How are you supporting and/or attempting to adjust the fundamental values of your school?
Roland Barth once said “A school’s culture has far more influence on life and learning in the school house than the president of the country, the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, or even the principal, teachers, and the parents can ever have.” We are constantly creating mission and vision statements, developing strategic plans, restructuring curriculum, and pushing technology integration. Nevertheless, in the midst of that chaos, many stakeholders are losing sight of the most critical component: a school’s values.
When you walk into a school, through its office, down its hallways, and into its classrooms, the values of the school permeate into what we call culture. The feeling you get from the people, their actions and words, is critical to the learning process going on inside a school’s walls. It starts with how you are greeted when you walk in the door. Therefore, a school’s front office secretary or building monitor must be one of the most hospitable and amicable personalities in the school and serve as a beacon of the values infused within the school.
These values extend themselves down the hallways and are evident in the climate surrounding a school’s people. Does the school appear alive and engaging? Does it model the focus, rigor, and coherence we seek in our education? What a visitor sees while walking the halls of the school communicates what the school holds important. If time and effort was taken to display something, then it must be something held close to the hearts of the people. Similarly, it is just as critical what a teacher deems worthy of the physical space inside a classroom. It’s not only about what’s included, but how it is displayed and arranged to meet the needs of students and articulate the values of that classroom.
Schools are becoming more and more active at communicating their values to parents, community members and to students through character education and PBIS initiatives. Just like core content knowledge, one must be taught something multiple times for it to be stored in long-term memory and become habitual. Therefore, continuously educating students and parents on how to embody and represent positive character traits can transform how the classrooms and families talk and interact. If the words being relayed are never reiterated to the point of changing action, then their purpose is lost.
An often-referenced book entitled The Moral Life of Schools, written by Jackson, Boostrom, and Hanson (1993), provides various accounts across primary and secondary schools demonstrating how every action and reaction by a teacher impacts the perceived morals of the school. It can be as simple as greeting students at the door with a smiling face and can be as complex as a teacher’s reaction to a student question, behavior, or mistake. The culture of every classroom is different, which is mostly due to the values each teacher conveys verbally and non-verbally with students. In the course of an action-packed school day it is easy to lose focus and dismiss what seems minute. However, one reaction [or lack thereof] of a teacher may be the climax in the drama-filled plot of a student’s school day.
My name is Terry Vaughn Jr. and I am a first year assistant principal at Manual Academy in Peoria, IL. I pride myself in being an educator and a leader, and love sharing my passion for learning and growing with others. I believe it is our mission to make the world a better place while we're here, and we have the educating our young people is the most powerful way to see that change. Therefore, I strive to motivate and support teachers and students along their individual paths towards personal and professional success by providing intentional leadership, fostering interdependence, and maximizing potential.
As a student, I went through the East Peoria, IL school districts and on to Eureka College. I received my Bachelors of Science in Mathematics with a Secondary Education certification and Middle School endorsement in May 2008. After college, I taught 6 years of middle school math at Germantown Hills Middle School while pursuing my graduate degree. In May 2013, I completed my Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership and Type 75 certification from Western Illinois University.
On a personal note, I am the father of two beautiful girls and husband to the one and only. My hobbies include athletics of any kind, movies, and everything technology-related.