A school community is composed of three parts: the students, the parents, and the staff (teachers and administrators). In a dysfunctional school community, no one trusts each other. This means the parents don’t believe the teachers are capable, the teachers don’t trust that the parents or students are capable, and the school leaders do not believe the teachers or parents are capable. Everybody has a lack of capacity in a dysfunctional school community.
On the other hand, if parents, teachers and administrators begin with the understanding that everyone does have the capacity and goodness to help one another, then a supportive, effective school community will exist. When everyone believes the teachers, the parents, and the students are good, these expectations create that kind of school community.
This concept has been proved in the army. If an officer believes his or her soldiers are strong capable soldiers, they will behave like strong capable soldiers. If the leader doesn’t believe in the soldiers, then the soldiers will not act properly because they know their leader doesn’t believe in them. You have to believe in people to bring out the best in them. Whether you are a school principal, a teacher, or a parent, believe in each other. Believe in each other’s abilities to excel. With that belief, everything else will follow.
Everyone needs to engender a belief in each other because the children will come to believe in this as well. Children need to know that people believe in them and their capacity to learn and succeed. When a child feels that no one believes in their potential, the child gives up almost before he or she starts. Teachers and parents must be the starting point to engender this feeling of belief in oneself.
This should not in any way undermine or discount the training teachers and administrators have had to become experts in their fields. We should all continuously try to grow and improve. But even the highest levels of training cannot replace the effect that belief in each other can have in a school community. This belief is critical to the effective functioning of a school community.
(Interview with Dr. Shimon Waronker, Ed.D for Operation Survival’s Prevention101 series)