As students, educators, and school leaders come back together after a shaky summer, plenty of uncertainty lingers in the hallways. Will this school year feel normal, or will “normal” take on an entirely different meaning? The MISD Senior Leadership Team collaborated on the following norms and core values to guide our work. These ten core values aim to add clarity to such an uncertain time.

1: Set clear objectives for our meetings and work; always focus on what is right for teaching, learning, and our students

No matter how schools operate, they must be able to do just that—operate. Centering every leadership conversation around promoting student success helps the school community realign perspectives and stay focused on the tasks at hand.

2: Or work is driven by what is best for the organization

Defining success is a necessary step in setting and achieving goals. While individual success is important for schools, the success of the entire group—including teachers, students, and school leaders—carries added weight.

3: We all own communication and must always address the elephant in the room

Discussing COVID-19 and its impact on the school and the wider community can be difficult. 2020 has been marred by loss, confusion, and anxiety. However, schools cannot let this fear censor them or control conversations. Leaders must take charge of all discussions to mitigate fear and promote positivity in the face of adversity.

4: We must be kind, but honest

Similarly to how school leaders must own communication, they must also balance sensitivity and truthfulness. Kindness and honesty can intersect, but only when handled with great care and compassion.

5: We are all accountable to each other and results

If one individual struggles, the group will struggle. While challenges are essential for learning and growing, seemingly-insurmountable odds can take a toll on one’s mental health. The school community must look out for one another to ensure mutual success.

6: This has to be a safe place; we must always speak the truth and never violate our commitments and trust

In the academic ecosystem, every voice is valid. When school leaders advocate for honesty and respect, everyone will feel more welcome to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Creating a safe space leads to a greater sense of community and improved idea-sharing.

7: We will listen—first to understand, and then to be understood

Active listening is vital to ensure every voice is heard and understood. This core value advises individuals to listen first, then share their perspective only once they have a full understanding of the situation or theory. During such uncertain times, knowing all of the facts is crucial in forming well-reasoned arguments and opinions.

8: We must not operate in silos

Just as professionals at huge corporations want to avoid being pigeon-holed into silos, school community members must continuously promote communication and collaboration. Through interdependence, students, teachers, families, and other school stakeholders can push one another to be their best selves. No matter what responsibilities or challenges an individual faces, they require a team to support them.

9: We must agree to disagree

School communities must strive for consensus. Even if a disagreement occurs, decisions must be supported to the best of everyone’s abilities. Decision-making and implementation should be “one band, one voice.” 

10: For every decision that must be made, we must ask what is the “compelling ‘why'”?

Why is the school at a crossroads? Why is one decision going to have a more positive impact on students? Every choice has its associated side-effects. Understanding the context behind situations will help leaders make decisions—and vice versa.