As mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been doing an email book study with my staff. I want to have all the quotes and thoughts saved to one place for future reference. Below you will see copies of what I am sending out to my staff about the book Culturize by Jimmy Casas. Warning, there are a lot of quotes from this book because I love this book!
Culturize starts with Jimmy sharing a negative experience with a baseball coach that impacted him for years. This has lead him to reflect on it saying:
“In many cases we adults sometimes avoid interacting with students altogether, either because we are too busy, we are not sure what to say, or we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, just like my baseball coach did. This leaves students walking school hallways every day feeling invisible and wishing someone would just take the time to talk to them in a genuine and caring way.”
Please know that I send these things with positive intent. I hope you never take it the wrong way or feel like I am condescending. Often times these thing connect with me because I need to work on them.
“One of the hardest places to look when things aren’t going as well as we hoped is at ourselves and our own attitudes, practices, and skill sets, especially if it means examining the influence we have. When it comes to measuring the culture of our schools and success of our students and staff, there really is only one place to look when we fall short: our own ability to lead effectively.”
Tough conversations and honest reflections are valuable, but difficult. How am I doing in this? How are we doing? What can we improve on today? Through the small things that we do daily, we can make a huge impact. Imagine the power of 120+ teachers and even 3,250+ students making small daily impacts…
“Everyone here has the capacity to lead, and everyone here is responsible for the culture and climate of your organization. No one person is responsible for determining your success or failure but you, and no one is responsible for your morale but you.”
A principal can have a school-wide impact. But a teacher can have classroom and department impact. While working a previous school that shall not be named, the principal provided a clear vision and goal for us to work towards. However, there were many departments that struggled to follow that vision because of individuals within the group. There were other departments that achieved the vision, and much more because of the leadership within their department. I have heard teachers say they are not a leader because they are not an administrator. Not true! Never underestimate your job as a leader with those you work with.
“Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and those who aren’t, come to school to be loved. I have found that the most effective teachers are not the ones who know the most but the ones who care the most.”Nicholas Ferroni
There is a guest chapter by Nicholas Ferroni in the book about “Eyes of Culture” and it has some really great parts. However, my favorite part is quoted above. Relationships matter. Jus last week I saw a relationship with a teacher and student that literally saved the student’s life. It was powerful and profound. This quote always makes me stop and think a little harder about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.
“I honestly believe that the three most important characteristics of an amazing educator are compassion, passion, and knowledge. In that exact order.”Nicholas Ferroni
My favorite part from the reading today comes from that same guest chapter with Nicholas Ferroni. He says something that can be quite polarizing to educators, but my experience has proven this to be true. I have also seen it true when when engaging in conversation with our students. During the conversation I will always ask which teachers they like (or connect with) the most and why. Without exception they will cite compassion or passion (or both) as the reason that they are their favorite teacher. Those two things are a powerful 1-2 punch combo! 👊
Core Principle #1: Champion for Students
“You probably know a few educators who embody this first core principle of championing for kids. They relentlessly hold on to and intentionally live out of a deep belief that connecting with kids and valuing their talents and voices is the first step to creating the kind of school culture and experiences that will impact students for a lifetime.”
Sometimes when I read stuff like this I get so inspired I feel like I can take on the world. But there are also times when I read this and think, all of this is crap (am I the only one?) It all seems to depend on the kind of day I’m having and whatever stressors I have going on. However, I hope that I typically show an attitude of championing for kids. Through small and meaningful interactions with students I hope that we can do this daily. No matter how small we feel the impact to be.
I believe that all children need a champion who cares about them and is willing to encourage them. But they also need someone to take notice of their skills and then provide them with the strategies and an understanding of how to use those skill sets to thrive.
Relationships matter. I will preach that till death do us part. That belief becomes something more powerful when it is belief in something specific about that student. Help them see their strengths and what that can lead to in their future career and life. Caring matters. But encouraging them once that relationship is established takes it to the next level!
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. I believe we must invest in the three Rs on a daily basis so all kids feel like they belong. Our students deserve our very best, and we need to continue to fight for every one of them, even if we know full well that we can’t save them all.
I am currently working with a student that many questions why he is even in our building. Just the other day someone said, “he doesn’t belong here.” When I heard that I was crushed. Yes, he is a very difficult student. Yes, he doesn’t always go to class. Yes, he does make some dumb decisions. But, he is our student and he is here. For many that is a victory. I will continue to fight for him for as long as I can.
Getting to know our students on a more personal level, such as their interests, fears, and talents is vital to creating a classroom culture where every child feels valued and understood; however, too often we stay near the surface treading water rather than diving deeper. By doing so, we stop short of the next crucial step of any relationship, and that is allowing the students to get to know us. I don’t mean get to know us only in terms of our personal lives. I mean that we invite them in to see our core. What drives us to do what we do? What gets us up in the morning and pushes us to want to teach? From what do we draw to make our decisions? It is imperative that our students know our core principles so they know what to expect. More importantly, they need to understand what we value so they can see our behaviors mirror our beliefs.
