Monday, January 23, 2012

Shaping a Culture in Education

"There are many initiatives, policies, and programs that come and go in education, and to be honest, I have found most of them to be thoroughly uninspiring." This is the sentiment I conveyed to a crowd of parents (mostly dads) and students at a school event last year, and I still stand by it. The objective of adding a program or tweaking a policy is just too shallow for what is needed in schools. My purpose is to shape a culture.

For example, my vision for bringing WatchD.O.G.S. to my campus was not to add another program or give us another feather to stick in our hat. No, I wanted to observe a day when dads talk to one another differently at our school football games, and when people associated with our school see each other in the marketplace and have conversations they never had before. Thankfully, that is what happened. When stakeholders have conversations about volunteering, engagement, and campus culture in a way that no one talked before, then it is a sign that something is changing, of a "culture shift."

As a program, I will admit that we have not maintained WatchD.O.G.S. as well as we could have. However, the effects on our school culture are still evident. Some fathers are more engaged (both at our campus and with their high schoolers that have moved on). Our PTA President is a man, which bucks a stereotype at the middle school level. The site-based team has more parental involvement, including men. (Now, if we could just get the PTA at my daughter's school to stop "bedazzling" all their school shirts with sequins, jewels, and all that other stuff!) 

Important questions remain. Currently, our campus leadership is left pondering how much we really value parental engagement. Is it something we really want, or just something we say we want? Even that single question represents a culture-shift because administrators and teachers are left wrestling with what is best for students in ways they weren't before.

So am I. I love that our mantra in Leander ISD is "continuous improvement" because it is exactly what I need in my personal and professional life. As an educator, I want to find creative ways to engage the community in our children's education. As a dad, I want the same thing!

I am working to be more open to "out of the box" ideas in this area. WatchD.O.G.S. was a good step for me, and I am excited to see what this challenge evolves into next.

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