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With a few colleagues, we’ve started reading Leverage Leadership. Here’s a little about the book:

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (Managing Director of Uncommon Schools) shows leaders how they can raise their schools to greatness by following a core set of principles. These seven principles, or “levers,” allow for consistent, transformational, and replicable growth. With intentional focus on these areas, leaders will leverage much more learning from the same amount of time investment. Fundamentally, each of these seven levers answers the core questions of school leadership: What should an effective leader do, and how and when should they do it.

I like the fact that it starts out with formulas and recipes for success. You know, “Do this and you’ll get these results.” Who wouldn’t like to be told what to do, and then what results to search for? I hope you’ll join me as I take notes on this book and ask myself questions based on highlighted items for implementation. I may also intersperse comments in square brackets [my thoughts here]

My Notes – Chapter 5: Student Culture

  1. In schools with strong cultures, students receive a continual message that nothing is as important–or as engaging–as learning.
  2. If you want a culture of excellence, you build it by repeated practice.
  3. Student culture is not formed by motivational speeches or statements of values.
  4. If the instructional levers help to make sure teachers are teaching as effectively as possible, student culture makes sure students build the habits of mind and heart that allow their learning to fly.
  5. With our consistent culture, everything becomes predictable and safe.
  6. When it comes to developing a great school culture, it’s the details that separate contenders from weekend warriors.
  7. Profiles in Leading Student Culture
    1. Leader 1 Characteristics
      1.  Presentation on general principles of culture she wants.
      2.  Teachers read article on achievement gap, then partner groups discuss.
      3.  Teachers are left to determine how each procedure will be applied to their individual classrooms.
    2. Leader 2 Characteristics
      1.  Shares video clips of masters teachers, each showcasing effective culture system.
      2.  Teachers discuss what they have seen in small groups before sharing with whole group
      3.  Leader develops a specific set of culture systems that every teacher in every classroom will commit to implementing.
      4.  Teachers rehearse the system in pairs.
      5.  Teachers engage in a dress rehearsal, offering critiques for that work, with teachers acting as students.
      6.  By the time students arrive, every teacher knows exactly where s/he is supposed to be and exactly what he or she is supposed to be doing at all times.
  8. It is very difficult to make effective culture happen without being able to see that it works.
  9. To ensure culture is not eroding from original vision, leaders create objective tools to assess their culture and create opportunities to produce feedback:
  10.  Create a tool to measure your culture. This involves creation of an effective rubric or benchmark.
  11.  Create systems to use it. Establish times to evaluate culture in accordance with the rubric.
  12. Finding external observers, such as leaders at successful area schools, can help provide quality insights that allows campus leaders to see their own culture in “a whole new light.”
  13. Fixing A Broken Culture:
    1. Brutal facts may include:
      1. Mass student apathy
      2. Students violent or off task
      3. Students not engaged
    2. Six step process for turning around culture:
      1. Set an agreement for all hands on deck level of support from staff
      2. Start with the staff who are most invested in change
      3. Train invested staff by modeling, intervening and weaning (I-Do, We-Do, You-Do training)
      4. Deliver professional development for the rest of the staff.
      5. Put aside instruction for one or two days and reset.
      6. Evaluate progress using objective measures.
    3. “Unless we make progress a priority, culture will not change.”
  14. Four keys to student culture include:
    1. Establishing a vision
    2. Turning vision into minute-by-minute systems
    3. Practice
    4. Monitor and maintain.
My Reflections

There’s a lot to like in this chapter, as well as lot of WORK implied for people, especially if staff culture (Chapter 6!) is broken or limping along. It’s funny that student culture chapter came before staff culture. The most telling item is the profiles in leaders guiding change in student culture. It is specific, leaving nothing to chance. Everything is scripted out and rehearsed. How many of us can achieve that in our schools?

To be honest, much of my professional learning has been a la Leader #1, which introduces big ideas, discusses it, then leaves it up to the individual to practice it on their own. The only times I’ve seen that NOT happen has been with writing/reading workshop, problem-based/project-based learning.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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