Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hey Principal…The Tone You Set in the Morning Matters Exponentially!


The tone the principal sets for the entire building is a topic that I have spoken about, written about and practiced extensively. One might even say that I am obsessed with this topic. How the day starts for students simply matters and it is the job of the principal to ensure that the entire school is ready for learning each and every morning.

I have visited a plethora of school campuses while wearing my consultant’s hat and have observed on numerous occasions students entering a school and proceeding to a cafeteria, gymnasium or a classroom. On the surface, this is fine and perfectly normal. But I always want to go beneath the surface toward identifying the root cause of a given concern, issue, problem, etc. In most of the schools that I visit, trauma is an ongoing reality for far too many of the students who are enrolled there. These students have either witnessed or experienced realities that most of their teachers could never endure if they were asked to trade places with their students for as little as ten minutes. There are consequently far too many children arriving to school in the morning with so little hope. They find it difficult to make the correlation between hard work and effort today, and success in their adult lives later on. Their out-of-school challenges can be so overwhelming that they find it difficult to even have a vision for what their adult lives might look like. But each and every day, they must report to school, ready to learn.

There are so many safety nets that need to be put in place for such a large number of students in any given school which is beyond the scope of this essay. Here, I want to focus on how the tone is being set at their arrival everyday. As a consultant, as that youngster is arriving in the morning, I pay strict attention to what the arrival looks like….the dynamics of the arrival. I want to see how the tone is being set for the students as they are arriving in the morning. I therefore want to see the principal outside of the building warmly greeting them all. I’m looking for that sincere welcome as they are walking into the building or milling about on the campus before entering. I’m looking for those light conversations between the principal and students when needed. I’m looking for that handshake or fist bump or high five (or even a hug when appropriate). I’m looking for that warmth in the morning FROM THE LEADER. This time of the morning is invaluable for the leadership toward setting a tone while favorably impacting the overall climate and culture of the school. And of course, if the school is a very large school where students enter multiple doors, then I am always looking for the other members of the administrative team to participate in the greeting of students at their respective entrances. This is not a time for reading email or other administrative chores. When students are arriving to school, the only place for the principal to be is outside welcoming them. I am fully aware that some principals even greet their students as they exit the school bus. I welcome this practice as well.

Once the students are in the building and settled into their classrooms and homerooms, I have another component of the early morning that I pay strict attention to relative to the principal setting a tone for learning – the principal’s morning message. Most schools have some sort of morning routine which include the student body and staff reciting the pledge of allegiance, the school’s motto, mission and vision, birthday shout-outs, and school news and announcements. These are vitally important. As it relates to setting a tone for learning however, I’m waiting for the principal’s role in the morning announcements. I want to hear the principal’s morning message. What will the principal say today to capture the attention of the students and particularly the ones who need it most? Again, there are students sitting in classrooms who justifiably do not see the correlation between school today and success later on. That correlation has to made clear to all and it starts with the principal’s message toward setting the tone each and every morning. The principal must strive to inform, inspire and empower the entire student body daily. In some schools, this occurs as a morning convocation in the gym or auditorium and in others, it is over the intercom. Either one is fine. It’s just imperative that it is done. This is not a time to scold, complain, criticize or go over rules and consequences however. There is ample time for that when needed. The morning message is a time to uplift..to give hope…to spark the imagination and to launch the day on a very positive note.

Lastly, the principal must keep in mind that his / her message will only matter and be received and embraced when he / she has credibility in the eyes of the students. Credibility must be earned. It doesn’t come with the title. It is earned by being the authentic, sincere, student-centered leader the students need their principal to be. Anything less and the students will certainly detect it and consequently, the morning greeting and message will all be for naught.

For more Principal Kafele resources, visit principalkafele.com

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Just One Teacher Can Completely Alter the Trajectory of a Child


I am admittedly a social media “junkie.” I thoroughly enjoy posting education-related content literally every day and the follow up interaction with my social media friends and followers on all things education. Many of my posts are short quotes that just sort of pop into my head regarding how I view the education landscape. One of those quotes I posted recently drew a little more attention than my norm – “Just one teacher can completely alter the trajectory of a child...both for the good or for the bad.” I really didn’t see this one as being any different from the hundreds of other quotes I’ve posted over the years (I’ve saved them all), but educators really gravitated to this one…over 400 shares on Facebook and over 500 retweets on Twitter in one day! I thought, “wow…if there’s that much interest in this quote, I need to turn it into a blog post, so here it is.

