Friday, January 12, 2018

Is Your School Extraordinary?

Think about the best dining experience you ever had. What made it exceptional? Was it the service, the atmosphere, or the cuisine? How was the experience more than just a good meal? Why was it truly memorable?

We recently asked our teachers to reflect on these questions during a faculty meeting. And the point of the reflection wasn't to assess what kind of foodies are among our staff members. However, our culinary arts teacher (@BettyGlasgow) had plenty to say on the topic! 

Our chief aim was to examine what makes an extraordinary culture for a restaurant and how can that relate to creating an extraordinary culture in our school. Most everyone can recount a dining experience that was truly outstanding. What made it different?

One of our instructional coaches (@ealove21) had participated in a similar activity in a graduate class. In the end, our goal was to draw parallels between an extraordinary dining experience and an outstanding classroom experience.

Our staff talked about things like how they were treated by the wait staff. How they felt like they were the most important guests ever. They shared how there was attention to just about every detail. How the atmosphere made them feel wonderful. They explained how the entire experience exceeded their expectations in every way. And of course, the food was outstanding, too.

If I just want to get a decent meal, my options are endless. But if I want a truly remarkable dining experience, there seem to be only a few restaurants meeting that standard. There is something extra that really makes it stand out.

Can the same be said for schools too? Are we providing something extraordinary? Is your classroom meeting expectations or exceeding them? Is your school truly excellent or doing pretty much what every school is expected to do?

Our next part of the conversation with our team was to ask our teachers to consider the basic expectations for schools. What exactly is it that every school should be doing? What things are just the minimum requirements?

Should every school love kids? Yes.

Should every school be a safe place? Yes.

Should every school implement engaging, relevant curriculum and instruction? Yes.

Should every school work together with families and the community? Yes.

Should every school promote life-long learning? Yes.

Those are all really important things schools should do. And there are many more. But those are really just the basic expectations. Excellence is how we can do those things in remarkable ways, in ways that demonstrate passion, commitment, and continuous growth.

In what ways are we making learning extraordinary and not just routine? Our kids deserve to have a truly remarkable, world class education. So it's really good that we're doing the things that make for a good school. But let's not be satisfied with being good when we can be GREAT!

While Chick-Fil-A is certainly not counted among my best dining experiences ever, I would say that among fast food restaurants, this chain is remarkable. And because of the commitment to their values and culture, Chik-Fil-A is crushing the competition. 

A Forbes article detailed the extraordinary culture and success of the fast food giant:
Chick-fil-A has achieved tremendous success by any business standard. They’ve experienced a more than 10% sales increase almost every year since launching in 1946. Franchisees retention rate has been 96% for nearly 50 years, while the corporate staff retention rate has hovered at 95-97% over the same time period.
If you are familiar with Chick-Fil-A, I bet you can think of several things related to their culture that makes them extraordinary. One thing some people even find annoying is when Chick-Fil-A employees will always say, "It's my pleasure" anytime a customer says "Thank you." Whether you think that is annoying or remarkable, it demonstrates this company is committed to doing things a certain way. 

One of our teachers commented, "When you're at a Chick-Fil-A, there is just something that feels different about it."

Most fast food restaurants are the complete opposite of that. They aren't remarkable. They are in a race to the bottom, to do it the cheapest, and with the least personal attention, or so it seems. We never want school to be like that. We want to be more like Chick-Fil-A

Do we do things in a certain way as part of our culture that makes us remarkable? I'm not talking about being good or bad. Clearly, most teachers are doing really good work and are willing to make extra efforts to help kids. Most schools are striving to meet expectations. But how are you demonstrating your excellence in visible and tangible ways? How is your classroom or school different? 

In our school, we have a goal this year related to our culture. We are striving to have an outstanding greeting for our students each and every day, both on arrival to school and arrival to each classroom. It's a simple thing, but it can make a huge difference. We've always greeted students, but we are working to make our greetings awesome.

We are aiming to provide a greeting that is extraordinary, that shows our students all the care and concern we believe they deserve. We believe it will translate and help make our school stronger in a whole variety of ways.

And our students have noticed how this is becoming a thing. We keep raising the bar. We added music to the morning greeting. We added handshakes and high fives. We're striving to make sure we know every student's name. Students have joined us to help welcome other students. And we've added signs that communicate our values. We've taken a simple thing and are doing all we can to make it extraordinary.

We're aiming for excellence!

Shout out to Brian McCann (@casehighprinc) for the sign inspiration!

Question: What is something your school is doing that is extraordinary? What makes your classroom or school different? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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