Leadership Moves…Positive Transformational Culture | Leading stakeholders to feel valued and capable

Positive Transformational Culture | Leading stakeholders to feel valued and capable. Pt. 2

As part of a coherent system, educators in many of the high-performing urban schools developed or implemented programs for creating a positive learning environment for students. In many cases, the school buildings themselves reinforced the positive culture.

Revere High School Library
Revere High School Library

Certain building conditions and design features (cleanliness, ease of movement, aesthetic appeal, an abundance of natural light, flexible and responsive classrooms, sufficient room for learning and exploration, and safety and security) help to foster a sense of belonging, a sense of control and competence, and a sense of collective commitment to a school and its purposes (Uline, Wolsey, Tschannen-Moran, & Lin, 2010; Uline, Tschannen-Moran, & Wolsey, 2009). In a number of the high-performing schools studied, we observed the way flexible and responsive learning environments created a sense of comfort, inviting students to move within and beyond their individual classrooms. Leaders at Revere High School in Revere, Massachusetts initiated a renovation of the school library, creating a college-like setting with an abundance of technology, comfortable furniture, and open spaces where students could gather to engage actively in their own, and each others, learning. Specific structural and furniture arrangements also impacted the quantity and quality of the professional relationships between teachers. At James Pace Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas, the war room provided a large, comfortable space where teachers collaborated frequently amidst carefully organized displays of current student data.

Colors, shapes, textures, and unique features of these schools added to the overall aesthetic, creating a sense of affinity to the school as a positive place of learning. The campus of National City Middle School in Southern California’s Sweetwater Union High School District was comprised of a number of new facilities, along with older buildings in need of repair. The school custodian described the ways in which he and his staff went the extra mile to make the older structures more inviting places for students, school personnel, and the community. “When I first came, the older buildings were all brown. Somebody came with the paint, maybe it was on sale, and painted everything brown. One of our custodians repainted each and every one of the older buildings, featuring the schools colors, off-white with blue and yellow trim. He came before his 2:30 shift and donated three hours of his time each day until the job was finished.”

Pace High School Data Wall
James Pace High School Data Wall

Although many of the high-performing schools we studied were not new or state of the art, they did stand as places of pride for their occupants and their communities. Renovations to Maplewood Richmond Heights High School near St. Louis transformed the building into a learning environment more reminiscent of a private prep school than an aging and inadequate urban high school. The resulting improvements exposed existing fireplaces, refurbished stately, built-in bookshelves and restored beautiful oak millwork throughout the building. From small study alcoves to state of the art music facilities, learning spaces generated a pride of place that served the educational mission of the school, strengthening the connections between students, school personnel, and community stakeholders.

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