As a new principal at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School in Fulton County Schools, GA, Ivy Goggins faced pockets of success in the building, a climate of teachers working in silos, and the lack of true collaboration.
These are common challenges for many instructional leaders, teachers, and coaches, and Goggins sought to find a way to create a culture of mutual respect, cooperation, and equitable learning opportunities for her teachers and students.
In a recent edWebinar, Goggins, her principal coach Joy Treadwell, Ph.D. from CT3, and Jim McVety, managing partner of First Step Advisors, delved into solutions to these challenges through the essential leadership skills that have the potential to impact the entire school community.
Five domains for effective leaders
Educational leaders, McVety said, are working hard every day to make a real and lasting change but struggle to move the needle in their districts.
Treadwell’s team at CT3 built out five domains for effective leaders to help school administrators determine where best to put the emphasis and internal structures that allow them to thrive. These five domains include a shared vision, strategic resourcing, safe and orderly environment, teacher and staff effectiveness, and teacher/leader learning and development.
All the presenters agreed that the core and the most crucial of these domains is for school leaders to develop a vision where they are clear about the school or district’s mission, goals, and expectations. Without a shared vision, it is challenging to move a district forward and create a culture where students and teachers feel safe, and resources are allocated purposefully.
It is also critical that school leaders stay informed of best practices to ensure student outcomes while continually learning in the same way that their teachers are learning. By learning alongside their teachers, it allows school leaders to lead from the front of the pack and be the catalyst for sustainable change.
“No-Nonsense Nurturer” four-step model
“Getting a common language is critically important to ensuring a thriving school culture, and you can’t get there without consistent methodology or practice,” said Treadwell.
A No-Nonsense Nurturer Model is an opportunity to create a common language around how we support students in the classroom, ensure a level playing field regardless of backgrounds, and support teachers in building culturally relevant relationships with kids.
Giving precise directions, equitable accountability systems, building relationships, and utilizing positive narrative shifts attitudes and perspectives. When school leaders initiate, model, and coach teachers using a methodology like No-Nonsense Nurturer, the result is a collaborative environment with shared beliefs, commitments, and respect.
The presenters agreed that when leaders put into place behaviors, practices, and methodologies for change, it organically becomes a connective tissue that outlives school leaders.
The presenters emphasized that students come first, and all decisions, processes, and initiatives need to have at its center the best interest of students. Students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like, so building relationships needs to be the number one priority. This priority holds with teachers as well. When supportive, safe, collaborative settings are in place, clear and consistent expectations are the norm, and there is a common belief about what the school stands for, real and lasting change will happen.