Culture, then Curriculum
“People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.” ~ John C. Maxwell
Today, the newest edition of the ACSD publication Education Leadership arrived in the mail, this month focusing on school climate. After reading several of the articles and reflecting on my work this week, I realize how much time is spent as we start the year on curriculum. Tomorrow, our district staff will devote an entire day to meetings ensuring that curriculum maps are set, common assessments are scheduled, and everyone is set to begin lesson planning for the year. To be clear, this is very meaningful, important work, and I look forward to sitting in on these meetings and doing my very best to contribute to the conversation. Today as I passed by some staff members talking about books to use and technology to implement, I could not help but feel inspired.
Having said that, this is also a time to reflect on how important it is to build relationships, community, and a sense of safety in our classrooms and schools. Our goal for this school year should be to push all of our learners beyond what they believe they are capable of. To do this, each student will have to take risks and make mistakes. To make this happen, they need to feel emotionally safe in their classroom. In a world full of peer pressure and outside influences, creating a place where kids can be wrong and learn from their errors is a challenge. While attention to curriculum matters, so does our effort to create an environment where children can succeed. This must stretch beyond the layout of the classroom, outline of bulletin boards, and plans for seating charts.
Yesterday at our student walk through, I talked with hundreds of students. Their worries included making it to class on time, opening their lockers, whether or not teachers will know their names, seeing their friends, and who is in their third hour class. Thinking about what makes me nervous as the school year gets started, I realize those concerns simply don’t matter to those who are the most important, the children walking through the front door next Tuesday. Putting students first sometimes means making sure they feel comfortable and safe as the year gets started, that’s our top job.
Organize the room, develop a curriculum plan for the year, but don’t overlook the need in the next few days to build a sense of community in your classroom in school, it will take you far this year.
P.S. While not related to today’s post, I thought it’s worth noting that I was lucky enough to be featured in today’s edition of the Oakland Township Patch.