Creating ripples in the water

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on

We are currently in the middle of the school year so it is natural for educators to find time to reflect upon their efforts. This reflection can be done to determine progress related to goals or just how someone is progressing within their role. In any instance, the reflection helps to identify what adjustments are needed to strive for excellence. In any year, this progress is challenging and in this year making positive change is even more difficult.  Despite best attempts, failures to make a significant difference over time is due to the following for leaders:

  • Too many demands upon their plate
  • Isolation within their position
  • Limited Resources or training for the position 
  • People within their organization resist change 

In this blog post we focus on How to Create Positive Change in an organization which is similar to creating ripples in the water. In the water, if you create a ripple it will continue its progress as it moves outward from the source. Similar to school change, once momentum has started then the positive change started within a group can much easier continue its impact and will grow over time as it impacts others. This positive change can be achieved by focusing on the critical aspect of Culture within the organization. How can we create ripples in the water so that culture within the organization is positive, brings significance to others, adds value to their impact and empowers others to be their best.

Culture within the organization is where you must start and always focus on as a leader to create a ripple of change. This work should include activities with students, staff and parents/guardians. Here are ways leaders can focus to build culture and examples we have used within our school community.

  1. Staff PD – How a leader builds and carries out Professional Development can either add excitement to a staff or it can diminish their passion.  A focused vision that builds excitement around the idea of “growth as educators” can be achieved by ensuring teachers help develop PD and also lead the work. Leaders must work with the teachers to ensure the PD is systematic and builds upon the school goals so there is consistency and it adds values to the teacher’s daily roles.  Some examples of PD that we have used that incorporated staff voice and brought out their excitement to learn and grow includes:
  • Genius Hour sessions incorporated over the course of the year where staff choose topics to learn about and incorporate into their role/work with kids. This included PBL, Blended Learning, how to create Podcasts, Differentiated Pathways etc…
  • Staff Ed Camp sessions where they choose topics to discuss and share ideas.  This had no pre planned ideas but rather focused on staff sharing insights and listening to others.
  • Staff Leading assemblies and work with families that highlighted student work but provided staff opportunities to be part of the endeavors.  This allowed our staff to use some PD as ways to brainstorm how we can create experiences for kids that they have never had and that included leading our assemblies or work with our families.

Every staff member is a leader and if you know their strengths and provide opportunities for each staff member to lead, then it adds value to their work and develops collective efficacy.  Leaders must be intentional about understanding each person, their strengths and what motivates them, and then be creative on how we can have staff help find the passion and purpose with others within their work.

  1. Connecting with others – Leaders must find ways for their staff to spend time with each other to learn, connect and find deeper meaning as educators. We have incorporated the following activities with our staff that connected them together for a shared purpose:
  • Staff Gallery Walk of the building to determine the “hidden culture” that exists by our murals, paintings or slogans within our walls.  When we took time to really take a step back and see what we are about as a school it opened our eyes about what our students see within a day.  This gallery walk was also done as a team builder where groups then presented their findings to the whole staff, so we learned from each other. We also had each group share out what their next step would be to improve the culture of our building so they were part of the solution.
  • Staff Scavenger Hunt or team building activities that incorporate fun and teamwork.  What has helped the most during COVID times is remembering that people come first and if we take care of each other then we can overcome anything.
  • Social outings that provide time for staff to connect as people first, educators second.

It is important to remember that “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected”. When leaders spend time helping their staff to connect together then it will pay dividends as they will be more likely to support each other in their work with students when things are challenging.

  1. Staff Appreciation – Sometimes the most important things may be the smallest and easiest to do. These are things that brightens someone’s day or add value to their work and include:
  • Treat Trolley Cart or Food for staff. A few good snacks can brighten someone’s day and when leaders go around delivering it to staff, it reminds students that we are all in this together.
  • Notes of Gratitude to individual staff members where you celebrate their efforts.  It takes time to write notes but most often, a staff member may forget what you wrote over time but they will remember that you took time to thank them and help them feel valued.
  • Share videos with staff made by students or families as a way to help staff remember the impact. 
  • Visit with staff and listen to their Feedback that relates to your leadership and the work of the school.  
  1. Empower staff to be the change – When we involve others as part of the change efforts they will not only buy into the purpose but be an important reason why success occurs. Here are some ways we have involved our staff to help create positive change.
  • Staff Led Home Visits for incoming students
  • Staff Led Parent Ed Camps 
  • Parent Inclusivity Panels led by staff
  • Student Panels led by staff
  • Student Leadership work initiated by staff

There are many things that can help buildings find success for students in this most challenging year. We cannot forget about our staff too.  Educators must remember that creating positive change must be intentional efforts incorporated in different ways but focuses on the culture within the organization.  Leaders must continually identify how they can build culture that leads to collective efficacy with their staff, students and families.  As a leader, I focus on my students by focusing on the work and culture I provide for my staff. If I take care of our people then they can take care of our students. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand how you can create “ripples in the water” as a leader for strong culture. Comment below or reach out to me at








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A Husband, Father and Principal with a focus on learning, leading and connecting with others.

An educator for 25 years with 14 of those being a building administrator. I have found that the more I learn form others and their experiences it helps me grow and learn as well. I hope you join our journey as we create learning environments for students and staff that create future success.

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