Is Your School’s Foundation Failing?
By Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Author of Unlocking Potential
I recently purchased some new home fixtures and fittings, such as lighting, faucets, curtains, carpets, an oven, etc. My intention in doing so was to update and make my home look and feel nice. As I went throughout the house, inside and outside, to see what fixtures and fittings I should get to improve my home’s appearance and comfort, I noticed some signs of foundation problems, such as exterior brick cracks and difficulty closing the front door. As a homeowner, I leaped into inspection mode and sought out other signs of foundation issues. We all know the foundation is the first piece of a home to be constructed, and it creates a base for the rest of a home's components.
Just having fixtures and fittings did not seem that important once I noticed foundation failures. What good is it having a home that is attractive and comfortable, but is falling down because the foundation is crumbling? As a result, I addressed these foundation issues immediately: repointing brick and other cement work, purchasing a new door and exterior doorframe, to name a few.
School leaders often want to make their school environments to be inviting in every way– and rightly so. They want their schools to appear supported, appreciated, and valued. School leaders do things like buy nice furniture, purchase computers and technology tools, hang posters, and situate textbooks so that they are visible to students and visitors. They create educational partnerships, take their students on nice field trips, and display student artwork and classroom displays. They even make certain that their school is clean, have positive messages communicated, and they create student community classrooms. These are just some examples of fixtures and fittings. But, is the school's foundation failing? A school's foundation and base for the rest of the school's components is the instructional core – teaching and learning.
I strongly encourage school leaders to inspect their schools' foundations on an ongoing basis. Most educational research supports that schools don't improve through fixtures and fittings; they improve through the complex and demanding work of teaching and learning. Students need learning environments that engage them in rigorous tasks and offer them significant opportunities to develop knowledge –not just surround them with fixtures and fittings. They need schools with a strong instructional foundation.
Needless to say, I addressed both cosmetic and structural issues at home. I had the fixtures and fittings installed and the foundation problems corrected immediately. School leaders should do the same with their schools. But first, leap into inspection mode and identify the signs of instructional foundation failures and correct them.
Please share your thoughts and comments.
Bio: Hilderbrand Pelzer III leveraged the power of education and leadership to transform a school inside a prison. He has a strong belief that all children deserve a quality education, even those in prison. He has more than twenty years of experience in the field of education, and has served as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, as well as assistant regional superintendent. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his work in education. Hilderbrand is the author of Unlocking Potential. The book draws on his experience and his nationally acclaimed work inside the Philadelphia Prison System.
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