Foundation for Successful Schools: All About Who CARES

The idea of a Slogan, Theme or Tag Line for your campus reminds me of one of my favorite stories growing up; The House on a Rock.  For those unfamiliar with the story, the premise is that wise builders build their houses on a rock (believers who put the thoughts of God into practice) while the foolish builders build their homes in sand (believers that do not put the words of God into practice).  The story concludes with a great storm of wind and rain and the home built on sand fell with a great crash while the house on a rock stood.

The purpose of the story is not to speak of religion, but this concept directly relates to developing successful schools, businesses, and being successful in life.  We want to build our foundation with CARE and make sure that it is on a ROCK!  If your foundation is strong then you will be able to withstand the pressures of budget, test scores, bullying, etc.  When you analyze the strengths and beliefs of your campus, do you not only believe in them but put those thoughts into action?  When we build our foundation for our campus/district/school we need those concepts to not only be heard but followed or your “house” may fall.

The CEO of my company has been CEO of companies with 30,000+ employees before coming back to one of his passions, education.  He frequently comes back to the word CARE when he speaks to groups of people about education, where it was, where it is now, and where it is going.  His argument is that if you CARE, (like really care – not care like care if it rains today or not but like you cared about your Pokemon or Pog collection as a child) then the sky is the limit.  His speeches always motivate me in a variety of ways because it is evident by knowledge and passion that he CARES.

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The number 1 concern in this area is providing a environment where students feel safe.  A culture of learning also needs to be established that supports them as they grow and encourages them to be life long learners.  Knowledge is power!   It needs to be modeled at all levels that the campus/classroom is a safe environment for all to be themselves, learn, but also have some fun! Once they genuinely feel safe then you can start to break down the walls and work on the rest.  Students need to feel secure, respected, and supported.   This concept of “community” needs to also extend outside of the school walls to the playground, library, and at home.  If this can occur throughout your campus then anything can happen.


For this one I am look at you.  Yes you, the adult in the room, MUST check their ego at the door.  We need to completely buy into the first step to make this successful.  As a young gun, I sometimes struggled with this because I would get defeated when I followed the “community” concept, but then held onto my ego when kids challenged/disrespected me.  “I kept it together until the end” is not enough because the end is where you needed to show your strength the most.  This does not mean we give the control to the kids and hang on for the ride.  Classroom management is a huge piece of this and we must pick our battles with the end game in mind: creating a learning community where our kids feel supported, secure, and respected.  Having a Growth Mindset is a great way to show, support, and use this pillar.  Interested in more information?


Respect must be given to the kids right away while we earn theirs.  Who is thinking right now, “PSSSSH, Oh no he didn’t!  I respect the kids but the kids need to respect me”.  (I admit I even thought it a little bit while I typed it!)  Please do not click “X” and stop reading, stick with me here and hear me out.

Take a second and think back to when you were younger.  Let’s be honest: some teachers you automatically gave your respect and others had to earn it.  That could have been based on who was “cool”, attractive, scary, or whatever fit your personality.  We need to avoid thinking like my quote above.  We need to give the respect to the kids FIRST and the rest will follow suit once they witness your positive attitude, support, love, care, and respect first hand.  Again, this does not mean we hand the keys of the car to the kids, but we always need to keep community and attitude at the forefront!


Simple definition from Websters: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

This translates into being an understanding, sympathetic, loving role model for your students so that they see and feel the true meaning of Respect, Community, and a good Attitude.  Being empathetic does not mean you let things slide, give breaks when they are not deserved, or “insert whatever comes into your mind here”.  It means that we provide a learning culture that supports growth and understanding.  We can still give deadlines and hold firm on them or do not accept late work without a medical excuse.  You can draw the line in the sand where ever you feel it needs to be.  As long as you can be 100% transparent and say, “Yes I did” when asked if you provided all opportunities for success and supported the student along the way with encouragement.  You need to also provide them all the resources they need to be successful.  If so, then yes, sometimes the students need to learn a lesson the hard way.

If this is the case, I encourage you to have a conference with them (and maybe the parents too?) to explain what is happening, why, how it could have been avoided, and how it could be avoided in the future, so that you protect the community and the learning culture that you have fought to hard to build.  Again, never give up the ultimate goal, show them who CARES.


Plain and simple it is when your district turns the corner and starts to grow by creating learning cultures that foster life long learners.  Success can be defined in a magnitude of ways but I encourage you avoid student achievement, high test scores, national rankings, parent satisfaction, whatever you want to stand on as a campus or district, and focus on who CARES.  The success will follow.  I believe this because there is power when people know that you care and feel your passion.  It fosters success, growth and inspires people to try new things and accomplish things that they dreamed were not possible.

This is a model created on my opinions, experiences, and reflections on my time in the classroom and also working with schools.  It is however, based on several things that are proven to be effected and supported in the industry.  Take Finland for example.  They have the highest performing schools in the world and a recent article in the LA Times highlights what makes them so successful and they, along with my CEO, inspired me to write this post.

—–>>  Feeling inspired?  I want to point you to a friend and former principal of mine, Justin Aglio and his colleague Dr. Michael Ghilani.  They recently published an article that discusses this concept while sharing their districts tagline for this year.   I worked with Justin and he CARES and it easy to feel it while you are with him.  Their district, Montour School District, is one of the 30 schools in the US that you need to visit – says Getting Smart. Check them out!


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