How can schools transform to achieve 21st century results? Relationships must be examined first. I had the great honor of hearing Roland Barth speak one 2007 summer day at Harvard. He talked about the importance of the school’s culture. His words resonated in my head. As a coach, I had worked in hundreds of schools over the years. But his words made me stop in my tracks and reflect. “The nature of the relationships among the adults who inhabit a school have more to do with its quality and character, and with the accomplishment of its pupils, than any other factor.” How true! This simple statement captures why change so often is only superficial. Think about this. Negative relationships close classroom doors. The guaranteed curriculum becomes unattainable, and that transmits to closed minds. Barth is talking about the community as a triad of relationships at school. First, the teachers, and then, the children, and of course, the parents are a part of this triad. First and foremost, children know how adults model relationships each day by their actions and their words; how they solve problems, and inspire hope. When the relationships in the school community begin to change, fear subsides, and collaboration opens up opportunities in all encounters. As Stephen R. Covey explains, everyone operates out of paradigms or mindsets that are scripted from our experiences (2011). When we change the way we see the world, we change our actions, and this shifts our results! Our moral purpose of educating every single child is achievable when we realize and live this way. The adults must shift their mindset first!
In 2011, I was given a profound opportunity to merge two competing schools into one new and revised school community. I will never say it was an easy task. But I was excited about this challenge. Trust is the key to any successful merger and trust is the key to successful relationships. When trust and respect create high-octane relationships within the school community, change takes on its own momentum. Its like a social vaccine. I studied the great leaders that I believe in. I studied Sean Covey and his book, The Speed of Trust. I savored Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”. I immersed myself in the great works of Stephen R. Covey, T.J. Sergiovanni, and Robert W. Galvin. I savored the work of Muriel Summers from AB Combs Elementary School where “The Leader in Me” initiative was birthed. Teaching children “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders,” I brought together a leadership team from both schools and we committed to create an innovative culture with 21st century learning. The key was to bring all of the players together on this journey to create a 3rd alternative solution for educating our children. And then, to release control to our children to share their learning with the community a couple of times a year!
As a leader, I knew that our climb to the summit would take a team approach. We all needed one another and we needed everyone to share their incredible talents to make great things happen. First and foremost, we needed to trust and respect one another. This trust helped us to transform our work to constantly look for 3rd alternative solutions. We would no longer live out our past educational platforms, one traditional and one innovative. We created a new way of working together-a better way. This helped us to align our teams and to inspire our children. We made every child into a leader—and every adult, as well. We studied the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. We lived the habits. We changed ourselves, first. That was the biggest challenge. We did this together as a family at the dining room table talking about our hopes and dreams, while setting personal goals, and academic goals. We checked in with one another. We cheered one another on and we learned a great deal about each other along the way. Our bonds grew deep. We learned to trust the strengths of each member of out team, children, and faculty. We learned to listen and to understand, first.
In 2015, we climbed to the summit together. We achieved world-class Lighthouse School status through the “Leader in Me” process. We committed to these simple concepts: trust, respect, habits, change and our common beliefs and mission that drove us to the pinnacle! Together, we can do this for a greater moral purpose-making a difference for our children! Every child deserves a 21st century education and to learn they have unlimited potential. I believe that the measure of a school’s success is the happiness and confidence that every child exudes in a school of this caliber. Our test scores with the new CCSS have improved significantly. The journey up the mountain is incredible–every step of the hike.