Share the commitment to and responsibility for character education.
Character education requires visible, supportive leadership.
Students play an important leadership role in contributing to the character initiative.
Character education requires visible and supportive school and district leaders who are able to make the connection between character development, school improvement, and academic achievement. In addition, they must be able to foster a sense of shared ownership for long-range sustainability, not only with their staff, but also with their school board, district administrators, parents, students, and the broader school community.
Shared leadership puts core ethical values into action, offering repeated opportunities for all individuals in the school community to grow in character. Leadership cannot be a one-person game if it is to be truly effective in creating and sustaining character education, or, for that matter, any educational initiative.
Principle 9 recognizes that leaders possess skills and traits in varying degrees and individuals express them in different, but equally important ways.
Penn Valley Elementary School
Ms. Barbara Hidalgo at Penn Valley Elementary School in Levittown, Pennsylvania had a passion for character education when she arrived, and after surveying stakeholders, data showed a need to change the culture of the school to one, as teacher Betty Zubrzycki put it, “which united faculty to love their school” and united students to self-advocate. Hidalgo and her Character Education Committee read the book, School Culture Rewired, and from there they developed a plan. At the beginning of each school year, she shares a new character education book to inspire the school community. The books are also shared with parents at Back to School Night. Students and teachers build classroom rules together. The character education committee is comprised of members from a variety of grade levels, content areas, and disciplines and meets frequently, including during the summer to plan goals, analyze data, to reflect, to be proactive, and to respond to needs. However, leadership goes beyond the adults; students are part of long-range and short-range leadership roles. They plan by working in groups that participate in service, empathy, classroom buddies, and even the music classes that made up the song and motions for the “Six Pillar Shuffle” which they performed joyously and with gusto.
Uthoff Valley Elementary
At Uthoff Valley Elementary in Valley Park, Missouri, not only does Ms. Thorne provide strong leadership as the principal, but the staff is hands-on with the character education initiative, and there are multiple opportunities for leadership involvement. The staff is very much involved between the Caring School Community team, weekly Viking Virtue Correspondents to the Staff Advisory Council, and the grade level PLC meetings. The school provides release time to allow planning for character education, and a survey shows that 99% of staff have frequent opportunities to collaborate with one another. Students are also included in shared leadership through the Student Leadership Council, SPIRIT Leaders, the opportunity to create the schoolwide theme, the student-inspired Buddy Bench, and hands-on involvement in many community service projects. Ninety percent of 3rd-5th graders said they have chances to be leaders.
Clear Lake City Elementary
Shared leadership is thriving at Clear Lake City Elementary in Houston, Texas. Principal Jepsy Kimble says it’s important that the school “hire as a team and support as a team. I empower my teams, and they take care of things.” Students and staff alike write SMART goals and routinely revisit them, providing the perfect opportunity for reflection and growth. Student-led parent conferences also provide reflection.
How does your school engage all stakeholders in leadership and what is the most challenging part of involving so many in the decision making process? What is the most rewarding part of shared leadership?
Student leadership is often surface level, how has your school equipped and empowered your students to lead?
Which set of examples list the most authentic ways to demonstrate a commitment to character?
Research that Supports Principle 9
“Our mistake has been in looking to the principal alone for instructional leadership, when instructional leadership is everyone’s work. We need to develop the leadership capacity of the whole school community. Out of that changed culture will arise a new vision of professional practice linking leading and learning.”
A Framework for Shared Leadership, by Linda Lambert
“Shared leadership means a shift from the formal leader to a shared leadership model resulting in shared power and decision-making. Instead of a single individual leading to success, other individuals, who are partners or group members, are invited to share the responsibility for leadership and develop a positive school climate.”
School Climate and Shared Leadership, By William Hughes and Terry Pickeral
Authored by Lori Soifer