School administrators attend workshop

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — Flashing a smile and greeting students with a genuine “good morning” are small gestures that can go a long way to build community in the Natchez-Adams School District.

That was part of the message Clifton Taulbert of Clifton Taulbert’s Building Community Institute delivered to 24 school administrators at Wednesday’s administrative workshop.

NASD Superintendent Dr. Anthony Morris said the three-day workshop at the Grand Soleil Casino Resort seeks to refresh and refocus school administrators during the summer, leaving them reinvigorated for the new school year. The workshop is federally funded.

Taulbert, author of several books including “Eight Habits of the Heart for Educators” and a series of children’s books, has spoken about community building around the world to K-12 schools, universities, corporations and government agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Supreme Court.

With an educational background in finance, Taulbert related the effectiveness of creating a “school culture” marked by mutual respect and a shared vision to an investment. He said in order to get a “return” of improved test scores and dropout statistics, administrators must “invest” in their employees and students by giving them respect and praise rather than focus on negativity.

He said keys to success include a safe environment, high expectations, positive home-school relationships and frequent monitoring of student progress.

“You’ve got to check up on (students) before they flunk out,” Taulbert said.

Taulbert also said teachers should explore ways to spread good news, since bad news and rumors travel fast.

“We have to let parents know that, ‘Your child has done something good today,’” he said.

Taulbert said encouragement and mutual respect instills self-confidence in children. He added educators should be sensitive to children who might have burdens at home, thus affecting their moods or behavior at school.

Taulbert’s community building process focuses on selflessness. He said administrators should focus on the “power of the process” as leaders, rather than individual power. He said focusing daily on children’s opportunity for success “can remind you why you signed up” for a career in education.

“(Educators) have a unique capacity to leave (students) with ideas that, ‘I’m at the right place, and I feel better.’… Then math gets a little easier,” Taulbert said.

Morris said he liked Taulbert’s strategies, which make community building a less vague and more manageable goal.

Achieving a common vision will not come without hard work, Taulbert said.

“It’s not about your personal journey,” Taulbert told administrators. “It’s about those 4,000 kids.”

In the center of each table stood a black and white school photo of Taulbert as a child bearing the words “I am your guest today simply because somebody thought I mattered.”