Leadership: Building a Positive School Community

Creating and maintaining a positive climate can be challenging.  A  positive school climate makes work more enjoyable for staff and can improve learning!  I have always felt I can sense School climate the moment I walk up to a door. Do signs say visitors must report to the main office or do they say please report to the main office?  How is a visitor treated by office staff when entering the main office?  Is student work posted for students, staff, and parents to see? These are just a few of many ways to gauge school climate.  I propose, if the climate and culture are good, much can be credited to the leadership and modeling of the school leaders,. If on the other hand, the climate is poor, this also can be a result of less than purposeful school leadership.

Remember, what you do communicates what you believe. Your actions can make a difference! So, how do you make an impact on the climate and culture of your school?  Here are my top five ways.

  1. Be visible:   It is easy to feel tied down to a computer.  Administrative jobs have a lot of paperwork to complete and reports to write.  My goal as I move towards the end of one school year and towards a new school year is to be even more visible.  Take time to greet students when they come to school in morning, visit classrooms, the cafeteria, bus duty, and school events.  Students, staff, and families want to meet the principal, but for this to happen, the principal needs to make it a priority.
  2. Take a lunch break: Have lunch with students because it’s a great way to get to know and connect with them.  In my school, we have special lunches at the start of the year for new students.  Students connect over a  meal and can meet teachers and me.  Kids across the world love lunch time.  Lunch is an opportunity to talk with friends and relax.  It is also a great time for the principal and staff to connect with students.
  3. Talk with Staff:  In a world where people can always be off to the next important issue, it is easy to forget the benefits of small chat.  As a school leader, you need to know your staff and students, conversation has always been a great way to achieve this goal.  Conversation allows you to communicate what you believe and build relationships with students, staff, and families.
  4. Tell your School’s Story: Eric Sheninger, in his excellent book, “BrandED” notes the principal needs be the storyteller and chief for their school.  Eric also reminds us that we need to tell our story or someone else will.  Using social media allows a school to communicate information quickly to students, parents, and your community.  Facebook, video, Twitter, and Instagram are free, allowing you and your staff to inform and celebrate all that occurs in your school.  Communicating and informing in a positive way impacts how people view your school, which impacts climate and culture!
  5. Model the Standard:  As the leader of the school your actions and words communicate what is acceptable.  If staff see you yelling at kids, you give them permission to do the same.  If you’re a sloppy dresser, you give permission. If you are anti-technology, you give permission.  If you have low expectations for students, you give permission. If you communicate a fixed mindset, you give permission.  Set the tone in your school! Your words and actions communicate your leadership and what you believe.  Strive for congruence between what you say and what you do! Be an advocate and champion for learning, growth, and excellence! Most importantly, model and communicate your high expectations relentlessly.

Great school environments were not created overnight and negative environments cannot be fixed immediately. Both types of cultures are perpetuated by the principal.  The principal has the ability to shift, shape, and create a positive school climate and culture.  Lead with purpose and passion and create a school culture great for students and staff.  As a principal, you will spend many hours in your school.Make it a goal to spend time all members of your school community and realize you have the ability to make the culture and climate better.
Check out my book The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook