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From Chaos to Tranquility: One School’s Transformation. T.J. Jarchow, Wedgwood Middle School, Principal Becki Krsnak, UT of Austin, IPSI Field Trainer Analyst. Imagine this…. Fold a piece of paper vertically in half

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from chaos to tranquility one school s transformation

From Chaos to Tranquility: One School’s Transformation

T.J. Jarchow, Wedgwood Middle School, Principal

Becki Krsnak, UT of Austin, IPSI Field Trainer Analyst

imagine this
Imagine this…
  • Fold a piece of paper vertically in half
  • As you listen to what I read, jot down words that you hear or draw what you hear as you imagine the schools I describe
    • School A on the left side of your paper
    • School B on the right side of your paper
  • Afterwards, compare the two schools for similarities and differences
  • Review the methodology of this case study
  • Describe the four identified themes
  • Reflect on your campus
  • Final thoughts and reflection
  • Interviewed:
    • Six teachers
    • Six students
    • Three assistant principals
    • One principal
  • Observed in three classrooms
  • Transcribed and coded the data
  • Identified four themes
four themes at wedgwood middle school
Four Themes at Wedgwood Middle School
  • Building Relationships
  • A Culture of Encouragement
  • Guiding and Shaping a Team
  • A Motivational and Safe Environment
building relationships
Building Relationships
  • This theme describes the need for establishing trust and developing respectful relationships between administrators, teachers, and students, which now permeate this building.
  • “Individuals and groups flourish best when they are in an emotional landscape where they are valued and heard, accorded respect and allowed dignity.” Steed (2009, p. 465).
building adult relationships
Building Adult Relationships
  • “Creating a healthy school environment for students begins by supporting healthy relationships among the staff.” Styron and Nyman (2008, p. 2)
  • As Mr. Delich, a former assistant principal, told us, “You can’t move people or change things if you don’t know the people—genuinely get to know them.”
  • “Now teachers feel a part of a team, all working towards a common goal; teachers are here for each other, to vent to and then to help you work through the day to day frustrations,” science teacher Ms. Vollmering concludes.
at wedgwood ms
At Wedgwood MS…
  • Team-building activities precede every meeting, including teaching and non-teaching staff
  • Open the gym on weekends for the staff
  • Beginning of the year retreat/grill out
  • Social gatherings outside of school
administrator student relationships
Administrator-Student Relationships
  • “In order to get through to youth in meaningful ways, they need to know that educators genuinely care about them.” Curwin (2010, p. 38)
  • Assistant Principal Ms. Rhines emphasizes, “Build relationships by not only getting to know students as people first and students second, but let students know you on a personal level too. Listen to students, no matter what the subject matter to build that trust, and don’t forget to take time to laugh with students.”
teacher student relationships
Teacher-Student Relationships
  • “A student’s relationship with his or her teacher is one of the most critical facets of learning.” Shaunessy and McHatton (2008, p. 486)
  • Ms. Gibson, an elective teacher, explains, “Kids just need someone to pay attention to them and care about what they have to say.”
  • One student, Octavia, explains, “Teachers want the best for me and are always willing to stay and spend extra time with me to help me do anything I need.”
at wedgwood ms1
At Wedgwood MS…
  • Teachers at doors during passing periods to talk to students in a positive way
  • Student-teacher mentor program
  • Choices of where students eat lunch
  • Advisory program
  • “I” versus “We” attitude
reflection building relationships
Reflection-Building Relationships
  • What is happening at your school in this area?
  • What could you implement from this school?

Turn and Talk with a neighbor

a culture of encouragement
A Culture of Encouragement
  • A Culture of Encouragement highlights the need to create an environment where everyone supports one another and works together.
  • “One way to express hope in students is to believe in them. If teachers tell their students they believe in them, it will only be effective if it is true.” Curwin (2010, p. 38)
encouraging students
Encouraging Students
  • Student Ivan recalls, “The principal often makes announcements telling the students how he knows we can succeed in all we do.”
  • Students and teachers are on teams, and the team of teachers takes time to meet with struggling students individually to see what they can do help him or her.
encouraging students1
Encouraging Students
  • College is an ongoing topic, incorporated into daily instruction.
  • Many students talk about how teachers tell the students to stay in school, hang out with the right crowd, and remember how important an education is in their life.
  • Students at Wedgwood Middle School also encourage one another.
at wedgwood ms2
At Wedgwood MS…
  • Eighth grade student leadership team
  • Teaming-”Housing”
  • Cooperative learning strategy-Kagan
  • Learning walks
  • Data meetings
  • Teacher recognitions precede every meeting
  • Student recognitions
reflection a culture of encouragement
Reflection- A Culture of Encouragement
  • What is happening at your school in this area?
  • What could you implement from this school?

