School Improvement From The Inside Out

I have heard it said that, “There isn’t a problem that cannot be solved by the collective knowledge of the professionals in the room.”  I have not tested this theory and I am not sure if it can work with every problem. However, I do believe strongly that every problem should be investigated by the collective knowledge in the room.  

Who knows the context of the school better than the teachers who create it?  Who knows the community, the students, the systems, etc. better than the people who navigate them everyday?  There is nothing more empowering than being a part of the solution. There is nothing better than being seen as an expert in a certain area.  By engaging staff in identifying areas of growth and harnessing the collective expertise among your staff, you are poised to create genuine trust and buy in.  

Think of a beautifully wrapped gift.  It has a shiny bow on top, sparkly wrapping paper, and a neatly addressed card with your school’s name on it.  You wouldn’t set this beautifully wrapped gift on the shelf and stare at it, knowing you have a beautiful gift, but not actually know what it is that is inside.  Take your gifts off the shelf, rip them open and harness the truly joyful and powerful gift that is on the inside. Every staff member has gifts to enhance your school.  You just have to take them off the shelf and discover the gifts they have to offer. This will ignite school improvement from the inside out

Engage Staff in Identifying Areas of Growth

Ask your staff what they need.  Analyze data and look across your system, and gather information.  Stay within your sphere of influence and enlist input from your staff.  They know the school best and can offer valuable insight on improvement efforts.  Plus this open dialogue and shared leadership will help your staff feel heard and valued.

Empower Staff to be Part of the Solution

Now that you have identified areas of growth, now is the time to drill down to the root cause of the issue and devise a change idea.  Once a change idea is agreed upon, ask staff about expertise in the area. Ask them to lead some professional learning, and to open up classrooms for modeling and observation.  Have a team inquire and learn about the proposed idea. Facilitate an inquiry cycle on the proposed change idea and have teachers gather data. Empower your staff to be the change that they want to see and involve them to be a part of the solution.

Harness the Collective Expertise of Staff

Find your experts. Pick their brains.  Put them in charge. Elevate new leaders. Share ideas. Harness. Collect. Build.

Look Within for Solutions

When that new shiny curriculum is purchased with the goal of “fixing” all of our problems, look within for solutions instead. When that new assessment program is required to help us “diagnose” the problem, look within for solutions instead.  When we buy into new programs and take on new initiatives, often it does not work for the unique context that we serve, so look for solutions within instead.

Looking for solutions within the organization is often more valuable and supports a positive culture.  If anything, hire support to facilitate these discussions, not to some in and tell staff what they should be doing.  Support school culture that is solution based and focused on developing what is currently in place in your school setting.   

Take a poll and have staff self identify their strengths.  Then use this information in planning your professional learning and school improvement initiatives.

CLICK HERE to use this lesson plan to support the process.   


Sarah Hayden
Instructional Coach, TEEN TRUTH

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