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Creating a Climate of Possibility for Latino Youth February 19, 2014

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Common Standards, Principal Effectiveness.
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By Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Assistant Principal, Glendale Middle School, NILSL Fellow, NCLR

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I recently watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on school leadership for the fourth time. Each time I understand more deeply and clearly the role of a school leader. Robinson says the “real role of leadership” is to create a climate of possibility. As I reflect on student populations like the one at the school where I am a leader, there has not been a climate of possibility for most students for many years. Our diverse population of refugees, children of refugees, new immigrants, children of new immigrants, English learners, and generations of under-served students need us to create that climate of possibility.

Our students need schools that provide an education that is individualized and personalized. At Glendale Middle School in Salt Lake City we work to create varied personalized programs or projects that “hook” our students to their learning so that they can see the purpose and possibility. What is more culturally relevant for a student than working on a project to improve one’s own community or making a movie about a current issue at school?

School leaders must also create a climate of possibility for their teachers. Students have been conditioned into believing that they cannot achieve at high academic levels, as have many teachers. They too believe that their students are not able to achieve at high academic levels. If teachers and students alike do not believe it is possible, then it is not possible. Our job is to create a system to support teachers to know what is possible and to develop the heart, the will and the skill to make the change necessary for our Latino students and English learners to achieve at high levels.

In addition to creating a climate of possibility is the necessity to create a well run system that insists on high quality instruction and assessment, and the use of data to drive instruction, intervention and professional development. The Common Core State Standards are a rigorous tool to focus teachers and students on high expectations. Forbes Magazine’s list of The Eight Characteristics of Effective School Leaders mirrors what is possible and what our students need: high expectations, relentlessness, personal development of every student, rich opportunity within and out of the classroom, partnerships with parents and the community, and rigorous data analysis.

As we continue the work to create climates of possibilities for our students and teachers we may find ourselves achieving things we never would have expected.

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