Time for a New Beginning: Imagine, Believe, Act!

The 2018-2019 School Year is Here!  Schedules are built and Orientation Assemblies, Welcome Back Programs, and Class Meetings are planned.

It is a routine that is repeated in almost every school in America. While many students call these programs “rule assemblies” and many administrators dread them, almost everyone considers them a necessity. No matter how you “dress up”
these programs or make them a moment of celebration, they are essentially
information sessions. Our program followed a format: first, the Welcome Back,
then here’s some good information and by the way, here are the rules, regulations, and consequences. To some degree, it was almost like a “good cop, bad cop”
routine.

The counselors, nurses, class officers and class advisors, reviewed activities,
events and key dates in the coming year while the assistant principals reviewed the
“nuts and bolts” of the school handbook. If done well, it is a well-choreographed
dance that set the tone for the year to come.

From my perspective as principal and later as superintendent, the opening of
school was an exciting moment. It was a new beginning, an opportunity to
motivate but more importantly, a moment to inspire. It was an opportunity to reach
out and to have students reflect on what was possible and to set goals for the year.

With over 1,000 students in the auditorium for one such meeting, I asked them to
reflect on their last year. To close their eyes and to reflect about what went well
and what could have been better. Next, I asked them to open their eyes and
recognize that it is a new beginning.

I repeated the activity but this time I asked if they could Imagine what type of life
they desired and to reflect on what you have to do to get there. When they
opened their eyes, I assured them that it was great to Imagine and Dream but it
is more important to Act on those dreams and to Act one needed a Plan. I
encouraged them to develop that plan by thinking about three things that can
help them to fulfill that dream. For many, it truly was a new beginning and new
opportunity.

Regardless of past level of performance, I asked them to set a goal that they
thought was possible. [It may be as simple as becoming a better student. If you
were a D student then set your sights on becoming a C student. If you were a C
student, then set your sights on becoming a B student and so forth.] Again, I
asked what it will take for them to make those gains. It was explained that we
All have an opportunity to improve. No one is perfect and we should All seek
improvement.

The same concept was also extended to administrators and staff. For them,
Continuous Improvement was never really an option. The faculty and staff
regularly participated in district and building goal setting along with developing
plans for an aligned professional development program. While it was recognized
that activities and events were critical to the social and emotional fabric of the
organization, performance was our priority.

Too often, managerial and operational minutiae obscure the instructional focus of
an organization from its real mission to maximize student potential. If authentic
student growth is going to take place in the 2018-2019 school year, then, the
“disconnections” that hinder student achievement must be identified and
plans with measurable performance standards which ignite growth must be
adopted immediately.

If we dare children to Imagine and to Believe that those dreams are possible, then
we must Act to develop a culture in which those dreams become a reality.
Accepting mediocrity is not an instructional culture that nurtures improvement.
“Good Enough is really Not Good Enough!”

Let 2018-2019 become a new reality in which the goal of improved performance is
the instructional priority for ALL children and that it becomes the real focus for
ALL leaders in the organization.

Vincent F. Cotter, Ed.D.
Co-founder, Exemplary Schools Organization.
Co-Author, “Performance is Key: Linking Leadership to Excellence.” Rowman
and Littlefield Publisher.
Former Superintendent, Principal, Asst. Principal, Department Chair and Teacher

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