The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

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.


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5 thoughts on “Culture, then Curriculum

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Students come to our school each day with personal baggage, they need to feel safe and loved. Best teachers are often remembered by the great content they taught their students, but always remembered and respected because they “cared” about the their students personally.

  2. Bill, I can only speak for myself, but these days, when I see kids that I had in my class while I was teaching, they talk a lot more about the time I took to talk with them and show them they were important than they do about the world history lessons I taught them.

  3. Michael Guimond on said:

    Mr. Bernia,

    My name is Michael Guimond. I am in Mr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. After reading your Blog Post, I must tell you how refreshing it is to see a male principal with similar views as mine. The junior high school and high school I attended had principals with a different outlook than yours. They would stress the importance of test scores. I don’t mean any disrespect towards them, but the way my mom teaches her second graders is the way I believe our teachers should teach. It is the way, after reading your post, I feel you want teachers to teach. To inspire students to do the best they can. Our education system puts so much into test scores but we I feel we are taking away from kids being kids. Agree? I don’t want to take up to much of your time or go on a rant so I’ll wrap this up, but first I want to tell you again how nice it is knowing there are principals out there who do still understand what it’s all about.

    -Michael Guimond

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the kind comments, I appreciate your words, as well as the time you took to express them. To be clear, there’s a lot of Principals like and better than me.

      Keep studying hard, we need great teachers, it sounds like you’ll be a tremendous addition to the profession!


  4. Pingback: Reflecting on my learning – Day 2 of the Birmingham Learning Conference « The Principal's Principles

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