By Martin Silverman

This is the first article in a series. In the second installment, we’ll discuss leading with the heart and mind when it comes to accountability.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

This quote has been on my office wall for the past seven years at Salinas Elementary. I didn’t put it there, but I will say it has made me think about what I am trying to achieve as I navigate the many areas of leadership required to be an effective elementary principal. There’s a lot more to this position than meets the eye!

People are often described as being “all heart” or “of a single mind.” Both of these phrases cannot fully capture the essence of a person and certainly not a school leader. It occurred to me after looking at the quote on my wall for the thousandth time that we need to be purposeful about demonstrating our strengths both from our hearts and our minds as we build our school culture. So how do we use both to become a more well-rounded administrator?

Leading School Culture with the Mind
The most important aspect of leading school culture with the mind is for the leader to have a big-picture view and understanding of what is actually going on at their school. When we collect actionable information we can get a broad picture of the whole school; a so-called balcony view. We can get actionable data through efforts that start at the leader level and radiate out or by the leader collecting bits of information that come into the school. Here are some examples:

  • Sending, receiving, and interpreting surveys to staff, students, families, and community.
  • Maintaining a strong social media presence. Using the information from comments, likes, mentions, etc. to determine how our message is being received.
  • Creating a master calendar of activities and events that consider different interests and abilities.  A great mix of artistic, academic, social, athletic, and fellowship opportunities that are scheduled for maximum participation.

Having your vision distilled into a “stump speech.”  Making sure to repeat the same vision points in most interactions so they are clear to all the stakeholders.

Leading School Culture with the Heart
Building culture does not happen overnight. There are some great ideas floating around the leadership stratosphere, and they work in some places at some times. One of the most important aspects of leading school culture with the heart is for the leader to make the conscious choice to love their people. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to sincerely work on loving the one you’re with…in essence to bloom where you are planted. I have been principal at four different schools, and I can honestly say I absolutely loved (or learned to love) each one.

It’s difficult to build culture at one place when you are pining for your previous situation. It is also difficult to build culture if you are operating as if you have one foot out the door on your way to the next step in your career journey! Here are some examples of how to build culture with your heart:

  • Sincerely show appreciation for students, staff, families and community effort through your words and actions.  Send postcards of gratitude.
  • Wear your school colors, have a mascot in your office, have an annual theme related to your school goals and needs.
  • Connect to the traditions of the school and community by honoring school history. Attend and participate in community functions.
  • Communicate in a positive manner on social media to highlight the positive behaviors and actions of your students, staff, families, and community.

When we endeavor to lead with both the mind and the heart, we are actively creating an effective school culture!

Judson ISD principal, Martin Silverman is committed to providing the best educational experience for students and families at Salinas Elementary. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators. He hosts a podcast called “The Second Question,” which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas and to honor the teachers who have influenced their lives. A longtime TEPSA member, Silverman is also part of a trio of Texas educators who host the podcast “The Texan Connection.”

TEPSA News, March/April 2022, Vol 79, No 2

Copyright © 2022 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 6000 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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