I love that Jimmy Casas invites us to let the students see “our core.” How powerful is it for them to know why we do what we do. Why we became teachers. Why we continue to be teachers. When I have shared my personal beliefs of why I am an educator with others the impact has been more powerful. They get a peek at more core and why I am who I am, and why I do what I do.
Jimmy Casas has identified three interrelated areas that either propel or inhibit a child’s success in school:
Further explanation about these three help clarify. In connections he says that as champions for students, our responsibility is to put systems into place to ensure that all–not just some–students are cared for on a personal level at school.
About capability he said that students very often take their cues regarding their beliefs about their own capability from their teachers.
And finally confidence. Lack of confidence in his opinion is the number one reason kids fail.
You only need one person to believe in you to succeed. It’s a lot easier if that person is you. -Anonymous
How can we help our students learn to believe in themselves? What can we do? What does it look like? 🤔
If you are wondering if your students trust you, here are a few questions to evaluate the way you interact with students—and thereby their level of trust with you:
– Are you honest with your students?
– Are you dependable in following through when you promise to do something?
– Are you available when you say you will be?
– Do you demonstrate a sense of empathy when students hesitate to do what you ask or fail to follow through on what you agreed upon?
– Do you take time to ask questions when they let you down rather than make assumptions regarding the reasons why?
– Are you impeccable with your word?
I loved this quote because it can go a number of ways. I read it as an administrator and ask myself every single question about not just students, but also teachers. I hope that any person in this building (student, teacher, or staff) can answer positively about those questions in regards to their level of trust in me. If you can’t, please come see me. Let me have that feedback so I can improve.
Take Care of the Student
Students are the most important people entering our facilities.
Students are not an interruption of our work; they are the purpose of it.
We are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are entitled to our service.
Students are not cold statistics; they are human beings with feelings and emotions like our own.
Students are people who bring us their wants, and it is our job to handle them as expeditiously as possible.
Take care of the student; that’s why we are here.
Jimmy Casas quotes the above poem called Take Care of the Student. It was one of the parts of the book that I stopped and read multiple times. It was an embarrassing reminder for me. There have been more times than I want to admit that I have been bugged when a student has come into my office when I am really busy with something else. Something much more important than their (insert any minor issue here). This is a reminder to myself to take care of the student. I am recommitting to you that I will take care of our students here at Herriman High.
Casas closes out the chapter about being a Champion for the Student with three culture building ideas:
– Recognize What’s Going Well
– Change Student Behavior by Changing Adult Behavior
– Reach Out and Call Someone
I know there isn’t a lot of context behind this list, but I think you’re smart enough to figure it out. If you want more information on any of these points, you know where to find me.
Every success story begins when someone takes the vital first step to hope and believe that change is possible. Without hope, there is no plan. We all need someone to believe in us. Be that one!
Short and sweet today, whether it is for a student or co-worker: BE THAT ONE!
Experience is still the best teacher. If we believe this to be true, and if we want our students to truly find value in their experiences, then maybe we should put them in positions more often to experience failure—and the consequences that come with having failed. One of the best skills we can teach kids is failure recovery.
I know that this might be a loaded quote because I believe most educators believe this. However, we do receive push back from parents and stakeholders when their student experience failure. But, let’s do what we can to help instill grit and resiliency in our students.
Stress is an inherent part of an educator’s work, but how you manage stress is up to you.
What do you do to manage stress? What have you found to be successful? I have found that boxing is my out. Whether it is hitting a bag, mitts, or sparring with another person.
Some of the most challenging behaviors students present at school are rooted in their experience of other adults letting them down, lashing out at them, and modeling poor emotional regulation.
I just had an interaction with a student who disclosed that a lot of his choices and behaviors have come from his anger at his father and how he feels abandoned by him. I hope to be the model of proper emotional regulation to the students that come through my door.
“How you feel is not the best guide for what you should do… press pause and ask yourself what this situation requires of you.”
There have been more times than I want to admit that a student has pushed my buttons and I acted in a way I’m not proud. A more recent situation I recognized it and excused myself from the room. I went and talked to another administrator and figured out what the situation required of me. I was still frustrated with the student, but able to handle the situation much better.
All successful schools share one key thing in common: a core group of leaders (teachers and administrators) who believe 1) they can change the world, and 2) the success of their students and staff starts with the expectation of excellence. They expect the best from others and even more from themselves. They focus on their own personal and professional growth, and they set a standard for others to do the same. They understand that expecting excellence from themselves is a choice, but striving for excellence each day is a lifestyle and the first step in modeling what they expect from others.
I believe that we have these two components here at Herriman High. I work with incredible teachers who believe they can change the world, and who expect excellence from their themselves, students, and others. Thank you!
Your vibe attracts your tribe. Here are three ways in which your vibe as an educator can attract a tribe of people who are willing to carry the banner for your school.
1. Model positive interactions.
2. Remember that your body language (or angry face) reflects your beliefs.
3. Show appreciation.
Our job is taxing in so many different ways. You need your tribe here at the school. These three things have been really beneficial for me as I have sought out my tribe.