What’s best for kids?

“It’s what’s best for kids.”

Have you heard an administrator use this phrase to justify decisions? Did you think, “Cliche.” Or, “Easy for her to say.” Or, “How convenient, no one can argue with the merits of We do what’s best for kids.”

Well, it’s true! Who can argue with it? No right-minded educator, that’s for sure.

Administrators who say this, and mean it, stay focused on student needs and make students the center of the decision-making process. Those of you that are parents, or who have a child in their personal lives in any capacity (here’s where I gush about my sweet, sweet new nephew who was born today!) exist in a reality where in their family, children are the centers of their lives.

Children are, and should always be, our focus. Our schools should be families. What are some ways to transform your school into a family of learners?

Include parents. Often. Always. See David Truss’s thoughts on doing so. At our school, we held our first Moms & Muffinsand Dads & Donuts mornings this year. All extended family members invited, too! We had an amaaazing turnout. It was unreal! I have never seen so many people packed into our cafeteria. I met Dads and Moms I’d never met before. Parents walked their children to homerooms after our breakfast. Some stayed to volunteer for the day. What a beautiful thing!

Build morale, the subject of recent posts by Dave Bircher and Janet Avery by making connections and building relationships with staff and community members. Show them videos of your dogs. Ask them about their families and their summer vacations. To start our opening day, we’re doing a round of “speed dating”-esque reconnect time where we’ll get in two circles, and every 2 minutes, the people in the inside people will move to the left. Two minutes, introduce yourself and tell them all about your summer/life. Tell your partner one goal you have for the school year. We had a difficult year last year, when a colleague passed away from breast cancer. This year will continue to be about healing. As the principal, I need to support my colleagues in their grief and help build relationships, because the success of our students depends on it.

Get to know, and love, your students. When I hear teachers say, “I don’t have to like all of my students, I just have to act like I do,” I get really tense and uncomfortable and a whole list of other adjectives. There are students who will always push your buttons. I was one of them, I know I was. Get to know each and every child on a personal level. Find out what they’re all about. How else can you possible expect them to respect you? Because you’re the teacher? Because you’re the principal? Children respect those that show them respect. They’re children.  Know your students on a personal level, because doing so will make discussions about behavior that much easier. George Couros often explores the importance of developing rapport with his students and the positive impacts this has on his practices.

I will conclude with just one example of when I was convinced that the children I serve are indeed part of my family. A  young man in an intermediate grade made some unwise choices, and was spending the day in my office. He was getting a bad rap around the school (and frankly, the community) for his behaviors, and it seemed as though the whole world was against him. His classmates were in the hallway outside of my office en route to the library, and not only did every single one of them crane their necks to see how he was doing in my office, several of them said, “Hi, buddy!” and “How are you, friend?” from their place in line. One boy in his class, a boy who was also known for lapses in judgment, asked to come inside my office and see his friend. He walked over to the boy, put his arm around his shoulder, and quietly, almost in a whisper, encouragingly said, “It’s okay, buddy. We all make bad choices sometimes. We know you’re a good kid.” And he turned on his heel and headed back to the line.

My heart burst.

We do what’s best for kids. They’re our family. Their teachers and parents are family. As educational leaders, we’re the head of this family, and we have to commit to making it the best it can be.

6 Comments

  1. This is great, Lyn. Very consistent with my experience as a teacher and administrator. With respect to getting to know your students, I always stress to teachers the importance of connecting with kids on a personal level yet within the flow of academic activities. Here’s an excerpt from my blog post Attention-Deficit: The Other Kind (http://ginsburgcoachingtt.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/attention-deficit-the-other-kind/), where I address this:

    “Responding to student behavior as privately as possible is far more effective than broadcasting your comments to the whole class. And this is as true for behaviors you want to reinforce as it is for those you want to squelch. If, for example, you really like how groups 1 and 4 are sitting, then walk over to them, look them in the eyes, and genuinely express your gratitude. Now you’ve validated those students rather than manipulated (or tried to manipulate) other students. The trick is to find opportunities throughout the day to validate all students. That’s what great teachers do: look for and seize “validate-able” moments with respect to behavior just as they do for teachable moments with respect to academics. Acknowledge privately at least one action per student per day that’s worthy of validation, and students will get the message: you’ve got enough attention to go around, and the way to get it is through constructive behavior.”

    August 22, 2010
    Reply
    • Lyn said:

      David,
      I agree that a genuine approach to addressing behaviors is most effective, and that no child’s behaviors should be broadcasted to use as an example of what not to do. And how special you make a child feel when you take the time to praise him in a one-on-one conversation! We also believe that for every one corrective conversation you have with a student, you need to build in three positive interactions to help build the child up and reinforce the positive behaviors he’s exemplifying.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      August 22, 2010
      Reply
  2. Mr. Foteah said:

    So many admins, in this culture of testing and performance, have lost sight of what school is really about. If only every one of them could read this post…

    August 22, 2010
    Reply
    • Lyn said:

      Thanks for commenting! Definitely encourage your colleagues to visit this site, it’s an amazing resource for educational leaders …so many dedicated professionals contribute!

      August 22, 2010
      Reply
  3. alybee said:

    Great reminder about keeping kids at the center of it. Glad to discover this site.

    August 22, 2010
    Reply
    • Lyn said:

      We’re glad you found this site and welcome your contributions! Thanks for commenting!

      August 22, 2010
      Reply

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