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Peter Rock

Kimberly Moritz says:

"We implement positive schoolwide behavior management programs"

I'm curious. Could you provide some examples?

brian saxton

I think that you nailed it on the head when you stated "I'm forgetting to use the very skills that made me successful as a teacher. I could often get a student to work for me who would do little elsewhere. Why? Because of the relationship I built with him. "
Relationships and trust are so important to moving students forward and equally important to moving students forward. There is a post on APATHY at the following address http://santacruz.middleschooladmin.com/2007/02/22/apathy/
Some of the comments directly relate to that connectiveness that needs to occur to move that section of apathetic students or teachers forward, to keep them motivated. I ,like you, have kept some teachers at a distance, sometimes because I just don't want to deal with them, sometimes because I know that they are good teachers and they don't really need alot of supervision. But going that extra mile and building that professional relationship (not a friendship, that is an entirely different matter) will often help those teachers approach me when things do get difficult in the classroom.
This post is one of the great things about this blog, you have just opened up on something that took you 7 years to learn, now I can learn from you and not have to go through 7 years to figure it out. Thanks.
Great post,

Kelly Christopherson

Kim, very powerful and very correct. I know that as an administrator, I often find myself getting so involved in the "building" that I forget that the foundation needs to be checked, reinforced and revitalized. Thank you for a great post and a great reminder about our roles.

Stephanie Sandifer


Congratulations on writing such a powerful post -- and your first post on LeaderTalk!

Your message here is strong -- leaders do need to model what we want to see in our classrooms. Every interaction with our teachers is an opportunity for us to act in the manner that we want them to act with our students -- building relationships, facilitating learning, etc.

Wonderful post!

Kimberly Moritz

Thanks to all for the feedback. Peter-I've posted about our schoolwide behavior management programs on G-Town Talks. Hope it's an adequate description.

Marion Ginopolis

Your candid reflection reminds me of one of the most powerful leadership behaviors that Jim Collins http://www.jimcollins.com/ (in Good to Great) refers to as the "window and mirror." While Collins' reference leans more towards giving credit and assigning blame, my interpretation is that great leaders, such as yourself, look deep within themselves to determine what they can do to make a difference. Your post clearly evidences your ability and, more importantly, your willingness to be introspective and to identify what you can do to support and motivate your staff.

Catherine Hiltz

I feel very inpsired by your words to incorporate those teacher skills with my teachers to help overcome the lethargy and apathy, especially during those never-ending days of January and February. I have been a vice-principal for over five years, and I too, have kept a safe distance from some of my staff. I think this is because I respect them and I trust them; I don't want to patronize them by giving them little pats on the back, especially when some of them are more experienced than I am. I have often contemplated this, but I really think that you are correct. They need some positive reinforcement like everyone, and some need it more than others. Perhaps just to tell them that I have so much confidence in their abilities (just like those few students) that they are often neglected, would be appreciated. I'm going to work on it. Thanks again.

Jan Borelli

What a truly powerful post. I think the best teachers insure success for every student; and I also think the best principals insure success for every teacher. I look forward to reading more by you.

Neil Rochelle

Hi Kim!
What a great post and obviously timely given those winter blahs that seem to get everyone down. Your post brings many things to mind for me. The first is a quote. I don't remember where I heard it or the name of the person but I have never forgotten it...
actually it was posed as a question. "Why is it that students come to school an exclamation point, but leave a period"? That statement has resonated with me for years. Your post brought it back to me.
We may be different in that we don't teach in high poverty, urban schools where the value of school to the children is often a product of the school experiences their parents had which is generally negative. I am not an expert in urban education although I am aware and understand the challenges faced by administrators and teachers in those schools. Yes, I've been trained by Ruby Payne as well and found valuable lessons in her teachings that I think make me a better educator/leader.
Personal experiences in elementary schools that I have been involved in goes back to the quote. Sure, there are exceptions....there are students that struggle so academic time is not their best time of day. Sure there are students that have issues of respect and discipline oftentimes as a result of out of school experiences. However, on the whole, students in most elementary schools come to school with a smile on their face and excited to be there everyday. The get have fun during math lessons and get excited over science and social studies activities. They do so day in and day out- whether it is September, February,March or June. Which leads me to 2 questions.
1. Why are there still teachers in those schools that display or feel apathy? I can't say that student apathy=teacher apathy.
2. Where along the continuum do we lose so many students to apathy?

