A school’s first task should be to build on -- or at least not to kill -- the natural sense of enjoyment and fulfillment that all kids get from satisfying their curiosity about the world -- that is, from intellectual activity. A good school should be a place where the kids would choose to go, even if they didn’t have to. It should treat the kids as individuals to be engaged and won over, rather than as subjects to be dictated to.
I suppose there is only so much that individual school principals can do to pursue that philosophy, given how many decisions are imposed on them from above. But I do think there are differences in attitude and approach. That’s one of the reasons I liked what I saw in a recent newsletter from the principal of our local high school, John Bacon:
How can City High truly be The School That Leads? How do we live up to this proud tradition? How do we put meaning behind our motto? There are many ways we must do this, including these:Now, some of that has an over-the-top, motivational-speaker quality to it, and of course it’s easier to state goals than to put them in practice. (My kids aren’t in high school yet, so I can’t speak to the practice.) But as a statement of goals, from a principal working within a system that’s not of his own making, this seems like a good one. I’ve heard only good things about John Bacon, from both students and school staff, and I count this as one of them.
1. We must lead in delivering engaging instruction. We can hook our students into what we are teaching so that they look forward to coming to class each day. There is an element of performance to great teaching. We have a tremendous faculty and we must keep getting better.
2. We can lead in “customer service”. We must be family friendly, highly positive, with excellent communication. All stakeholders must be treated with respect and dignity each day.
3. Most importantly, we must lead in caring for our students. We must call them by name in a positive way each day. We must listen to them and respect them. We must treat each one of them exactly as we wish for our own loved ones to be treated.