Creating schools in which students and adults thrive

“We understand what is needed here, and there is the respect and understanding that what we do is really in the best interest of our school. It is not about one person.” —Gail Nawrock (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Skillful leadership, teamwork, shared accountability, the consistent use of strengths, meaningful engagement with the community. Those are hallmarks of schools in which young people and adults thrive. And such schools exist in the most challenging of environments, as this Public Schools Insight blog post about Carstens Elementary School in Detroit illustrates. Hundreds of other such schools succeed in a variety of settings, often without the fanfare and recognition they so richly deserve.

Teacher Rebecca Kelly describes the school and its principal, Theresa Mattison, this way: “I feel our principal’s biggest strength as a leader is that she allows us to have shared leadership. We all have different strengths, and she brings those strengths out and allows us to exercise them. And shared leadership is not just ‘We have a say.’ While there is a strong feeling here that we have rights as teachers professionally, we also recognize that with those rights and the ability to make decisions without her hovering around us, we have responsibility.”

Take a moment now to . . .

• consider what adjectives members of your school community would use to describe itself, and

• determine an action you will take today to strengthen one or more of the areas emphasized in bold above.

1 Response to “Creating schools in which students and adults thrive”


  1. 1 Kent Peterson March 30, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Right now I am writing from central Taiwan where I am visiting local schools and working with future principals and teacher leaders.

    Here, as in Detroit, all of the characteristics that Dennis mentions are important to school success. With teamwork, cooperation, and a positive school culture, the Taiwan school I am visting are becoming successful with students and becoming learning cultures.

    Knowing what your school stands for (the adjectives one would use to describe the school) is an extremely useful approach


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