True Partners: A Guide for Challenge and Change in Our Schools will be available in the fall. Designed to be read in one or two sittings,True Partners offers the why, the what, and the how to establish the Partners Inc. process in a given school community. If you would like to be on the mailing list to hear more about True Partners when it becomes available, subscribe here:
Excerpt from the forthcoming book:
What Are True Partners?
If you Google the word “partners” or look in a dictionary (if you even own one anymore), you will find a variety of definitions, many of them legal. For the purposes of this book, we define “partnership” as a cooperative relationship between people or groups who agree to share responsibility in achieving a specific goal. For example, achieving effective social-emotional learning requires a partnership between the school, teacher, parent and student. Similarly, each Partners Inc. Core Committee works in partnership with all teachers, administrators, Partners Inc. staff, and the like.
Ideally, the length of the partnership between a school and the Partners Inc. staff is 3-5 years. This period supports development of a lasting difference, based in the belief of a shared vision and a commitment to invest in and cultivate the seeds of Partners Inc, until it matures into a systemic part of a school culture.
At the end of each year in the 3-5 year process, each partner will review the relationship, communicate fully, honestly and respectfully about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) and make changes as desired or necessary. The only caveat is that neither partner “give up” because persistence builds resiliency and both are required in building lasting change in human systems.
This point cannot be understated: Partners Inc. is not a flash-in-the-pan, nor is it a silver bullet. It is a collaborative process that relies predominantly upon school administrators and Partners Inc. staff for leadership in the first year. During the second year and over time, Partners Inc. forms a relationship between all the players in a school both directly and though the Core Committee as the management/information system for Partners Inc. (See Role of the Core Committee).Thus, the process is owned and modified by the individual school every year.
And who are all the players? Simply put, every teacher, school administrator and staff, students, student leaders, parents, caregivers, community agencies and businesses around the school through the Parent/Teacher/Community Committee (PTCC).
Shoulder-to-shoulder, head-to-head, heart-to-heart, everyone commits to working together to implement the research-based practices known to create a more cohesive classroom and school community and teach students needed social-emotional skills. This includes the administration of a school, the Partners Inc. staff, and the teachers (at least 50% of whom must agree upfront that they want to undertake the Partners Inc. process in the first place).
Frequent opportunities for giving and receiving feedback are an essential ingredient in the Partners Inc. approach. Feedback allows colleagues to learn from one another and as a group, become “regularly connected to itself.” Consequently, the whole school comes to know how things are going from everyone’s point of view and what is needed next. Similarly, the Partners Inc. staff and Core Committee continually seek teachers’ perspective and other constituent views because they recognize such collaboration is an empowering, democratic process fostering confidence, open-mindedness, and willingness to try new things.
In a true partnership, all parties must believe in the benefits of the alliance. This does not assume every individual feels the same at any given time, but that majority and minority opinions are explored, respected and addressed. Differences are accepted and expected. It is this understanding and commitment to enlightened self-interest that inspires partners to develop innovative processes and structures for achieving greater understanding of their unique and common needs, expectations and goals in pursuit of improved school climate and greater achievement for all.