There are 3.6 million teachers in the U.S. and each of them can wind up in any state, district, school and classroom in the country. There are 56.6 million school-aged children in the U.S. and each of them too can wind up in any state, district, school and classroom in the country. In your case, you wound up where you are and by fate, your students wound up in the same place with you. Of all the teachers and students in the U.S., you both occupy the same space.  Well that reality engenders a simple question: Are your students at an advantage BECAUSE you are their teacher? In other words, I’m asking you is there something special; something unique; something extraordinary; something advantageous about you being your students’ teacher? Does you being the teacher of your students raise the probability that they will be successful as students and successful in their adult lives? Is there something special about YOU being in that classroom? I challenge you to consider this question daily. I challenge you to have an honest conversation with yourself daily on this question via self-reflection and self-assessment. Why? Because it is absolutely imperative that as you walk into your classroom everyday, you walk into your classroom with an attitude of: I Got This! You walk into your classroom with an attitude of, “my students are going to soar today BECAUSE I am their teacher.” You are firmly aware that there are challenges, obstacles, pressures and demands that stand in your way and that you must contend with, but your attitude, your drive, your passion, your determination, your belief in your skillset are such that you will surmount every challenge, obstacle, pressure and demand that come your way.

But let’s go deeper. The title of this essay is, Just One Teacher Can Completely Alter the Trajectory Of a Child. I’m arguing here that of all the variables that can favorably or unfavorably impact the life of a child, your presence in the life of your students is immeasurable and undeniable. You absolutely matter. A youngster can go through 12 years of grade school and potentially have a plethora of substandard teachers but encounter that extraordinary teacher in grade 7 for example. Because of the drive and determination of that one teacher in grade 7 to see that this youngster completely understands the significance of education, and the drive and determination of that teacher to see that this youngster passionately believes in him / herself, there is a much higher probability that this youngster will be a success story. In this hypothetical example, this youngster was born into poverty and had to endure the realities that accompany poverty. Academics suffered as a result of the overwhelming challenges that this youngster has endured since birth and behavior was an ongoing challenge. This youngster was not on a path of success. But then you came along. In this case, in grade 7.  You were convinced that your students were at an advantage BECAUSE you were their teacher. You were “all in” on altering the trajectory of your student. You made it your personal mission to see to it that this youngster is on a trajectory to success…a trajectory of excellence. And because of your unwavering commitment to your student, your student went on and became a success story because EVERYTHING you poured into him remained with him long after he departed from you.

Conversely, just one teacher can completely undermine the trajectory of a child too. This is actually one of the scary parts of education. A student can go consecutive years with a great teacher and then in grade 5 for example, wind up with a teacher who is the antithesis of the aforementioned teacher…the drive, determination, passion and commitment are just not there. The teacher is strong in content but deficient in children. Because the teacher is deficient in children, connections are simply not being made and consequently, there’s a much higher probability that this student’s previous trajectory could be adversely altered as a result of the current teacher.

During the school day while your students are in your classroom, the number one determinant of their success or failure is YOU. Be ever so mindful of this reality and therefore stay committed to being that teacher that keeps your students on a trajectory of excellence!

For more Principal Kafele resources, visit principalkafele.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

SO YOU WANT TO BE A SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR? HERE'S A THOUGHT


Many and I mean MANY aspire to one day become school administrators. School administration means so many different things to so many different people though. In fact, the term "school administrator" is problematic for me personally. I much prefer to use "school leader." To that end, once you make that decision that school leadership is where you see yourself in your next chapter, you must begin to think as a school leader. Of course, you do not yet have any experience or a concrete frame of reference in that role but you do have an imagination. You must look at all aspects of your present school and begin to think daily about how it would be different if you were the leader of it. Think about what programs would be in place. What policies and procedures would be in place? How would you lead your present school if you were the leader? What decisions would you make in all aspects of the school? How similar would you be to the present administration? What would you do differently? How would your school be a different school if you were leading it? The bottom line is that I am strongly suggesting that you think as if you were the leader. Continue to be focused on your students in your present capacity but as it relates to where you want to be as a leader one day, place yourself mentally in that position immediately. See yourself leading now. Claim your leadership today. In life, wherever one wants to be over time, one must mentally see themselves already there before taking the first step. That's having a vision for where you want to be....in this case having a solid vision of leading your school...AND THINKING AS IF YOU WERE ALREADY THE LEADER OF YOUR OWN SCHOOL.

Hey Principal…The Tone You Set in the Morning Matters Exponentially!

The tone the principal sets for the entire building is a topic that I have spoken about, written about and practiced extensivel...