Perception is Reality

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”Open-minded school with a very advanced teaching method”

“The diversity and acceptance.  Every child is important at Gator Run.”

“I love how innovative the school is.  Children are allowed to explore and investigate to find out new information.”

“I like the school culture…The high standards and the emphasis of learning in creative ways.”

“My child is not a number at school, everyone knows him and looks after him.”

     Four years ago when I started as Principal of Gator Run Elementary, I made a few promises to my new family.  I told everyone that we would be considered the leader in innovation in our school district.  I stated that we would continue with the high standards previously established at the school while also instituting creative ways to reach our students.  I promised that each child would feel like they are the most important child.  I said that our school would be one filled with love, both of learning and for each member of our school family.

The statements listed at the top of this post come from our most recent customer satisfaction survey.  These comments and so many more like them tell me that we are on the right track to making my vision come true.  That the word is out that our school is a destination for learning and love.  That we are building a culture of constant learning and improving.

But we aren’t there yet.  Nor we will ever have fully arrived.  I am never going to be a leader who feels like we have done all we can do and there isn’t anything left to give.  In addition to the positives, there were many parent comments that also told stories of dissatisfaction with some of our procedures and policies.  I appreciate feedback that can help us continue to grow and evolve.  There was one area though that stuck out to me from the survey comments.  That area is related to my belief about school culture.

I recently posted this message on Twitter: “No matter how great you think your school culture is, know that student and parent experience will depend on the quality of individual teachers.”  One of the comments from our parents hit this truth home for me: “I feel the experience is very different depending on the teacher. I have two children at the school and the experience this year is quite inconsistent. One teacher offers a great learning environment, little but relevant homework and open communication with parents. The other teacher, complete opposite. A lot of homework that we cannot see how value is added, communication with parents. The other teacher, complete opposite: a lot of homework that we cannot see how value is added, communication with parents could be improved as well.”  Students and parents, our customers, can have totally different views about our school.  A school held in high regard.  A school that many parents offered amazing, poignant comments about.

So I shared these comments with my staff and I highlighted the particular one detailing the differing experiences.  I wanted to thank those that have helped us achieve what we have so far; those who are the reason we have received so much praise.  I want nothing more than for every student in my school to have the experience of the students in my best teachers’ classrooms.  I will never stop until this is the reality.  It drives me.

I also shared these comments because I needed to challenge those who are providing an alternate experience.  Continuous self-reflection is vital for all educators.  So let’s reflect this summer.  How can we create the scenario where every child is with a teacher who is passionate about education and relentless in doing whatever is possible to reach our students?  Then when we return for the next school year, let’s learn and share from each other.  Find colleagues who excel with communication.  Seek out those who build trust and collaboration in their classrooms.  You have your challenge – what if we could ensure that every student has an amazing experience each and every year?  It’s never too late to change how you will be remembered.

“The fact that the teachers are in constant communication with us, the parents, such openness allows me as a parent to be more proactive in my child’s education.”

“I love that our school believes in the ‘whole child’ approach to teaching, where kids are not only valued for their grades but for who they are, their skills and their interests while recognizing and helping children.”

“Warm and personal feeling I get when I enter the school. My kid matters.”

 

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