Some schools could run themselves. Just flip on the auto-pilot switch and there’ll be achievement so quickly, it would be missed by the blinking of
an eye. For us less fortunate school sites, the power of a good leader is very, very important. I’ve learned a thing or two about leadership having taught our school’s award-winning student leadership class (for close to a decade now). Our school has given me a unique persective, as well, in that in that decade, we’ve had almost thirty (30) administrators, and I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference a good leader makes to a school.
We’re in a valley (not
a peak) at my school right now. Our school seems to be a diving board to retirement or moving up the administrative food chain. For whatever reason(s), we can’t retain staff very well. Today, our school’s morale is at the lowest I’ve seen it–and I’ve seen low. In 2002, we were taken over by the State, and now we’re on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Public School Choice” list (i.e. we’re bad).
There are a few quotes I’ve come across over the last ten years that I use on my student leadership program calendars. They mean a lot, and offer great insight into the utility of a good leader. Here are a few of them:
1. A good leader falls seven times but gets up eight
2. Problems are opportunities for solutions
3. The only time to look down upon those you lead is to help them up
4. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
Each of these has great meaning with regards to on-campus leadership. Falling down and getting back up is a nice metaphor for not giving up. Problems are opportunities for
solutions is a very positive attitude paradigm. Looking down upon people is no way to lead. Leaders need buy-in from those they lead. Missing 100% of the shots you don’t take: life is all about taking risks.
Leaders should also make a habit of showing appreciation and praise, and about constructive criticism. Sometimes we only hear from our superiors when we’ve done something bad. This may lead us to believe we are bad (hopefully we’re not) but it can be damaging. Leaders should also make people feel good about their effort and results.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids, and staff morale has a deep impact on student morale and school culture and climate. A former principal of ours probably over-used (greatly would be an understatement) the word “awesome” on a daily basis. Everything was awesome. My work. My students’ work. Everything. We thought it was overkill, but now we have the opposite. I miss the days of “awesome” this and that. It trickles down. Happy staff means hapy students. Happy students means high achievement.
Recently, at the request of an administrator, I made a fancy display case. I thought it was very creative (and 3D in a way). I spent a load of time on it. I was so proud of it. I called the principal out of his office to show him. “Needs more color,” he said. That was his only statement. I’d say he needs more color as well.
Mr. Franklin has been teaching for the Los Angeles Unified School District for eleven years. He has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards, as well as the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps world-wide that increase student academic potential.