The realm of education has become very competitive. Public schools are fighting to recruit and retain students. I love the challenge, but it isn’t easy! Public schools are competing against virtual academies that provide computers if you enroll in their program, private schools that serve a special niche (e.g. religion), and in certain states other public schools through the process of open enrollment. Public schools can compete in this environment if they provide the best customer service. Follow these three simple steps to improve the culture of your school and retain your student population.
1. Greet each student BY NAME
Every day, every student must be greeted by name by a caring adult. This is the easiest of the three steps. Hearing your name in a greeting provides a level of intimacy and exudes a level of caring that promotes a firm foundation for higher achievement.
2. Provide Choices
The retail market provides us with choices that blow my mind. I’ll assume most of the people reading this are adults and have learned the importance of personal hygiene. The hygiene aisle at my local retailer has an abundance of each type of product. Each brand of deodorant has a different scent, each brand of toothpaste has a different flavor, and the hair products are too numerous to count. How many choices do we provide in our schools?
We must, many have, move from the industrial model of the early 20th century where one size fits all to a liberated model of meeting the needs of the individual. The government is trying to address this issue through legislation RtI (Response to Intervention). Don’t overhaul your curriculum. Start small and model how choices are an everyday occurrence in your personal life. Share stories like the selection of products. Your class will catch on quickly if you are willing to blaze a new path laden with choices that you can provide in your classroom.
3. Give Mercy
This is my biggest obstacle to overcome, my wife will attest to that statement. Mercy is much bigger than student discipline. It is the paradigm in which I need to approach each situation.
Whether in school or out of school, each of us have been in situations where an individual gets our blood boiling. In school, we must remember that our customers are juveniles and don’t always handle situations appropriately. Don’t overreact.
A few years ago, my superintendent provided the administrative team with some statistics for our eyes only. I broke her confidence and shared the information with a friend that I thought I could trust. Unfortunately, he broke my trust and the information was leaked to staff members around the district and I was found out as the source.
My gut wrenched over my poor decision.
The next working day, my superintendent paid me a visit. I saw my career pass before my eyes or at least to have my unblemished personnel record be littered with a letter of reprimand. We talked for quite awhile about how this type of unprofessional behavior can undermine relationships. She was not known as a compassionate leader, but that day she emulated compassion.
As she got up from the chair in my office, she said, “Adam, if I can forgive you, you should be able to forgive your friend.” Mercy at its best. I didn’t receive any further disciplinary action and learned a valuable lesson about trust and mercy. I deserved a consequence and all I received was another chance.
The next time you are faced with a student or parent that acts inappropriately give them another chance, you’ll benefit from that investment over time.