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STRIDES TOWARDS EXCELLENCE


As principal, I highly respected this proactive idea, yet in the hurried age we are in, I was ever conscious of initiative fatigue as principal of a hard-working staff. However, these two teachers were advocating for our staff to initiate preemptive relationships with our students long before a discipline referral or child study meeting log was completed; in fact, they realized that in the long-term, we could potentially maximize our time and collective efforts by strengthening real, meaningful relationships. By establishing a framework (See Chart 1), maintaining consistency, and instilling collaborative ownership, this approach has realized results over the past few years. Again, the crux of this success was relational, as “the special relationship that exists between the teacher and student or administrator and student is the key to success and excellence in any school at any level” (Peters, 2004, p. 10). An idea that brings the school community together can transcend the fatigue and enable collaborative success for all.


Establishing a Framework After a series of discussions in which we planned out and discussed details, potential challenges, and approaches, we introduced the idea to the staff. Importantly, Ms. Kristie Sclater, 2nd grade teacher, and Ms. Bronwyn Murray, 4th grade teacher, took ownership in sharing the idea in a staff meeting. They affirmed the work that teachers were already doing- spending time after school tutoring, having a “rewards lunch” time with a few deserving students, even attending a little league baseball game to encourage an eager student. Kristie and Bronwyn noted that support structures were already in place, but that by establishing a consistent, enduring relationship with a particular student, trust would develop and allow for an effective “teacher-mentor” role in which the educator could bolster efforts and “check in” routinely with the student to ensure success. Together, we devised an acronym, COSTS- “Connecting Our Students, Teachers, and Staff”- for the program. While similar approaches have been incorporated by successful schools in varying manners, we knew that our work had to be defined by our particular schools’ needs and goals in a manner that could be supported and sustained by our staff. for an effective “teacher-mentor” role in which the educator could bolster efforts and “check in” routinely with the student to ensure success. Together, we devised an acronym, COSTS- “Connecting Our Students, Teachers, and Staff”- for the program. While similar approaches have been incorporated by successful schools in varying manners, we knew that our work had to be defined by our particular school’s needs and goals in a manner that could be supported and sustained by our staff.


Spring 2011


Vol. 8 No. 1


Virginia Educational Leadership


19


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