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  • Writer's picturerobertthornelltx


Updated: Sep 5, 2021

As you reflect on the culture of your school and the staff you have in place this year, are you confident the hold a common belief about learning and teaching? The common term in education these days, collective efficacy, was made popular by educational experts such as John Hattie, Peter Dewitt, and Jenni Donohoo ( ) and loosely translated means that a group believes they have the ability to make a difference in students' lives. What we also know, it that the principal sets the tone for collective efficacy. They must believe first!

The follow excerpt is from Inside the Principal's Office.

“Instead of giving reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.”

- Anonymous

Who is responsible to make sure students on your campus are learning and growing as they should? As your school’s lead learner, it is absolutely your responsibility to ensure all students are learning. However, it is also true that you are likely not in front of students teaching content lessons every day which makes it both difficult and frustrating if you feel like you cannot directly impact students' learning. What you can do, however, is hire and train the best people available to put in front of your students. Hiring staff is probably the single most important activity that a school leader engages in, and it should never be underestimated or compromised.

The second most important thing a principal can do is lead a learning culture by setting high expectations for all staff and supporting them to meet those expectations. This includes not wavering when staff members cannot meet those standards. It is difficult to accept this responsibility, but it is necessary.

For years, schools all over have used the phrase “All Kids Can Learn” as a rallying cry to show that they are committed to helping all students. If you really dive into this statement, it potentially places the responsibility for progressing and learning on the child. Now, there is absolutely no problem with holding students accountable for learning and encouraging ownership, but what if just one word was changed in this popular phrase? What message would it send about the people you hire and the expectations you set if the phrase at your campus was, “All Kids WILL Learn!” By changing the verb of the sentence, you have shifted the responsibility to the adults in the building and you have also sent a message: “Can” means it is possible. “Will” is a commitment. A powerful, culture-defining statement.

As you reflect on this commitment, consider your hiring practices. Are you looking for people that believe all students “can” learn or are you seeking teachers that believe all students “will” learn? One little word can make all the difference.

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