The Perfect Storm through the eyes of a Principal

Schools face many challenges.  Many of these challenges go unnoticed to anyone on the outside looking in.  For those inside the school, these things are real challenges.   What are they? What can we do about them?
There are 2 things that can create a storm for many schools.  These are my two.  No real research has been completed by me to validate this.  Your list may include these and then some or you may have something totally different.

1.  Poverty
2.  A stagnant school Culture

Students living in poverty must overcome many hurdles. These students face emotional and social challenges, daily stress, and often poor academic achievement. They have a higher risk of dropping out of school.  They are also less likely to attend college.  I have read many books dealing with the poverty topic.  However, really living in poverty as a child myself helped me understand the troubles our students face.  Eric Jensen is one of my favorite authors.  Jensen says, high poverty schools are more likely to struggle with school climate concerns such as absenteeism and truancy, bullying and trust and engagement issues that can weaken the learning environment.  So very true.  I don't think anyone would argue with that point.

POVERTY - What can we do?
1.  Create a positive school climate.
2.  Establish academic achievement expectations for all students. 
3.  Create effective risk prevention efforts- Be proactive.
4.  Provide for the whole child- social, emotional, academic, and physical needs

A stagnant school culture is defined as a school that is showing no activity, dull, and sluggish. In a school where the culture is stagnant, student performance is flat and teacher performance is lagging. Teachers feel isolated and disconnected. Collaboration and support are minimum or non-existent. The school culture is like shopping around for a new home. The minute you walk in you know that it's the right house because it feels like home. You know the minute you walk into a school whether or not you want to be there or not.  Passion is powerful.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Let's give off positive vibes.

SCHOOL CULTURE-What can we do?
1. Build leadership capacity on campus in students and teachers.
2. Give teachers time to connect and collaborate.
3. Communicate often.
4. Be a coach and cheerleader to students and teachers.
5. Roll up your sleeves and get involved. 

The bottomline is we don't need to see these as storms or roadblocks. We see them for what they are and work toward making it better. The first part is recognizing the need to improve our culture to benefit our students and our teachers. We cannot control the income levels of our families. However, we can make the level on the playing field fair to all students. That happens when we all provide the very best education every single day. It starts with the principal! 

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