We all want to make a great start to the school term as there is this underlying belief that it sets us up for the rest of the term to be great.
As we well know, this doesn’t always happen and it was only last week I had a principal talk to me about the demoralising start to his term. Well, to be specific it didn’t just have an impact on him, it had a negative impact on the whole school community.
I’m not going to go into details today but a quick summary is that there were a few issues that unfolded on the first day of school. The biggest of the lot, yes you guessed it, a student management issue that started on the holidays between two families and spilled into the school grounds on day one. And then there was the media…
The issue wasn’t even school related but the school ground was the common meeting place where all parties were together. It was the first opportunity for a face-to-face encounter and no longer could people hide behind their screens.
The best word to describe the event was a ‘crisis’.
Now every school will have these days, some schools more often than others and unfortunately we can’t always avoid a crisis occurring.
When schools are impacted by, or respond to a crisis, I believe that they generally fit into one of three categories. Without knowing it, the response defines the type of school that they are and the way that they are travelling.
- Struggling schools are destroyed by crisis. It sets them back and it has a huge flow on effect. Unfortunately, the wider school community blames the school and holds them accountable. It often results in negative publicity.
- Good schools will survive a crisis. They manage to get through, but only just.
- Great schools are improved by a crisis. It’s a learning opportunity, the community trusts that the actions and response is warranted. In many ways, the community protects the image of the school.
The difference between each category is that it comes down to the culture of the school. The stronger the culture, the more positive the response is to the crisis from all stakeholders. A strong culture will trump a good policy everyday.
So, where does your school fit? More importantly, where do you want your school to fit? Keep in mind that it’s never too late to start and focus on what matters.
There are no programs to manage a crisis. It’s about the behaviour of the staff, the parents and the students and the way they respond, unite, reflect and improve. It’s about culture.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t just learn from an experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience.
And for the record, this school was improved by the crisis that faced them.