization. How’s that for whole-child education?…Read More

Teachers: How to use your voice for a positive school culture

[Editor’s note: This post is the first in a new column for eSchool News. In her column on ‘Personal Development’, eSchool News Columnist Jennifer Abrams focuses on tangible takeaways, tools and teachings that all those working in schools can use to develop their leadership. Read more about the column and browse future content here.]

Moving from the classroom into the role of a teacher leader and a coach was a transition, to say the least. I recognized I was credentialed in teaching students English language arts, but didn’t have a credential in communicating effectively with adults. I took workshops and courses on facilitation and coaching, but the idea of being a professional in a learning community who was an effective group member as well as a leader continues to be something I am growing into everyday.

The Use of Voice…Read More

Are you ready to be a school principal?

Effective school leaders involve themselves in all levels of a school’s operation.

Modeling excellence, building a team of dedicated educators, and instilling a sense of pride throughout the school community are all essential when it comes to establishing and maintaining a successful school culture, according to effective school principals.

“In my experience, it’s about people who are community builders…[who] have high expectations of themselves but also of others, where they believe that excellence is the standard,” said Jimmy Casas, principal of Iowa’s Bettendorf High School in the Bettendorf Community School District, during an edWeb webinar about how school administrators can prepare themselves to be effective school leaders.

“You can’t just talk about excellence—you have to model it, all the time, in behavior, decisions, and expectations of others,” he said.…Read More