One of the biggest differences I could identify comes down to a simple shift in philosophy: the leaders of this school ran it like a business, and everyone behaved like a professional. This is not to say that administrators and teachers at other schools are not professionals, but many schools do not adhere to such high standards. Let me see if I can explain the nuances of this difference.
Room for Innovation
According to staff members, school leaders remain current in research and regularly engage staff members in conversations focused on applying research-based ideas and practices in the classroom. A staff member shared, “One of the things I love is our principal is constantly providing us with literature and things we can apply to our circumstances here. We are constantly learning.” When asked how they are supported in taking risks and making innovations to their practice, a staff member replied, “It’s encouraged as long as you are trying to teach the Common Core and have that foundation.” Another staff member’s response mirrored the mentality of the administration: “For me, it was a learning curve to realize they really meant ‘take risks,’ and it wasn’t just lip service, and it was okay if failure was involved. They were more interested in what worked and how to change practices for the better.” School leaders recognize and respect the implications of asking teachers to innovate, understanding theory is being put into practice, and there will be bumps along the way.
A Culture of Accountability
When I had my formal evaluation last year, it was comprehensive. It wasn’t just the district evaluation, but it also reflected the unique pieces of our school integrated into our evaluation. We also did a self-evaluation, and they included it. It was empowering and authentic. It was reflective of what we do here. I got tailored feedback on how I’m achieving the school’s goals.
The hiring process is about finding the right match. [We look for] someone with a lot of passion for the work, a lot of moral connection to it in the deep meaning behind transforming an underserved community; someone willing to take a risk, fail, and try again; someone who can make sure the students can make a meaningful connection. We have the right team; now it’s time to create the culture to allow us to excel.