Creating school communities in which everyone is known and valued

Dennis Sparks

In a blog post about Steve Jobs’ pursuit of excellence, which included a thorough understanding of his customers, Jim Knight writes, “. . . like Jobs, teachers can strive to have a deep understanding of their students’ hopes, fears, and expectations.

To that end, Knight suggests that teachers ask questions of students, and his post provides lists of possible questions based on grade level.

In my experience, people want to be known for who they are, no matter their age. That is true across the generations.

Hospice patients tell me that they want their grandchildren and even generations yet unborn to know who they were as people. Children also want to be known for who they are, for their interests and strengths, and for their overall uniqueness.

Teachers are more likely to make the effort to get to know all of their students and their families, I believe, when they feel known and valued within their school communities.

Creating school cultures in which everyone feels known and appreciated for who they are is therefore a primary responsibility of principals and teacher leaders.

3 Responses to “Creating school communities in which everyone is known and valued”

  1. 1 G. Michael Abbott January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

    This is an important topic.

    A friend whose son taught in Japan told me that his son’s high school celebrated the incoming freshman class in a ceremony in the gym with the new students sitting at the floor level while the higher grades sat in the stands. The newcomers were welcomed and cheered while some veteran students took turns welcoming them and telling them of traditions and expectations in their school. Each new student was later paired with a “big brother” or “sister” while they navigated their new environment.

    That would help create a school community. I haven’t heard of a similar program in the U.S.

    The U.S. Navy teaches recruits to know the history of the Navy, and later the recruits learn about the ship they are assigned to, it’s history, size, etc. This builds community. Let’s make room in schools for why there is a public education system, and why it is important. Knowing the history of their school would also help with building community.


  2. 2 Kent Peterson January 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Feeling that you are “known” and not invisible seems a decidedly human need. School cultures–as several noted–should find ways to assure that all children have someone who “knows” them. At Ganado Primary School in Arizona on the Navajo lands, the principal formed a volunteer group of adults (including food service workers, custodians, as well as teachers) who agreed to connect with one child every day…ensuring that someone showed they cared. As Terrence Deal and I described in our book “Shaping School Culture”, Ganado Primary build a successful school community that supported learning and connection.

  3. 3 Dennis Sparks January 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I really appreciate, Kent, you sharing a concrete example of how caring can be intentionally created within a school community. A wonderful illustration!

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