In attempting to change the culture here at Sparrow Middle School, I as principal, must resist the temptation to only look at teaching methods and curriculum. We have to look at our many diverse subgroups and address their problems, to create a truly inclusive learning environment. We need to connect with all our stakeholders and leaders (whether officially titled or not). With the support and input from our diverse community, we can create effective methods of nurturing cultural sensitivity that will enable the emergence of effective teaching.
I realize that my title and office of authority alone will not change Sparrow’s culture. Yet it will be the effect our vision, values, and actions others will witness, that will bring about the change we seek. “The paradox is that transformation would not be possible without accompanying messiness.” (Fullan, p.303). Fullan further states, “…the best way to manage change is to let it happen.” (Fullan, p.304). We will embrace change.
Students must feel comfortable and capable of performing in three key areas; academically, socially, and developing life skills. When we look at the present Sparrow culture, we can’t help but notice obstacles for our students to achieve success in these important competencies. There are cultural as well as language barriers we have to cross. We have very few Spanish speaking teachers, yet our Hispanic population in school has increased by 140% the past 5 years. We need a team of interested school community members to help us take stock of where we are now. What kind of a school do we want? Are there success stories around us that we can learn from. We will be surveying all our stakeholders to receive their input on what we do well and what we need to improve. We will examine the results and measure them against our previously developed vision and value statements to reach a consensus. Both short and long term goals need to be established and a plan of action developed going forward.
We must promote our students academically, emotionally and with a sense of civic pride. Our students are our most precious resources. Our school will provide a culture that values a safe, caring, active, and inclusive school community. We will look for glows – our successes, and also be aware of out grows – what we need to continue to work on. Middleville City is an unique and vibrant city filled with a richness of diversity, history and civic pride that will help us serve its students and the community. The students come to us with open minds and hearts and arrive here filled with energy and are eager to learn. It is our responsibility to provide with with a safe, caring, engaging and rigorous environment where they can thrive. We must also connect them with all the services and resources the community can offer, so they will find their strengths, talents, meet their needs and help them become productive citizens of the 21st century global community. We will celebrate our successes and acknowledge those who helped make them possible. We will be united in excellence.
Many of our stakeholders use our present culture as an excuse to obstruct the change process and try to keep things the way they are. Yet, “change is a process, not an event.” (Fullan p.312). Many people are afraid of change (Mr. Billups, Mrs. Eloise, and Mrs. Feakins), but before we change the policies and procedures we must first change the culture of our school. Every new principal starts off with similar difficulties when faced with changing the “way we have always done things here.” Or, in the words of Mrs. Feakins, “Sparrow is my school.” Yet in the final analysis, “Transforming the culture – changing the way we do things – is the main point.” (Fullan, p.316). We will utilize a multitude of methods to improve communication both within the school grounds and the community at large. Communication will be employed to both inform our constituents and engage them in our mission. People will be given the opportunity to interact and have new methods to collaborate. Information will be transparent and continuous and will be disseminated on a regular basis to all families and staff members. It will be written, electronic, oral, multimedia and of course here personally at Sparrow. Students will be encouraged to be active in our student forums to voice their opinions and concerns, but to also help us fulfill our mission to improve student outcomes. These processes allow us to have a fully collaborative effort for the benefit of all.