Whether you’re a new or veteran leader in your building, one of the most disheartening things to happen is that your school loses momentum (or fails to gain it) in the first few weeks of school. You may look around your hallways or office one afternoon and feel defeated, overwhelmed, or unsure of how to fix a couple of major struggles facing your school community.
More than likely, a low-performing culture will start to become toxic and weigh on many people. One of the best solutions to remedy this battle is constantly focus on developing and maintaining your relationships with your administrative team, teachers and staff.
Don’t allow a rough start of a school year to subconsciously convince you of mindsets like “this is just how things are around this place.”
One way to keep high expectations at the forefront is to actually talk about how things are going currently.
This is one of the biggest pieces of advice that we give to our principals. It can be easy in toxic cultures to become isolated, and people drift away from a culture of giving and receiving feedback. As you navigate through conversations, constantly seek feedback and also offer opportunities for growth and coaching using coaching language.
One way to give feedback is through a technique called “AIC” which stands for “Affirm, Impact and Challenge/Continue.”
When giving feedback, relate it to a strength a person has and affirm it.
“You have a strong teacher voice that resonates in the classroom.”
Then tell them the impact that affirmation has on their work.
“Your voice allows students to listen to you and know when you mean business.”
Close it by challenging them to use their strength to improve in a certain area…
“I challenge you to find the right times to use that voice because in certain circumstances, it comes across as yelling at students.”
You may decide that there isn’t any “challenge” per se, and you think they just need to “continue” with what they are doing.
In that case you may say:
“You are never afraid to speak up at staff meetings and share your concerns. (Affirmation). It gives me confidence that I can do that too, which is hard for me (Impact). Please continue to do that so I can use your approach as a positive, effective model. (Continue).”
When leaders give teachers a chance to give them AIC feedback in public, a culture of feedback starts to form! We’ve seen huge improvements in staff efficacy when this type of feedback is consistently practiced during staff meetings, creating a safe space for everyone to contribute.
If the year is getting off to a rough start, use these strategies to avoid losing hope or confidence in yourself or your team. Consider if what you’re doing models a growth mindset for your school community and take steps each day to get your school year back!
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