Language is the key to letting people know what you mean, what you expect and what you hope will happen. Finding a common language is the first step in moving all parts of your organization in the same direction. But what does 'common language' mean in a school setting?
Common language between all members?
Common language of instruction?
Common language for assessment?
Common language for discipline?
Common language of action?
I have encountered a number of leaders who have not been clear and decisive about the language that they use or that should be used in their organizations. In my experience I have found that establishing a common language for all team members is a very powerful driver for the mission of the group. At our monthly staff meetings there is an opportunity for our team to connect and establish a common language for literacy instruction through all grade levels. This is an opportunity for all staff - teachers, administrators and support staff to share and develop our common language. This translates into an advantage for our students and families as they move through the school; they will spend less time learning a new ‘language’ each September. It provides a sharpening of instructional time for everyone.
In the area of literacy instruction, our team has found the work of Regie Routman to be a useful framework to have vertical conversations which lead to common beliefs and common language. The work of Gail Boushey and Joan Moser has helped our team develop common practice for our students as well. We have found that our students respond well to these common elements as they move through the grades at the school. They do not seem to stress when we speak about 'stamina' and our teachers appreciate the infusion of the 'OLM' across their lessons.
In regard to discipline, by sharing a common language, our students will be able to know what is expected behaviour in all areas of the school. We are working at removing the variability that so many of us met in our own school experiences as we moved between classrooms. I’m not suggesting that we remove individuality from the classrooms of our schools but I am suggesting that we come to an agreement around the use of our words and the meaning of our words.
As an educational leader I need to continue to create opportunities for our team to understand what the expectations around common language are as well as guide the definition of that language. Our team will become stronger, our teaching will become sharper and our students will become more successful.