Leadership for Teacher Aspirations - Steve Barkley

Leadership for Teacher Aspirations

In an earlier blog  I shared a website  for Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations (an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to studying, promoting, and putting into practice the conditions that foster student aspirations in schools and learning communities around the world).

I recently found The Teacher Voice Survey  that assesses staff perceptions of teaching and learning environments by asking questions based on the 8 Conditions that Make a Difference®  identified and defined by Dr. Russell J. Quaglia. The 8 Conditions are: Belonging, Heroes, Sense of Accomplishment, Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity, Spirit of Adventure, Leadership & Responsibility, and Confidence to Take Action.

I believe the 8 conditions provide a great tool for school leadership teams to conduct an assessment of purposeful plans for building a school environment for staff that is most likely to produce an environment conducive to high student aspirations and achievement.


“When people working in schools have high aspirations, they have the ability to dream about the future, while being inspired in the present to reach those dreams.”

 “Too often, however, school staff can’t reach their goals and dreams because the conditions around them are not supportive. As a result, their aspirations flounder and effectiveness wanes, thus affecting the entire teaching and learning environment.”

As you look through the 8 conditions, consider how your staff would rate your current environment. What leadership strategies did you have in place in the past year to promote the conditions? What should your leadership team be considering for the coming year?

1. BELONGING means establishing a sense of community and participation, and believing that all participants in the educational process are valuable members. Teachers are recognized and appreciated as members of the school community as a whole, and also for their individual contributions. The study noted that one in four staff did not feel valued for their unique skills and talents.

2. HEROES are our trusted guides. School employees who are highly motivated to set and meet high aspirations form meaningful relationships with others in the school and in the profession. Mutual respect and commitment to one another are the hallmarks of a staff dedicated to system-wide school improvement. Collaborative support must replace individual completion.

3. SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT is about recognizing and appreciating effort, perseverance, and citizenship while meeting performance goals and making contributions beyond the “call of duty.” Staffs that are recognized for their effort are more motivated to persevere through difficult tasks. The study identified that only 56% of staff felt that they are recognized when they try their best, and almost one in five said they have never been recognized for something positive at school.

4. FUN & EXCITEMENT is about being interested and engaged in one’s work. When staff are excited, they are eagerly engaged, actively involved, and contribute more. If we expect all employees to be enthusiastic about coming to school, we must provide diverse, interesting, challenging and enjoyable work experiences. We need to foster a teaching and learning environment that engages the passions and interests of all stake-holders.

5. CURIOSITY & CREATIVITY requires allowing and encouraging all the participants in the school building to question and explore. Staff should nurture their own curiosity and creativity. Mundane routine can set in day after day, term after term, year after year. All staff members should be open to the same growth and change we expect of students.

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6. SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE is about being supported so that one can take healthy risks, trusting that it is all right to make mistakes and knowing there is something to be learned from any consequence—positive or negative. Any type of new idea, strategy, or tactic can pose a risk. Creativity and innovation spring from the sense of security and support that encourages taking healthy risks and exploring new territory.

7. LEADERSHIP & RESPONSIBILITY deals with giving every member of the staff a voice in the school—letting them know they matter and are trusted to make decisions. Schools need to embrace and promote mutual trust and acceptance of individual rights, responsibilities, opinions, and beliefs. Everyone practices leadership skills and learns from their successes and mistakes, always moving forward with greater knowledge and understanding.

8. CONFIDENCE TO TAKE ACTION means encouraging all members to believe in themselves, trusting that they can be successful and are making a difference. The intrinsic desire to provide the best service one is capable of must drive effective educators. Schools that value respect and celebrate the opinions and ideas of all staff members foster the development of everyone’s sense of purpose and positive engagement in both individual classrooms and the school community.

I would encourage you to download The Teacher Voice Survey. It contains questions, discussion, implications and actions that you can take. Consider how faculty meetings, instructional coaching, professional development, teacher supervision, PLCs and peer coaching can each positively impact building the 8 conditions in your school.


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