Developing a Vibrant Faculty Culture

Developing a vibrant faculty culture is the most important initiative to foster improved student learning at any school. Many factors contribute to this culture. This article focuses on that most important, which is maximizing teacher performance. School leaders should employ an orderly approach to improving faculty performance by 1) setting expectations, 2) observing performance, 3) evaluating performance, 4) developing an improvement plan, and 5) supporting professional growth and renewal. Regular coaching and mentoring surround these five steps. This article briefly describes and provides a plan to improve these five aspects of developing a vibrant faculty culture. With hearty leadership and a supportive financial plan any school can emerge on a path toward more robust fulfillment of its mission.

A) Setting Expectations:
The first step toward developing a vibrant faculty culture involving a positive evaluation cycle is to set clear expectations. The organization then gathers around fulfillment of these expectations in its every facet. Leaders know what direction to lead and teachers know how to orient their daily objectives. We need to know what is to be evaluated. “As the private school teacher’s role extends well beyond the classroom, schools should view and evaluate a teacher’s performance comprehensively, considering the full range of a teacher’s interactions with students, the school, administrators, colleagues, and parents…” This begins with the statement of school objectives.
1. “Basic Teacher Expectations: These are “non-negotiable” tasks required for the school and classroom to operate effectively. Examples include professional appearance, timely submission or grades, and excellent attendance record.
2. Characteristics for Professional Excellence: These are the higher-order behaviors, values, and attitudes that must be present in strength within your faculty in order for the schools mission to come to life and to be delivered with excellence to your students. Examples include creating a predictable and supportive environment for students, collaboration with colleagues, and ongoing focus on professional growth and development.
By comparing a teacher’s performance to stated expectations, you can now evaluate whether a teacher meets the school’s needs-and by extension, the needs of your students.” (From Ideas & Perspectives,  Vol. 37 No. 2, Independent School Management)

Additionally, each school will articulate specific expectations peculiar to fulfillment of its stated mission or ends. One school I work with summarizes its expectations as fundamentally different from government-operated education both in philosophy and content. This school recognizes that an excellent education is founded upon disciplined, eager attention to learning; that this discipline rests upon the student’s moral character; and that this moral character can only be developed through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In support of parents’ God-given responsibility for educating their children, this school seeks to:

1. Provide a clear model of Christian life through its staff and board members;
2. Encourage every student to begin and to continue to develop a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ;
3. Teach all subjects from a biblical worldview as parts of an integrated whole with the Scripture at the center;
4. Provide students with a classical education, in which grammar (the fundamental facts and rules of each subject), logic (the ordered relationship of particulars in each subject), and rhetoric (the expression in speech and writing of the ideas of a subject) are emphasized in all subject areas;
5. Encourage all students to develop wisdom, discernment, and a love for learning. Children will be taught how to learn for themselves and how to express what they have learned; how to think rather than simply what to think;
6. Provide an orderly and safe atmosphere conducive to attaining these goals.
School staff manuals at this school elaborate excellently on this statement of philosophy. From these sources, we should clarify expectations. The basic expectations + characteristics of professional excellence + school – specific objectives guide observation, evaluation and professional development.

Following articles will treat the four other aspects of the cycle and provide an action plan for success.