Discover what smart strategies, solutions and practices you can be implementing to prepare your IT infrastructure for the inevitable technological changes coming to your campus.
In a traditional high school, students sit at their desks and listen to their English teacher talk about Rip Van Winkle's adventure in the Catskill Mountains.
They hear that the man in Washington Irving's short story fell asleep for 20 years, and when he returned to his village, he found that everything had changed. His wife had died, his close friends were gone, and the American colonies had thrown off the shackles of British authority.
Once the bell rang, the students walked to math class, sat through another lecture and left the building at 2:30 p.m. This day was much like many others in their academic career. Little in their routine had changed over the years, as is the case for most schools today, said Patrick Larkin, the principal of Burlington High School in Massachusetts.
“If you woke up and walked into modern society, the one place you’d recognize clearly is a public school,” he said.
While the world changes, schools in the United States have remained the same, and if kids around the globe are learning different skills, U.S. students could be left behind. That's why Larkin and other principals have been working to change the culture of their schools with these four techniques.
If leaders want to spark real change, they need to collaborate with teachers and other staff to create a vision for their schools. Once they have a common vision to work toward, leaders have to communicate that vision over and over again, Larkin said.
Changing the culture is not easy, and it won't happen if leaders mandate teachers to do things differently, said Deron Durflinger from Van Meter Schools in Iowa.
"We can’t just come in and say, 'This is how it’s going to be,'" he said. "We have to engage them, we have to give them ownership, and they have to see the results to believe in it.”
Throughout the process of carrying out a vision, leaders must support their staff by listening, sharing decision making and building relationships with them, as well as with students and parents, said Eric Sheninger, the principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey.
Asking questions and working together toward the answers is also a big part of the process, Larkin said.
“I don’t feel like, as a principal, I need to have all the answers anymore," he said. "If I think I should have all the answers, there’s something wrong with me.”
And part of finding those answers involves working with other people and solving problems together. Building a network of other educators who can share resources and give advice is essential.
“This is what I tell my teachers every day: “Together, we are better. If we don’t work toward a common goal together, we defeat the purpose of education,” Sheninger said. " And I think everyone on this planet that’s in education has to be working toward that goal and have that philosophy.”
Traditionally, most high school teachers do not work together, oftentimes because of the way their schedule is structured, and that needs to change, Larkin said. In this age of collaboration, teachers must adjust so they can model the skills their students should learn.
“We need to teach kids to be collaborators, but we can’t have people that don’t collaborate teaching kids to be collaborators,” Larkin said. “Kids get it if you don’t walk the walk. If you’re telling them it’s important to collaborate and think critically and problem solve together, and you never talk to the person in the room next door, then that’s problematic.”
Administrators have to be the biggest cheerleaders and model what they want their students and staff to do, Sheninger said. If leaders do not follow through on their idea, don't provide professional development and don't lead by example, people will not buy into it, and they won't ever change the culture.
"We can’t be an empty suit and just tell someone to go and do this," he said." We roll our sleeves up and we get down and dirty because we are committed and passionate about creating cultures of innovation that are going to enable our students to think critically, to be globally educated, because the ultimate goal is for them to be successful once they leave the walls of our building.”
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to