Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Principals Advisory Council (PrAC) met on March 14 to discuss how school culture and climate impacts both teacher recruitment and students.
“Our teachers in our buildings are the best recruitment that we might have to grow our profession,” said PrAC Chairperson Suzanne Farmer, a principal at Hogsett Primary (Danville Independent). “If the teachers aren’t happy, students see that and they’re not encouraging others to join the profession. If they are, they are encouraging people even if they aren’t saying the words by being happy at their jobs and showing a passion for their work.”
PrAC members shared ideas within a principal’s control they can use to impact school and teacher culture and climate.
Reidland Elementary School (McCracken County) Principal Anne Cox said her community has several students raised by relatives. Her school’s family resource coordinator is conducting an event at a local bank for any families that fit into this category to connect them with community members that could help, such as a family lawyer or behavioral therapist.
“This is the first time we have ever done this,” Cox said. “The idea is to empower our families who are raising these kids and if they have any questions, they can ask these people.”
Farmer also shared ways her school has implemented social-emotional support strategies to address school culture. According to Farmer, Kentucky has the highest percentage of children experiencing at least two adverse childhood experiences before the age of 5. Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood, such as mental health challenges or being raised by a relative.
In Danville Independent, Farmer said one of the ways the district has worked to help change mindsets on the link between behavior and trauma was to have students participate in a “I wish my teacher knew” activity, where students shared personal details of their home life in writing. Students shared about incarcerated parents, emotional distress and the loss of family members.
“The number one thing you learn with trauma-informed care is the way to reverse those childhood experiences is to build positive relationships with students,” she said. “It can help us to find the trends. It can help us customize the support and it helps us to know more about the kids, what may be possible triggers or to understand where they have been.”
In other business, the council:
- Learned about the updates to the Professional Standards for Education Leaders toolkit used to evaluate principals and assistant principals. Updates were made to standards three, five and eight with embedded hyperlinks for examples of the standards;
- Heard about the 2023 Kentucky Educators Rising conference; and
Heard from Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass about United We Learn efforts happening across the state.