For the first question, I think that it does have to do with leadership. One component of leadership is building relationships. I wholeheartedly agree with your point about our constant pursuit of excellence and relentlessly pushing for better. For that, we need to work on developing and maintaining relationships so that teachers enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated. Whether it's that birthday e-mail or card on their birthday, the conversation asking them how their ill mother is or having lunch brought in "just because". We do a lot of that but it makes me think about when we do many of those little things that may make a difference. Opening Day.....Teacher Appreciation Day.......Conference Days when we think the day may be more palatable if we provide a lunch, snack and/or breakfast. So when you pose the point about apathy at its peak in February and March, I ask, what do we do to recognize teachers for what they do day in and day out? I try to send a good morning e-mail and a quote of the day to the entire staff everyday. Not something all that unique but so many teachers appreciate the fact that I take the time to do so and have told me so. Heck one day I was in a rush and I changed the color of the print (generally I'll use red because it's our school color....not a calming color by any means) and a teacher e-mailed me that she missed the red and why did I change the color? I was just amazed. You can bet the next day I was back to red again!
Something else that I feel so strongly about is laughter. All those stories about people with cancer going into remission that watched nothing but comedy movies for weeks, Patch Adams, all the research on chemical changes in the brain. There has to be something there. This weekend I attended a regional leadership conference. The evening entertainment was an amazingly talented ventriloquist. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. My cheeks and the back of my head actually ached. Wouldn't it be great to have something like that for faculty and staff one day after school even for an hour? I know teachers would come to school talking about the jokes and the time they had for at least the next week or two.
The same goes for students. We have motivational speakers come in September. We have all our homecoming events in the fall, a winter ball and then there's that lull. From now until May until spring break and all the end of year assemblies and recognition. It's now that we could be providing some of those special events to keep students positive and smiling. It just may be contagious!
Now for the second question. Where is it along the continuum that student become apathy and we start to hear about teacher apathy. I'll pinpoint the end of 6th grade through high school. Now don't get me wrong. I know that there are many positive teachers at every grade level and this is not an attack on middle and high school teachers but that is where this phenomenon exists.
Lets take a look at the student side of the equation first. Do we see apathy in our most high achieving, successful students? I don't. They like school, if they complaint has to do more about making a class more challenging or the school food better. I believe that apathy come cloaked in students that are not successful in school and/or don't find the relevance to their education. So if student apathy=teacher apathy, one could suppose that if we address the student apathy (i.e improving student achievement, adding relevance to their learning), teachers would feel less apathetic. There is a litany written about improving student achievement and that is not the topic of this post, so I'll save that to other professionals or a different post. Suffice it to say, we need to address the needs of low achieving and struggling students so they can be successful and hopefully feel better about school.
Moving on to the teachers....again, I think it does have to do what we focus on. Just think about what we do in schools this time of year......state test after state test and all the stress and discontentment surrounding NCLB testing. How frustrating teachers find the entire movement because they "can't teach what's really important" or what they "want to teach" because they are preparing for tests. We ask teachers to send out failure reports, submit names of students in danger of not passing the course for the year or not graduating. If there is a 'seasonal' component to apathy, I can see why. Again, perhaps we need to celebrate how many our successes with teachers related to how many student are doing so well. Spend some more time at faculty meetings recognizing teachers to something small they did to help the building/staff. One of my buildings are having a "biggest loser contest". People are getting ready to shed some pounds from winter and at the same time it is a team building activity.
I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and together we could brainstorm many things we could do to recognize our teachers and improve morale. Thank you Kim for giving me something to think about this week.

Crystal Furman

While you may have neglected some of your staff, you haven't neglected your kids at Gowanda. You are making a difference at a school that has had a long running history of students and parents reciting "It's only Gowanda". I know you might not be able to change everyone's perception all at one time, but you are changing perceptions of our school slowly.

When you talk about improving the school, "As I'm looking for ways to improve, I'm always talking about what we can do better.":

It never occurred to me that people would take this as a negative attack at their teaching. This was very eye opening and insightful about what may be at the root of some of the moral issues I've been hearing about.

Thanks for always being honest and putting yourself out there.

Dave Sherman

Thank you for the thought-provoking post. As an elementary school principal, I don't experience student apathy on the larger scale that a high school principal might experience. However, I can name five students off the top of my head who are very apathetic about school, and they are not even 11 years old yet. This makes me sad. What I have tried to focus on with children like this, is to to tap into their personal interests and use that information to light a spark. Then, I try to connect that spark to some aspect of the curriculum. I have found this to be successful on an individual basis. So, how can this be used at the high school level? Can high school educators tap into the group (or individual) interests of older students and produce positive results? I think it is possible if teachers and administrators are open to some new ideas coming from the kids. Am I off base or naive? I hope not.
- Dave

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