School Success Planning
Goal: Maximize student achievement through School Success Planning.
Description: We develop professional learning communities to support a school success planning framework that is inclusive, collaborative, data-driven and results-oriented. School Success plans are aligned with system goals and key strategies to maximize student success.
Goal: Set high expectations for achievement of students and staff, and measure the outcomes.
Description: Our highly effective staff ensure that all students achieve to the best of their ability. High expectations are set through the analysis of data to guide success planning, instructional practice and resource allocation.
Indicator: Test results (percentage of group performing to standards).
Attract, develop and retain staff
Goal: Attract, develop and retain a diverse staff of committed, dedicated and caring people.
Description: We will attract, develop and retain well-qualified, results-oriented individuals of diverse backgrounds who are committed to lifelong learning. The collective efforts of these individuals will maximize our capacity to meet system needs and achieve student success.
Indicator: Turnover ratio (new hires/ resignations and retirements).
Safe and appropriate places to learn and work
Goal: Ensure students and staff have safe and appropriate places to learn and work.
Description: We work to provide and maintain safe and healthy environments conducive to learning and working for all. The right spaces in the right places are necessary to ensure the success of our students and our staff.
Indicator: disciplinary (suspensions) and enrolment figures.
Let’s look more closely at each of the goals and see how they might be applied to what we do in a martial arts dojo or organization.
The key phrase “encourage positive relationships” is very important. The dojo should be a place that students go to feel good; feel good physically, feel good mentally. In terms of teacher-student relationships, belittling students or screaming at them does not foster a positive relationship. Some people think well, if the teacher is screaming at me, this is good because I’m getting some attention from him. No. Screaming at a student is a loss of control. The teacher should be calm and purposeful. What does screaming accomplish? The student feels bad. How can this be positive? If the student is scared of the teacher, he will not come back. If the teacher keeps saying, “No, no, no, no…”, the student will become demoralized and will not come back. Who wants to hear bad news all the time?
In terms of student-student relationships, if the students are happy working with their classmates, they will keep coming.
“We listen and respond to needs, so that everyone is included, recognized and valued.”
Everyone wants to feel included. If you are trying to build a good team (for example, a sports team like hockey or soccer) or a good dojo team, it is essential that the members feel included. It is also important that they feel valued as a member of the team. This is all about team-building.
School Success Planning
“We develop professional learning communities”
One way to have a successful dojo is to create an atmosphere where the students are there to learn. The key words in this phrase are “professional”, “learning”, and “community”. Let’s examine these words more closely.
The dojo should be a professional place. I have heard of situations where the teacher is having sexual relationships with the students. This undermines the respectability of the instructor once the students learn of this. And it creates all sorts of ideas of favouritism and privilege. Once the teacher loses the respect of the students, it is game over. In another instance, some dojos are highly political places where cliques exist. For example, in one dojo that I know of, the higher belts do not mingle with the lower belts. They keep apart. Yes, within the cliques, there is a kind of group bonding. But the cliques create all sorts of other problems like exclusion and bullying behaviours, such as seen in high school.
Learning. The dojo is a place of learning. The dojo is a school. And a school has a purpose: as a place for learning.
Community. Crucial to the success of a dojo is the creation of a sense of community. If run correctly, the students want to come to class because that is where their friends and like-minded people congregate to enjoy their art or hobby. It is a meeting place for like-minded people where they can mingle, discuss about, and practice their hobby.
“School Success plans are aligned with system goals … to maximize student success.”
So, in essence, plans are made with goals in mind. And all this is targeted towards making sure that the students succeed. Students succeeding, in the school sense, means that they are learning and growing. They are learning the curriculum, they are becoming more skilled and knowledgeable. When the students succeed, the school succeeds. So, maximizing student success is the key objective.
Set High Expectations
“…all students achieve to the best of their ability.”
It’s all about quality. As a teacher, what are you striving for in teaching your students? Remember that the quality of the students is a reflection on the quality of the teacher. Your credentials as a teacher is affected by your reputation. A good reputation is often the result of the quality of the teaching which is ultimately reflected in the quality of the students: technically and morally.
