Closing the Attitude Gap

Catapult Learning’s Annual Leadership Institute

barutiThe last week in June, Catapult Learning held its annual Leadership Institute. This year, the conference theme was “Fired Up! Unleashing Teacher Excellence and Student Brilliance,” featuring a very poignant keynote speech from Principal Baruti Kafele, author of Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success.

The theme and activities of the Leadership Institute reiterated the work we must continue to do with culture and climate in our schools. Principal Baruti Kafele shared the African proverb that states, “He who cannot dance will say the drum is bad.” We cannot afford to blame the drum. He identified that we need to focus on the attitude gap while working to close the achievement gap.

Attitude Is Everything

One of my favorite parts of his presentation was when Principal Kafele challenged the group to reflect on their current practices by asking these questions:

  • What do my students see in my classroom?
  • What do my student hear in my classroom?
  • What do my students feel in my classroom?
  • What do my students experience in my classroom?
  • Do I provide a learning environment that fosters the proper attitude for my students’ success?

Each of these questions should lead us to a vision of classrooms and schools that motivate students while providing them with a safe, creative learning environment where they securely feel that we believe in them, care about them, really know them as well as their parents and their neighborhoods, have a passion for teaching them, and are committed to their success.

Tending culture and climate were consistent themes in Principal Kafele’s presentations, and he offered another way to consider them. He asked us to think of climate as the “mood” of the school and classroom and to think of culture as the “lifestyle” of the school and classroom. He gauges the “mood” by measuring how the overall feeling and tone of the environment affects the teachers’ ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn. He gauges the “lifestyle” by measuring how the overall way of life affects teachers and students (Kafele, 2013, p. 18).

Climate and culture are critical pieces that are included in the work we do at Catapult Learning with our Alliance and Literacy First partner schools.

How can we close the attitude gap? How are climate and culture addressed at your school or district?

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