The heart and soul of school culture is what people believe, the assumptions they make about how school works.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of addressing the staff at our January 9 institute day. The goal of my presentation was to give the staff background on our Future Planning process and introduce our action step planning process. I spent a great deal of time creating a presentation that was full of charts, tables, and graphics and was quite proud of the very logical and analytical presentation I created. However, just prior to the presentation, I scrapped it.
I decided to go in a completely different direction with my presentation. Instead, I used this opportunity to reflect on my year and a half in the district and communicate to the staff what I thought made our district great. In my reflection, I used a concept made popular by the late educational researcher Thomas Sergiovanni. Sergiovanni wrote about the head, heart, and hands of school leadership, which was a perfect way to communicate the strength of our staff.
Schools are human institutions, which means there is no profit to be made or product that will roll off the assembly line. Therefore, what makes these institutions great is, well … people! This is where the analogy of the head, heart, and hands comes into play. When I first arrived in the district I heard stories about the “Pleasantdale Family” and how close-knit the staff is. During my time in the district I have seen this first hand. This is a staff and community that, when the situation dictates, rolls up its sleeves and supports its members, whether that means a meal train for an ailing staff member, taking care of another staff member’s children during a time of need, or just being a shoulder to cry on. In my short time in the district I have seen the HEART of Pleasantdale first hand.
Our teachers are intellectually curious and are always seeking out new ways to help their students learn, grow, and discover. When provided professional development they lean in and make the most of the experience. This attitude of continuous improvement and growth mindset represents the HEAD of our school district — always looking to do better and improve. Finally, when it comes to their students, our teachers are “all-in.” They are committed to doing good work and connecting with every student in their classroom. They understand that they must make an emotional connection with their students in order to move them academically. Our staff believes that we want every student to have at least one adult advocate who can be a champion for that child. It is this focus on the work of developing the whole child that represents the HANDS of our district.
While a bit of a departure from the normal institute day presentation, I believe that this presentation helped clarify our purpose and set the stage for the great work of action planning. Being a part of the Pleasantdale family is both an exciting and humbling, and I hope to live up to the “family standard”.