As leaders in schools, we have conversations all day long. We choose what conversations we engage in. We choose the relationships we want to invest time and energy. We consider the impact of the conversations on staff morale, on student achievement, and on how it impacts us as individuals.
What if we chose to get curious when entering a conversation? What if we challenged ourselves to have tough conversations, today, in a compassionate way?
What would we see? How would our relationships change?
When I became a principal, I made conversations the priority. As I talked with my staff, I noticed a shift. I would check in with them, their families, their successes with students and their challenges with students. When my gut told me I messed up, I went back, apologized, and had the conversation.
I noticed tighter, more cohesive relationships were forming. Gradually then suddenly, the results in our school were changing for the better. Anyone who walked in the building felt the buzz of energy. Staff and students used words like: “We are a family here.” “We care about each other.” The students wanted to be at school, in fact, we had a hard time getting them to leave each evening!
Result: Consistent growth in ACT scores. Result: 98% of students going to college. Result: Achieved a 98% attendance rate.
Staff retention grew 90% year over year because I included each of them in the conversations that mattered. According to the educators who were surveyed from the book, If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students! Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers, “Effective leaders are included in conversations with teachers. Effective schools are places where everyone shares. A leader who includes teachers in conversation will be included in teachers’ conversations. Trust must be developed through open, concise, and direct discussions.”
I encourage you to have more conversations. Challenge yourself: What missed conversations do you want to have? What results do you hope to see? How will this impact you, your school, and your students?
Tip to use with students: Check in each morning with all your students. Clear your calendar for 15 minutes and greet them as they enter the building. It can be the best part of your day as you look in their eyes, they look at yours and see you care.