You’ve heard that phrase before. Maybe in a trailer for the final movie in a blockbuster trilogy? A putt on the eighteenth green? A free throw with no time on the clock?
It’s a phrase usually reserved for right before the ending of something, not right before the beginning. Many of you have students joining you and your faculty this week. School is about to begin! And yet, it all comes down to this.
Well then, what is this?
THIS is the approach that you and your team choose to take toward students and their behavior and performance this year.
We all want to have school be more like school has been in the past than what it’s been like over the past three years. We want students to come to school! We’d like for them to take their learning personally and seriously; for them to get along with others; for them to behave appropriately without having to be begged, asked, or threatened.
It’s relatively universal. We ALL want those things for our students and for this school year.
WHAT we want is very reasonable. The choice of HOW we get there, however, will come with tradeoffs (as choices always do). To reach those goals of student attendance, performance, and engagement, I’ve heard many school leaders talk about the zero tolerance approaches they plan to administer in order to reestablish desired norms to their school. It’s a fact that excellence in academic achievement is nearly impossible to reach when the school is in disarray. It’s also true that students choose the level of effort they offer to any particular pursuit, and a personal connection to a teacher can lead to increased effort.
We need order. Be careful that order doesn’t become control. The problem with control is that it only works on those who are willing to be controlled. As you begin this school year, your faculty and staff are looking to the leaders for the cues on HOW to get WHAT you’re after. What you tell them and show them will cascade down to the lives of the students in your building. How do you get success without being too heavy handed? How do you get appropriate student behaviors without being too soft?
That’s something your faculty and staff are waiting for you to tell them, and to show them. As you seek this balance, choose wisely. Like they say at the ball park, it all comes down to this.