“Set high expectations for achievement of students and staff…”
Yes, instead of thinking of students as unskilled and worthless, challenge them to be more than they are, to become better, more skilled, more knowledgeable. How good a teacher are you? Can you get them to achieve more? Some may surprise you. Educators from the “glass half full” camp believe that students will always rise to the occasion. Setting high expectations gives them something to aim for, which is not a bad thing. We just have to make sure that these expectations are also realistic and attainable.
Attract, develop and retain a diverse staff
“Attract, develop and retain a diverse staff of committed, dedicated and caring people.”
Attract the right kind of people. In terms of staff (assistant instructors, helpers), finding people who are dedicated to your art and your organization. Now, a caveat: you want staff who are committed and dedicated to help you to grow your organization; you should not be finding people to bleed them dry for money to keep your dojo afloat. There is a big difference here.
“The collective efforts of these individuals will maximize our capacity to meet system needs and achieve student success.”
System needs does not necessarily have to mean just making money. Other needs could be the need for quality performers for demos, for good helpers and assistants for the orderly running of workshops and seminars, for administrative staff for tournaments, etc…
The second part talks about achieving student success. If the students do not get a sense of success in some fashion, it’s going to be tough to keep them interested. If students keep leaving (hence the importance of keeping an eye on the turnover ratio), it says something about the teaching, and possibly something about the structure or culture of the organization. If students are not progressing, you will eventually lose staff (through normal attrition) and ultimately not be able to meet your “system needs”.
So how to attract the right staff? Well, in many cases, students will eventually become your staff. So, you might want to think about a policy for admission. Use a trial period to allow you to observe the student before you let him or her join the dojo or organization. It’s easier not to let them in than to kick them out later.
Safe and appropriate places to learn and work
“… provide and maintain safe and healthy environments conducive to learning and working for all.”
Kick the bullies out.
When we think of team building, we want people who are dedicated to the team but not in a negative way where they form cliques. That key word “healthy environments” is an important one. We cannot work in environments that are poisonous to our soul; when there is bullying, hyper-competitiveness, in-fighting, exclusion, suspicion, back-stabbing, etc… A safe environment is important too. Students feel safe coming to practice; that they will not be screamed at, belittled, put down. Or slapped, hit, or pushed around. And the indicator for this component is enrollment. Maybe this is a good indicator. If the students enjoy the class and the atmosphere, they will stay. If they are scared to come or feel they don’t belong or that the teacher or some group in the dojo hates them, they will not come. Word gets around.“… are necessary to ensure the success of our students and our staff.”
Again, the focus is on achieving success for the students and for the staff. When people achieve success, they feel good and are more motivated. This is a crucial point. You, as the teacher, are there for the students, not for yourself.
I have heard of one example of a dojo as a place where the sensei could find new girlfriends. The dojo essentially became a recruiting ground for scouting new romantic conquests. The senior students knew it too but couldn’t say anything for fear of being kicked out and ostracized.
It’s a very simple question: are you there for the students or there for yourself? If you want to be a reputable, well-run organization, there is no time for this kind of silliness.
So back to our original discussion. To recap, this Report Card for Success is a strategic plan and philosophy on how to achieve success as an educational organization. According to this plan, a successful organization, in following the plan, will have these five aspects: good internal and public relations, a plan for success that stems from maximizing student success, high standards, excellent staff, and a good corporate culture. If your goal as a martial arts organization is to be a top quality institution, this is a good blueprint to follow.
With 11th Generation Headmaster (Soke) of Yagyu Shingan Ryu
from Tochigi, Japan
For more information, see: www.tokumeikan.org
GUELPH SCHOOL OF JAPANESE SWORD ARTS
July 28 & 29, 2012
For details, see: Guelph School of Japanese Sword Arts
Mr. Tong has a Master’s in Education in Curriculum Studies.