During a recent #USEdchat, Jimmy Casas asked the following question.
Q3: Does your classroom or school have unified expectations of how the adults are expected to treat all students and each other? What is the response when this does not happen? #USEdchat
— Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) May 1, 2018
I quickly typed my answer and shared “The Taylor Mill Way” in my response. What still has me reflecting and couldn’t be conveyed in 280 characters is how much having clarity around “how we do things” continues to support the kind of positive and productive school culture that is best for students and staff.
In last week’s post, I wrote about my initial meetings with staff members after becoming principal and how much the information gained meant to the start of my leadership at Taylor Mill. One realization I had from those meetings was the need and overwhelming desire from the staff to have consistent expectations which were clearly communicated and followed through on. They knew that would help build trust and ultimately support the kind of culture they desired and our students needed.
After reflecting, I combined the expectations the staff members had shared and what my personal expectations were, and drafted this set of expectations.
During our first meeting as an entire staff, I spent some time explaining how bringing clarity to these common expectations would help us all be the best can be. I summarized how they had expressed the need for this clarity and how I combined what they had communicated with what I personally valued. After going through the list and expanding on the why behind each one (we may have spent some extra time on the importance of positivity!) , I then promised that, as the leader, I would continually model these, support this way of “doing business,” and also committed to respectfully, but firmly following up any time there was a conflict with “The Taylor Mill Way.”
Everyone seemed please with this, but I knew on the inside, they were wondering if this would really mean anything. Is she really going to follow through on this? Will this change “how we do things” here at Taylor Mill? Or, as Jimmy was asking above, “What is the response when this does not happen?”
Of course, there were times when these expectations were not followed and while the follow-through did occur, it was dependent on the situation and those involved. There were times when it was appropriate to discuss as a team, whether whole school, grade-level, or teacher-leader team and there were certainly times when the conversation was one-on-one. However, no matter the scenario, the conversation was always focused on building clarity around these expectations and learning from what happened in order to improve in the future. Never mistakes, only lessons.
These expectations continue to be a driving force in our school’s positive and strong culture. They have shaped behavior, built trust among our community, and helped unify us as an effective team. Still, as we continue to move forward on our path to greatness, I sense we are ready for the next step. Many of these are clearly core values for us now (we are known for our positivity), but as Robyn Jackson mentions in this episode of her School Leadership Reimagined podcast, an organization who simply has core values listed on a poster without using them as a filter for all decisions doesn’t really have clear core values. This has me wondering… What non-negotiables do we have that aren’t listed above? Are some of these expectations still too vague? Do we use these as a filter for every single decision?
We have expectations, that is clear. But do we have clarified core values that we all agree to? Not yet, but stay tuned. We are taking some time this summer to become an even more unified, effective team to fine tune these and create our core values. What about you? What expectations do you have as a school?