Anthony Kim & Alexis Gonzales-Black THE new SCHOOL RULES—6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools
As an elementary principal facilitating a turnaround school improvement initiative I am continuing to learn what critical components are needed to reform a school. When a colleague sent me The new School Rules—6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools by Anthony Kim & Alexis Gonzales-Black, the word thriving jumped out at me. In the midst of all of our school improvement reform efforts above all else, I want our students and staff to truly blossom and thrive.
Our foundation for school improvement started with building meaningful relationships with our students, each other, families, and our partnerships in the community. With these connections as the groundwork, we continue to focus on our school culture by nurturing a positive learning community where struggles are embraced, celebrated and utilized as the next jumping off point towards growth and change in our teaching and learning practices.
I have also learned none of the above would be as successful without the implementation of school-wide systems in order to do this work. The authors Kim & Gonzales-Black shared the need to pay more attention to the management and work practices found in the field of education. They stated,
The key word—being responsiveness. This responsiveness includes schools that are continuing to evolve to what is happening in the present, have a clear inspiring purpose, and always, always aiming higher to improve. Author’s Kim and Gonzales-Black provide an organizational framework that identifies fundamental practices for planning, teaming, managing, decision-making, sharing information, and defining a learning organization.
There are many relevant and practical takeaways for a school to demonstrate more responsiveness in their book, but for this reader, there were two favorites. The first included aiming for “safe enough to try” rather than simply relying on consensus. A key component of decision-making is trust that empowers staff who are doing the work to take action and make small, purposeful decisions. There will be times when the results will not go as planned, but by showing responsiveness to what they have learned along the way in order for them to “fail forward” to “refine and hone their ideas” to “make decisions smarter and faster for students.”
My second takeaway follows the above and supports the learning culture we have meticulously continue to prioritize and includes sharing what we have learned with others. This act of transparency also embraces being opened to the inquiries of others and responding with “Thank you for asking.” Kim and Gonzales-Black shared,