I get to see a lot of cool things when I visit the state's charter schools. Below is a list of things I've seen that are great ideas for maintaining a healthy school culture:
1. Utilize good behavior awards where even visitors can acknowledge, in writing, something neat that a student did. One school has a special bulletin board in the hallway to post these recognitions for everyone to see.
2. Establish a student ambassador program that is a privilege to be a part of, which utilizes students to speak with school visitors, give school tours, or otherwise represent their school. Give the students a special polo shirt to wear when they're "on duty" as an extra incentive.
3. Post the school's vision and mission in a prominent location near the school entrance. Clearly communicate the vision/mission through parent/student and staff handbooks.
4. The faculty models high personal expectations through their own written communication, preparation for class, personal reading choices and discussions with students.
5. The school displays academic achievement trophies as prominently as athletic trophies.
6. Evening classes for parents to explain the school's curriculum or teach parents how to encourage academic achievement in their children.
7. Define high expectations in writing and emphasize these in decision-making.
8. Conduct forums where parents are invited to interact with school leadership. These may be Principal coffees, board townhall meetings, or listening sessions. [Note: offering food is always a plus when engaging parental input!]
9. Board members read the vision/mission statement at the beginning of monthly board meetings.
10. At every opportunity, school leaders tell about individual student accomplishment (anonymously, if appropriate) or anecdotes about the school community that reflect the school's priorities.
11. During annual strategic planning, individual board members write thank you notes to individuals or groups of people representative of different parts of the school, such as the PTO, the finance team, the administrative support staff or the janitorial staff.
12. Designate one or two students for each classroom to approach class visitors, introduce themselves and explain what the class is currently working on. Lots of schools do this and as a visitor, I've been extremely impressed by the maturity and poise these students possess. [Note: many charter schools have found they operate in a "fish bowl," meaning they often have visitors watching classrooms.]
13. Encourage the daily use of a school motto. One school's motto was "First Comes Learning." When the Principal was approached by high school students and asked to purchase lockers for them, his first question was, "Tell me how this meets our priority of "First Comes Learning"?
14. Encourage emergent behaviors that represent the school's focus. For example, if a teacher encourages students to visit his/her classroom during lunch for extra help or to work on homework that teacher should be publicly recognized for "going the extra mile" with his or her personal time.
15. Redirect negative behaviors by addressing, instead of ignoring, them. Listen to concerns, but firmly transmit the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
16. Reward good teachers by having other staff members visit his/her classroom to observe skills such as higher-level questioning or classroom management.