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Never Apologize for Having Great Programs

As I stood in the choir room before a group of about 200 parents, it quickly became apparent to me that this was not your typical meet and greet the new principal social event. No, there was something else on their minds, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then, from the back of the room a woman raised her hand and asked, “What are you going to do for the band students? They just spent $600,000 on a fitness center for the athletes and our kids still don’t have a place to practice. And we have no storage and our auditorium is not adequate for the drama kids.” And just like that, I now knew why so many had showed up for the meet and greet (how naïve I was to think it was because they really wanted to meet me). As I stood there trying to gather my thoughts, I could tell they were waiting anxiously for my response to give them some sort of clarity and maybe even proof that “they were going to get theirs too.” “Let me ask you all a question,” I said. “Raise your hand if your child is currently participating in a sport.”  Nearly three quarters of the room raised their hand. “So your kids are actually benefitting from this fitness facility as well, correct? And I have to imagine so is every student who is taking PE, right?” I stated. “So with all due respect I want to caution you not to make it about us and them. Your students are also student athletes and the divisiveness worries me. We can never build a community if we are all keeping score. Instead, you know what this tells me? That this community values excellence and that you have high standards for all that you do and you should feel good about that. So, let’s focus on the positives and if all of you along with this community believe that our standards are not up to par for the fine art programs, then let’s go do something about it…together. Because I know being upset at someone else’s success will not help us get the facilities our students need and deserve.”

This week I shared this #ThoughtForTheDay on Twitter.

Over the years I have seen too many educators spend way to0 much time complaining about what others have or got and in doing so, hurt their own school culture. I say this not to be critical of those who have acted in such a way (I will admit I have done the same), but to remind us all that we can do better. I remember having a conversation with a principal whose school was considered by all measurements, one of the best schools in the state of Wisconsin at that time. He shared that he never apologized for having great programs, but that he worked to create an environment where every program wanted to be the best and more importantly, believed that with the help of others they could be. I tried my very best over the years to emulate that leadership style.

So, if you are one who aspires for greatness, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you move forward in your quest for greatness for everyone in your school community.

  1. Never apologize for having a great program(s), but strive to elevate all programs to greatness.
  2. Sit and learn from those who have built great programs and strive to understand not only their strategies and practices, but their thought process behind their decisions and processes.
  3. Encourage all current members of your organization to go for greatness, but strive to understand their hesitation for not doing so and then provide the necessary support systems to help them achieve it.
  4. Look for characteristics and attributes of new members joining your organization and then expect them to continue to strive for high standards while providing the same support systems in #3 and more so if needed.
  5. Don’t just tell others that you expect them to build great programs, but provide the opportunities to visit great programs together so you can see it, feel it, and visualize it together what it could look like in your own school and culture.
  6. Every great program has people who want to be recognized for their work at some point. One simple way is to visit and attend your school’s programs and events and then ask questions of your staff. In other words, be visible so you not only see their greatness, but understand how their success came to be.
  7. Even the greatest of programs can fall back to average. Make sure we are giving these individuals and programs the TLC needed to continue to sustain their greatness over time.
  8. We know behind every great program is a great teacher, librarian, director, principal, counselor, coach, social worker, etc. Make sure these individuals always feel valued and appreciated. We often don’t give enough of our time and energy to those individuals in our organizations who are doing all that we ask of them.

In case you are wondering, we eventually were able to build the state of the art facilities our parents so desperately fought for over the years with one simple adjustment. We didn’t install turf, add storage, a rehearsal room, and build a beautiful performing art center for just the fine arts students, but rather for all of our students, our families and our entire community to which to this day, they are able to enjoy with a sense of pride and as one community. We are all truly blessed.

You too can be a Culturizer starting today!


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