Thursday, December 27, 2012

Developing a Culture

The staff at Johnson Crossing had a unique opportunity this year to develop a new school.  Johnson Crossing is the 5th and 6th grade building in Fremont Public Schools.  This was a departure from previous years in which the district was set up with a K-5 (8 elementary schools) and 6-8 (one middle school) configuration.  Like any school, we have many challenges, some of which I hadn't previously realized would be challenges.  Developing a cohesive staff with a common purpose and common school culture is at the center of what we have done and must continue to work on through the rest of the school year.  Developing culture can't happen over night.  Here are some thoughts on some important elements of school culture and how we have started this work in our school.

Developing Culture

1. EMPOWER STAFF
  • Leadership Team-The leadership team is made up of leaders of teams, departments, and others.  Ideas are discussed by this group and then taken back to teams and departments.
  • Team Leaders-5th grade is split into 5 interdisciplinary teams and 6th grade is split into 4 interdisciplinary teams.  Each team is assigned a team leader.  These team leaders meet monthly.
  • Department Meetings -Department Meetings have taken the place of full staff meetings.  Departments meet grades 5-8 and at each grade level.  Department chairs also meet as needed.
  • Scheduling Committee -This committee will answer what is important to us in terms of how we spend our time in future years.  This committee is completely voluntary and consists of about 1/4 of our staff.
  • Grading Committee -Answering the question of what is important to us in regards to grading.  This committee was developed completely on a voluntary basis and, similar to our scheduling committee, is also about 1/4 of our staff.
2.  SUPPORT COLLABORATION & PROFESSIONAL CONVERSATION
  • Coffee with Colleagues -We have developed an informal conversation using twitter, blogs, and in person conversation. The basic idea is that we are professionals sharing ideas with other professionals.  
  • The cross over -During October and November, 5th grade teams (3 teachers) met with 6th grade teams (2 or 4 teachers) in small windows of time.  This offered the ability to get to know each other in a fairly informal way and find out what the other half of the building was doing.  Each team met with another team at least two times. 
  • Community Time -Administration, counselors, and para-educators meet with entire student body to discuss the character education lesson for the month.  This also allows teachers to meet as a grade level department more regularly and not outside of the school day.
  • Small Teams-See above (Leadership, Team Leaders, Teams, Departments, etc.)
3. HIGH EXPECTATIONS
  • Tiger Achievement Center-Designed to help students who need assistance.  Eventually this will be expanded to high ability students.
  • Tiger Success Program-Designed to make sure that all students complete homework.
  • TIGER Skills-Clear set of skills established for students to learn and follow.
  • Start right-Start with a lesson and set expectations on day 1.
  • Behavior and Academics-A group of teachers will evaluate high expectations on behavior and academics.  The grading committee has already begun to evaluate academic expectations and have discussed ways that will create a "never give up" feel in our school.
4. TRUST
  • Actions are aligned with words
  • Consistency
  • Knowledge
  • True trust takes time to develop

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