by Dr. Michael Anselmo
As we worked our way through this journey, one thing was apparent: the staff needed to be on the same page when it came to character education.
I have been the principal at Selvidge Middle School for the last 3 years. Prior to being named the principal, I was the assistant principal for 9 years. We have an amazing community of learners. The teachers are an integral part of who we are, and the messages we send to our young people come directly through them. In the decade I have been at Selvidge we had never conducted a book study with the staff. This past year we decided to study “Teach Like a Champion” by Doug Lemov.
What was great about this exercise was that it made everyone on staff hear the same language and reflect on the same issues that present themselves on a daily basis in our profession. Some of us got more out of this study than others, for sure, but it made us all connect to each other. We had rich discussions about our practices in the classroom, the halls and in our community at large.
A book study is a great way to build leadership capacity among staff members. We segmented our staff into three groups, based on seniority and years in the profession. This allowed us to have manageable, meaningful relationships within our groups. We were able to meet with two of the three groups during this past school year. We plan on meeting with the third group as we open the 2015-2016 school year.
I facilitated the discussion with each group and after the initial group discussion, followed up with additional conversations with individuals. We also regularly used parts of the book in other meetings and communications with the staff.
What was great about our discussions was how different they were and how the dynamic of the ‘class’ really dictated how and what would be discussed and reflected upon. Natural leaders began to present themselves in the discussion, and this afforded us a glimpse into the future. We look forward to adding a new book study each year. For the upcoming school year, we will be examining “School Culture Rewired” by Steven Gruenert and Todd Whitaker.
Having a book study has allowed us to truly examine what we do and how it works in our daily lives. This year we were awarded the Missouri and National School of Character honor, and we are so proud that the progress we have made on our character education journey has been recognized. Obviously, there was a ton of work that went into what we do here at Selvidge, but a book study definitely helped us gain a firm footing, one that allowed us to make many big steps forward.