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Culture, Coaching and Heart

A 2014 Memo…

Culture is everything. It is the fabric that either holds your organization together in order to achieve the mission, or simply put – destroys it. Culture must be tended to, nurtured and developed – as it is a living, breathing thing.  At the end of the day, if you don’t get culture right, nothing else matters.

Today, the Culture Team at Princeton High School analyzed the current climate at deep levels.  A group of 30+ staff members reviewed discipline and referral data, protocols and routines, and discussed cultural competency. The team celebrated major achievements, and also made recommendations and decisions for improvements for the remainder of the school year.

The meeting today is part of a larger initiative, in which the staff of PCMS and PHS are working with CT3, and their CEO, Dr. Kristyn Klei Borrero (Princeton Alum, ’91) – to make systemic improvements as we have shifted to a 6-12 secondary model, literally under one roof.

The work is simultaneously difficult and delicate.  Analyzing the culture requires critical conversations, accepting multiple perspectives and a strong sense of ownership.

As a result of this work, the staff at both PCMS and PHS develop a formal “Culture Plan” which unites the school staff members around common goals, clear-cut policies and shared language.

Additionally, both buildings have “Real Time Teacher Coaches” which are current members of the teaching staff.  The coaches visit with all staff members during a formal lesson, and provide feedback instantaneously so that teachers experience improvements while literally in the middle of teaching.

The coach uses a walkie-talkie and the teacher listens with an ear-piece, making split-second decisions based on the feedback. This is very similar to how an NFL coach speaks to his quarterback through the helmet-technologies, or how a pit-crew chief speaks to his Nascar driver, or how a soldier receives commands during the heat of battle – it’s instant. It’s Real Time.  It changes behaviors, which change teaching practices, which impacts learning – which ultimately change the culture.

Kudos to the Princeton staff, for taking on this innovative approach to improving their classroom management strategies, instructional practices, and leadership of school-wide culture so that students receive the best possible educational experience.

Often at Princeton (as we should), we pride ourselves on the IB Program, AP courses, Athletic History, Music Tradition, Theater and much more.  Yet, the one achievement that transcends all of that – is our culture.

Hats off to the entire 6-12 staff. I am proud of their efforts, their will to achieve at deep levels, and their love for every child in our diverse student-body.

Onward and Upward.

By William Sprankles

Originally posted on the PCSD Vikings blog on December 9, 2014.

Read more by William:

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