February 11, 2023

Three years into my career as a teacher, a couple moved into our community to teach at the high school where I worked. Since working at the high school I graduated from, I was always keenly interested in the new people moving into town and how they would fit in.

To make a long story short, the couple became good friends of my wife and me, and they seamlessly fit into the school and the community. As a matter of fact, they still work in the school district and are the hub of the school. Both of them became an essential part of the learning experience for 25 years’ worth of students.
 The list of positions they held is just amazing. At some point in their careers, they were:

  1. The softball coach
  2. The cheerleading advisor
  3. The student council advisor
  4. The career coach
  5. The Athletic Director, the Middle school team leader
  6. A building principal
  7. A community ambassador

…and the list goes on. The point is this…they became an indispensable part of the school and the community. They were a couple you could 9and did) build a school around. All schools have these teachers in them. the teachers that work tirelessly for the students and put the best interest of the students (and the school) at the forefront of what they do. They positively affect the school and the larger community in almost every way.
 They help build a culture of learning.
 So, what are the attributes of people that you can build a school around?

  1. Uncompromisingly learner-centered. They are always doing what is best for kids.
  2. Unashamedly positive. Positivity sometimes gets a bad rap as being naive…please, if you are a school leader, do not believe that. The people that you build schools around are not cynical. They inherently believe in the goodness of people and the righteousness of what they are doing.
  3. Care about kids…PERIOD!
  4. Good at their craft. In other words, they know how to create learning experiences for kids that are meaningful
  5. Don’t take themselves too seriously. They did not become a teacher to help build their own ego.
  6. Have a calmness of purpose. They know why they became teachers.
  7. Always looking to learn.
  8. Willing to put in the work. Being the hub of the school is hard work. There are activities and things that must be done outside the normal day. These people embrace that challenge.
  9. Think outside the box. Not only must you think outside the box for your classroom, but they must think outside the normal parameters of what their job entails.

My suggestion for you is to find people on your staff that fit most (if not all) of these qualities…and nurture them! They will make your school better!

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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