Turn and Talk with a neighbor

guiding and shaping a team
Guiding and Shaping a Team
  • Mr. Jarchow believes:
    • “Anyone can walk into a school and teach a child that wants to learn, but I need teachers that can walk in here and teach the child who doesn’t want to learn. You must have passion to do that and be happy to be here. As the principal, it is my responsibility to get and keep people like that.”
    • “Passion is the most important thing to have, even to the extent that you come into the school and say hello with passion to colleagues and students.”
  • Building leadership capacity
the principal s plan
The Principal’s Plan
  • His multi-tiered plan that he feels every administrator should follow includes:
    • 1) Teachers possessing a positive mindset, excited to come into the building every day;
    • 2) Principals talking about data with teachers and celebrating successes; and
    • 3) Principals being cordial with the staff, yet having critical conversations when needed.
  • Principals need to be willing to do any role in the building.
the administrative team
The Administrative Team
  • “The principal is not rigid and controlling, but supportive of teachers acting independently to improve instruction.” Styron and Nyman (2008, p. 12)
  • Teacher Ms. Gingrich adds, “Administration not only will listen to new ideas, but if it is in the best interest of students, they will help make it happen.”
knowing students
Knowing Students
  • “The role of the principal in shaping a caring school culture is pivotal in pursuing a sense of belonging amongst students in schools as well as confidence in their self-worth.” Md Nor and Roslan (2009, pp. 23-24).
  • Teacher Ms. Gingrich emphasizes, “Mr. Jarchow is always in the hallway, talking to students, getting to know them personally, and then pulling in academic issues through personal issues.”
at wedgwood ms3
At Wedgwood MS…
  • Teacher PLCs
    • Grade level
    • Department
  • Knowing students’ names and individual data
  • Principal-student conferences
  • Attending extra-curricular activities
reflection guiding and shaping a team
Reflection-Guiding and Shaping a Team
  • What is happening at your school in this area?
  • What could you implement from this school?

Turn and Talk with a neighbor

a motivational and safe environment
A Motivational and Safe Environment
  • At a successful school, “Meaningful messages and slogans grace the school walls, staircases, and spaces under the staircases…to remind students and teachers constantly of the school’s vision and mission.” (Md Nor and Roslan, 2009, pp. 27-28)
  • Many of the students can quote the motivating posters displayed in the halls and classrooms.
  • Ivan offers, “The posters in class are not just motivating, but also relate to what is being taught and are reminders for us. They also will post good work to praise students, which makes our work feel important.”
safe and secure environment
Safe and Secure Environment
  • AP Mr. Delich points out that making the environment “structured and organized brings a sense of safety and security for students.”
  • AP Ms. Rhines adds, “Students feel safe here and know teachers and administrators are here to monitor them. We provide them places to be themselves here, such as eating in teachers’ classrooms or in the library.”
  • Student Mackenzeexpresses, “Teachers look out for you even if they don’t know you.”
at wedgwood ms4
At Wedgwood MS…
  • Building pride in school
  • Posters
  • Block scheduling purpose
  • Lunch schedule and process
  • Security of school
reflection a motivational and safe environment
Reflection-A Motivational and Safe Environment
  • What is happening at your school in this area?
  • What could you implement from this school?

Turn and Talk with a neighbor

final thoughts
Final thoughts…
  • MacNeil, Prater, and Busch (2009) remark,

“School principals seeking to improve student performance should focus on improving the school’s culture by getting relationships right between themselves, their teachers, students, and parents.” (pp. 77-78)

and mr jarchow explains
And Mr. Jarchow explains…
  • “You can’t be scared to make changes if it is for the kids. What people think about you has to take a backseat to what’s best for students.”
final reflection
Final Reflection
  • Based on what you learned and what you want to implement at your school, where will you start?
  • What resources will you need?

Questions and Answers


“As a leader of change, you cannot rely on the funding, but you can depend on a “Can-Do” attitude coupled with passion.” Mr. Jarchow, 2010

  • Curwin, R. (2010). Motivating urban youth [Electronic Version]. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19(1), 35-39.
  • MacNeil, A., Prater, D., & Busch, S. (2009). The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement [Electronic Version]. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12(1),73-84.
  • Md Nor, S. & Roslan, S. (2008). Turning around at-risk schools: What effective principals do [Electronic Version]. The International Journal on School Disaffection, 6(2),21-29.
  • Shaunessy, E. & McHatton, P. (2008). Urban students’ perceptions of teachers: Views of students in general, special, and honors education [Electronic Version]. Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Public Education, 41(5),486-503.
references cont d
References cont’d
  • Stancato, F. (2003). The Columbine tragedy: Adolescent identity and future recommendations [Electronic Version]. The Clearing House, 77(1),19-22.
  • Steed, C. (2009). Inquiry-based learning: Personalisation or the rehabilitation of human value [Electronic Version]. The Curriculum Journal, 20(4),465-475.
  • Styron, R. & Nyman, T. (2008). Key characteristics of middle school performance [Electronic Version]. Research in Middle Level Education, 31(5),1-17.