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BRAVO Principals...
Create a Shared Vision for Student Success

What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Clara Barton share in common? They are all remembered -- even today -- because their actions of long ago focused on valuing others.

As busy school principals we are all about action. In fact, research tells us that principals are working harder than ever. Many of us are working 60 to 70 hours a week or more. While there was a time when we could be successful just by being good managers, today we must be all things to all people. Consequently, many would say that the task of being a good principal is all about relationships. But it is only when our actions value others that we can build the kind of relationships with faculty, students, parents, and the larger community that will enable us to be truly successful.

BRAVO Principals

BRAVO is an acronym for Building Relationships with Actions that Value Others. "Principals can act in many ways that value others," said Sandra Harris, author of BRAVO Principals, and each month I will share in this column some of those ways. The ideas shared will not be directionless, busy-work activities; instead they will be 'tactical actions' -- actions with the purposeful intent of building valued relationships with others.

Harris, an associate professor in the educational leadership program at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, is author of other titles including Best Practices of Award-Winning Elementary School Principals (Corwin Press, 2005) and seven titles for Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

CREATING A SHARED VISION

BRAVO principals -- principals who understand the importance of Building Relationships with Actions that Value Others -- begin by creating a shared vision on campus. Creating a shared vision does not mean that we tell the faculty what our vision is. Instead, it means that we lead our staff collaboratively to build the school's vision around student achievement.

Tactical actions we might take to create that shared vision include inviting faculty to participate in a Vision Day. Vision Day begins when we ask faculty members to recall why they became educators in the first place. The teachers' wording might vary but, almost unanimously, they will share that they became teachers because they wanted to help students.

Next, ask faculty to reflect on what gives them the greatest satisfaction at school. Once again, the answers will vary, but most teachers will say they experience great satisfaction at school when a student achieves or learns successfully.

Based on what the faculty shares, we will likely have a clear vision for our school: Helping Students Achieve Success in Learning.

NURTURING AND SUSTAINING THE VISION

With a vision established, it is our job as principal to lead the entire learning community to nurture that shared vision of the school by seeing to it that the vision is at the forefront of all that happens on campus. To accomplish that

  • Engage all faculty members in developing a collaborative plan that clearly articulates objectives and specific strategies that will increase student achievement.
  • When school decisions are being made, begin every discussion by reminding everyone involved to focus on what will most help students achieve success in learning.
  • When school decisions have been reached, consider again the ways in which those decisions will specifically contribute to students' achieving success in learning.

The next step is to lead the campus to sustain this shared vision of Helping Students Achieve Success in Learning. To do that, we will need to re-state the vision every time we have the opportunity. We will remind faculty and students of the vision, and communicate the vision to students, parents, and the learning community through our school newsletter, our school Web site, and any other available outlets.

At faculty meetings, we can sustain the vision by inviting teachers to share their student successes. We can schedule a time for this into every faculty meeting; don't leave it to the last. Make it a priority! Then broadcast those success stories on the Web site, in the newsletter, and in the local newspapers.

In addition, involve the faculty, students, and parents continually in reviewing and evaluating how well we are accomplishing our school's vision of Helping Students Achieve Success in Learning. This is done at a regularly scheduled time each spring. Invite teachers, students, and parents to be part of focus groups that review the work that has been done. Survey the learning community regularly. Mark the dates for doing these things on your calendar at the beginning of the year, so that they are not forgotten in your busy schedule.

Recently, a veteran teacher told me that she was tired of teaching testing. She wanted to teach students. In today's test-driven environment, it is easy for educators to limit our vision to how students perform as a whole on state-mandated tests. Certainly, that is important. However, BRAVO principals are responsible for extending the vision far beyond a minimum standard for school or campus success; we must focus on successful learning experiences for every student on the campus. But we cannot do that by ourselves. That's why we involve the entire learning community in identifying, nurturing, and sustaining a shared vision. As we do that, we are building relationships that value others. When faculty, students, and parents know that they are valued, achieving a shared vision becomes everyone's shared responsibility -- not to teach testing, but to help every student achieve success in learning.

Article by Sandra Harris
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

09/11/2005