Got Community?

        So over the past several years I have come to realize over and over again that schools are only as good as the people who work in them. You can tell so much about an educational institution by the community that makes it up, and if you get the people right, then the sky is the limit with what you can accomplish as a learning community. A strong community and culture is the backbone of every successful school in my opinion, but the trouble is that getting the right mix of people isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to create this foundation. This past week at our school, five things happened that left me driving home on Friday night a very proud Principal, and a community member that feels great about how far we’ve come over the past year or so.
        We started the week celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with friends (who just happen to be colleagues as well), and it was beautiful to go around the table taking turns sharing what we are all grateful for…we all had so much to say, and it really hit home that much of it revolved around the joy that we share in each other’s company…in and out of school. Then came Wednesday’s PYP assembly where we got together as a lower school learning community and rolled out our new PAY IT FORWARD initiative, which I’ll discuss in detail next week in another post. We read books about caring…we watched some inspiring videos about the power of random acts of kindness…we danced, and we left stronger than ever before, smiling ear to ear! After school that day we all took part in our first round of SIPS, which is essentially an opportunity for teachers to showcase their expertise, and for us as educators to professionally develop each other…the best type of PD as far as I’m concerned. There were 10 inspiring presentations and we all left the better for it.
        Then came Thursday morning where we gathered as a school community in the lower school cafeteria to celebrate faculty and staff birthdays…there were cakes and there was dancing, and even a mariachi band! I looked around and was hit by the joy on people’s faces and the positive energy that was filling the room. Finally, we ended the week with divisional happy hours, hosted by Principal’s at their homes, and a Middle School dance where over 90 per cent of the student body came out to attend. I was at the front gate at six o’clock as the dance was about to start, watching the eager kids sprinting to connect with their friends, and the parents lingering around trying to catch a peek…we were all giggling at our own memories of Middle School dances and wishing for just a moment that we could go back in time to feel that excitement again…what an end to an amazing week.
        As I was driving home after the dance I reflected on the past week, and on how our school culture is starting to be profoundly shaped by the community that we’ve all created together. I was also reminded of how long it takes to truly bring a community to life in a positive way, and for the culture of a school to begin to shift for everyone to see. Obviously, with the transient nature of International Schools, the players change each and every year, and that plays a huge part into a community’s dynamic. So, let’s continue to set the foundation for the future, and lay the fabric down for all future students, parents, and educators…and let’s be grateful and open to how fortunate we are to be in the midst of something really special. Schools are only as good as the people that make them up, and when I think about it and when I look around, it’s easy to see that based on that simple criteria, we’re starting to become a community that it as good as it gets. Spend this week thinking about even more ways that we can enhance who we are as a community, and be aware that each and every interaction that you have with a student, a parent, or a colleague directly impacts our community and culture…are you adding to it or detracting from it? Keep celebrating each other…keep celebrating our kids…keep looking for ways to bring joy and smiles to everyone’s faces, and be a positive change agent for everyone around you. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week….
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about–
Margaret J. Wheatley
Articles About Developing Strong School Communities – 
 
TED Talk – Taiye Selasi
Check These Links Out!

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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