You're familiar with the "Teachable Moment." It's what educators live for. It is that moment full of potential for impacting a student. You never know when it will present itself, but you want to capitalize on it when it does!
How do you begin your school day? Many schools begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silence, and some morning announcements. This is how we start our day in my school, and it seems like a perfectly appropriate routine. But it turns out ... there are some "culture-builder" moments here.
Every morning, I begin by playing a clip of an upbeat song (usually no more than a minute). About once every week or two, I accompany the song with a contest: the first teacher that emails me the name of the song (or the artist, or the movie it's from; the contest varies), wins the prize. After announcements are over, I take 3 Hershey kisses to the winning teacher, and I give one Hershey kiss to every teacher who participated. What does this have to do with "instructional leadership?" Well, it's fun! And, in my experience, teachers who are having fun are more effective teachers. It's fun for the students too! They love the music, and they enjoy helping the teachers with the contest. Winning becomes a source of pride for the entire class. This begins our day with good energy.
After the song, I announce, "It's a GREAT day to be a WARRIOR!" I've been saying this for over 5 years now. It injects some positivity into our morning routine, and it sets the tone for the day. At first, students rolled their eyes; they thought it was corny. But it grew on folks. People started to say it around the community. If a student ran into me at Walmart, I would hear, "Hey Dr. Steele! It's a great day to be a Warrior!" The summer after my first year of saying this, I found myself in drive-thru at a Dunkin Donuts. When the girl handed me my coffee, she had written on the cup with a sharpie: "Great to be a warrior!" Positive energy can be infectious, and morning announcements are the perfect time to start your school day with enthusiasm and school pride.
This year I began giving "birthday shout outs" during the announcements. Later in the day, I'll find the student and do a "Birthday selfie with the principal." I'll text the picture to the parents. This is a simple way of making students feel special each day, and the picture has been a huge hit with the parents.
Traditionally, members of student council have led the Pledge of Allegiance, but this year we decided to allow any student in the school to sign up for a day to lead the pledge. Before our guest student leads the pledge, they introduce themselves and they have the opportunity to share their personal dream with the student body. This allows all of our students the opportunity to share their "voice" with the school, and it is a quick reminder to our staff about the importance of empowering and validating the passions of our students.
A positive school culture is not built overnight, and it is not the result of a single program or initiative. It is achieved by taking advantage of the little opportunities to make a difference. We are presented with many moments to celebrate students and elevate the positive energy in our building. We should never forfeit them -- but rather, build a school culture that rocks ... one moment at a time!