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For the Kids

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School branding is a hot topic in education and for good reason; our students are counting on us to be crystal clear about who we are serving and what matters most. School leaders must advocate for kids with every decision that’s made. This includes decisions about a school’s “brand.”

When it comes to your school’s brand, do not make people guess! Share the stories of the amazing students and staff in your school.

It’s important to understand what I mean when I use the term school branding. A school’s brand is synonymous with its ethos and culture. It’s more than a mascot or motto. The brand is comprised of the student learning experience, stellar staff, parent partnerships, and community support. A school’s brand is also a promise. The brand promise is what we openly aspire to be, and with this promise comes a unique level of transparency and accountability.

A school’s brand is comprised of the total experience of stakeholders; it represents the very ethos of a school including past traditions and future direction.

As principal and lead learner at Greenwood Elementary I have the privilege of seeing some of the most talented students and staff in action every single day. I’ve done a lot of listening, observing, and reflecting the past four years at our school. I’m extremely excited by our district’s vision and equally excited by the direction our school is heading. The image above represents what I think our brand is all about. Let me explain…

  • Great Students: Our school’s brand is all about kids; they come first. Period. Spend some time in our classrooms and hallways and you’ll see what I mean. We take the responsibility of partnering with families to raise great kids very seriously. We invest in their capacity to think critically, celebrate their effort, nurture their hearts, and help them learn from mistakes that are made along the way. We understand that to be successful in the future our students are relying on us to foster 21st century skills. They’re depending on our foresight and support as they learn how to create, communicate, and innovate in a digitally connected age. We love our students enough to adapt ourselves as learners so we’re better equipped to serve them!
  • Great Staff: Research has shown a very strong link between teacher quality and student achievement. Research also demonstrates that the relationships teachers form with students serve as critical underpinnings to learning. In layman’s terms, teachers matter and they matter a lot. Greenwood’s staff understands the awesome responsibility associated with being a teacher. On a personal level, I consider teaching one of the highest callings…only surpassed by the important work that moms do.  We are blessed to have great teachers at our school and they help deliver on our brand’s promise. We also want to attract the very best employees to work with our children. A school’s brand not only represents its staff, but also communicates its values to prospective employees. This spring I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of job applicants. I’ve found that some of the most impressive candidates know exactly what they want in a school and district. They are paying attention to the brand.
  • Great Stories: Stories are an integral part of our culture. Stories teach us lessons, celebrate accomplishments, and pass along the values we hold dear. It’s no different in schools. The amazing things our students are doing should be shared. We truly have some awesome kids in our school and district. Our students and staff work too hard for us to ignore their stories or let somebody else tell them. A school’s brand must include the voices of the “difference makers” in the classroom that are making the magic happen each and every day. We are blessed to have an exemplary staff, amazing group of parents, and PTA that give generously of their time, talents, resources, and love for kids. They are helping us write the best story ever…our students’ story!

I absolutely love the willingness of students, staff, and our community to innovate and engage in possibility-thinking. We’re trying to connect in some new ways including the use of social media as a learning and communication tool. We’re putting students in the center of their own learning and it’s a paradigm shift. A 21st century pedagogy will look, feel, and sound differently than what we’ve come to believe education is. Our staff is immersing themselves in true “learning work” including integration of iPads as tools to enhance student learning, Project Based Learning, Flipped Instruction, Genius Hour, Math Workshop, and more. Together we’re amplifying our students’ voices and connecting kids with an authentic audience for their learning.

If you ask why a school would consider branding I would share one heartfelt answer, “For the kids.”

 

 

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Citius, Altius, Fortius

A photo from the World University Nationals in Israel.

A photo from the World University Nationals in Israel.

“Citius, Altius, Fortius”  (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”)  ~Olympic Motto

With the Winter Games right around the corner this is the perfect time for a championship-caliber “Teacher Feature!”  Ms. Natalie Johnson (also a Wayzata graduate) is one of our talented P.E. teachers.  She participated in the 2012 Olympic trials for weight-lifting and her story is an inspiration.

Going into the 2012 trials Natalie felt she’d be a long-shot…and she was.  When it came time for the Clean-and-Jerk event she came up just short of lifting 90 kilos (almost 200 pounds).  This wasn’t enough, but she knew she was close!  Natalie also shared that the 90 kilo mark is significant because the way the plates (weights) are loaded on the bar changes.  At 90 kilos it jumps up to a 25 kilo red plate and a 10 kilo green plate essentially making a person look much stronger and cooler than lifting one single weight per side.

After the competition, Natalie went back home and trained; a month later she went to the University Nationals where she earned a trip to Israel!  She was able to out-total her competitors and traveled to the World University Championships.

Natalie reflected upon a few milestones along her journey by sharing that she wasn’t the fastest or most coordinated student in school, but the amazing teachers in Wayzata Public Schools helped train and develop her skills and strengths.

Now she  helps students that may not be the most physically fit or confident find their inner-champion.  The video below is one of her favorite Olympic commercials…and now it’s one of mine too!

Here’s to bringing out the champion in each and every one of our students!

Weightlifting

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” ~Olympic creed.

 

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