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“Every Child Is a Leader” School Culture

Instead of seeing children through the lens of a normal distribution curve—some kids are naturally smart and others are not—The Leader in Me paradigm sees that every child is capable, every child is a leader. This paradigm changes everything. Over 3,000 Leader in Me Schools in 50 countries are embracing this paradigm and experiencing an incredible change in school culture.

Broadly defined by The Glossary for Education Reform (http://edglossary.org/school-culture/), the term “school culture” generally refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions, and positive school culture is conducive to professional satisfaction, morale, and effectiveness, as well as to student learning, fulfillment, and well-being. The following list is a representative selection of a few characteristics commonly associated with positive school culture:

  • The individual successes of teachers and students are recognized and celebrated.
  • Relationships and interactions are characterized by openness, trust, respect, and appreciation.
  • Staff relationships are collegial, collaborative, and productive, and all staff members are held to high professional standards.
  • Students and staff members feel emotionally and physical safe, and the school’s policies and facilities promote student safety.
  • School leaders, teachers, and staff members model positive, healthy behaviors for students.
  • Mistakes are not punished as failures, but they are seen as opportunities to learn and grow for both students and educators.
  • Students are consistently held to high academic expectations, and a majority of students meet or exceed those expectations.
  • Important leadership decisions are made collaboratively with input from staff members, students, and parents.
  • Criticism, when voiced, is constructive and well-intentioned, not antagonistic or self-serving.
  • Educational resources and learning opportunities are equitably distributed among all students, including minorities and students with disabilities.
  • All students have access to the academic support and services they may need to succeed.

The Leader in Me process has all of the above-listed characteristic and more! It starts from a powerful premise—every child possesses unique strengths and has the ability to be a leader—which shapes the views of staff to value and develop the whole child. The process integrates leadership development into existing programs, curricula, and traditions and serves as a foundational operating system for the school, improving relationships, transforming culture, and highly motivating staff and students. All stakeholders are impacted by The Leader in Me, starting with the staff of a school, then expanding to students, their families, and the community at large. This Inside-Out Approach is a key ingredient to successfully creating positive change in a school.

This paradigm is extremely powerful, as it literally changes the definition of leadership. Leadership is not just creating CEOs but helping students find their gifts and talents and then creating opportunities for them to utilize these gifts to make a difference in the lives of others within the school community and beyond.

“Leadership for all” means that leadership is no longer a reward, but a right and a responsibility. All children have gifts and talents. We must create systemic opportunities for these gifts to be utilized.

~Betsy Wierda

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