Partners Inc.’s Whole School Component
In the first meeting with entire staff, after a quick introduction to the Partners Inc.’s Process, we ask for an immediate read from those present as to whether or not they think they would like to have a process like Partners Inc. in their school.
If over 50% of the teachers say, “Yes”, we know we have the critical mass necessary for Partners Inc. take root and grow, and not that this is simply a pet project of the principal. It takes everybody to make the change process all that it can be.
After the application process, in which we see all of the other groups and programs the school is partnering with, what the school’s core values are laid out in the School Improvement Plan, what they are currently doing with their Discipline Policy and who they consider strong candidates for the Core Committee, we set up the initial Partners Inc. training.
There we ask all of the teachers, the principal and other administrative and support team members to envision and then describe as a whole group in detail on The Big Picture Chart what they want to see and experience in their school community from the very first day walking into the building from the outside to the inside: what they want to hear everyone saying, what they want to be thinking themselves, what they want to hear in staff meetings and the classroom, from their students or the school board, in a parent meeting with the unruliest student; how they want to be perceived in the greater community around the school, and, most importantly, the way they want to feel this year at You-Name-It High School or Pre-School, and the way they want their students to feel and act.
When we envision, we can make our school just the way we want it to be in our minds, and we have found that we are not going to simply think our way to success; we’re going FEEL our way there!
By looking forward, imagining, envisioning, noticing, the whole school is already moving towards something much bigger, something wonderfully positive, as energy precedes all matter and all action. And by scribing it all up on The Big Picture Graphic Map on the wall so that everyone can immediately see what everyone else is imagining, the Whole School Component of Partners Inc. is already well on its way. Later teachers personalize it with their pictures, and at training’s end, with their preferences and commitments to act on what they have imagined.
Also in the First training, or sometime early on in the first year, through a short consensus building method called Nominal Group Process, the staff is asked to choose the Five Whole School SEL’s that they all commit to model, teach and reinforce within the whole school all year long. For example, one elementary school chose the following five:
These skills are then displayed on bulletin boards, in the school newsletter, and sent to parents and guardians asking for reinforcement at home along with methods the school has found successful in doing so. Students who exemplify these social-emotional learning skills are recognized and commended at each grade level.
Partners Inc., operates from the principle that in order to make the best, most informed decisions, it is usually best to consider as many viewpoints as possible. Consequently, while there is a management/information/system for the process in the Core Committee, the entire staff comes to understand that what they think is taken into consideration all along the way, for example, in choosing new in-service topics (See Years 2-5), evaluating and/or reconsidering earlier decisions, deciding future areas of focus, etc.
While, of course, everyone is not doing exactly the same thing in classrooms at exactly the same time in the same way (lock-step) and there is plenty of room for teacher individuality and creativity, the whole school is involved together in the Whole School component, preparing their students to be world class citizens in a world class school.