I borrowed the title for this post from a recent conference where I had the honor of providing the closing keynote. The NARENWICH (National At Risk Education Network Wisconsin Chapter) event brought together colleagues from schools across the State, who have a common purpose and passion – success as the desired option for some of our most challenging students.
I shared two foundational beliefs that drive my work today:
- Every student is a success story waiting to be told.
- Relationships before content. While both are important, the order is critical.
As I was responding to feedback from the session over the next week, I also received a blog post from Sammie Cervantez (@principalnheels) where she outlined her “What If” for the ideal school. I loved her simple, straightforward response:
“What if we created a place no one ever wanted to leave?”
The connection between the keynote I gave and Sammie’s thought was evident. A strong reminder of the incredible importance that school culture plays in ensuring high levels of success for all students. In healthy cultures the adults have an absolute commitment to the success of all students. There are no excuses, only variables to be considered. In these schools the team creates policies, procedures, and practices that support their belief. Beliefs follow behaviors. Contrast that with a school where a toxic culture exists. In that environment success is static and predetermined. The team doesn’t move students to high levels of success but instead marks time as each child passes through their grade level with success already predetermined by the innate gifts and talents the child possesses. Policies, procedures, and practices are designed to validate this fixed view of students and their potential for success.
My dream is simple – all students will successfully transition from grade to grade and then to life beyond school. I believe I’m not alone in that dream. In order to reclaim the power of that, it really rests with us, the adults in the system, and our capacity to turn that dream into reality while transmitting the belief of success for all to our students.