Saturday, June 20, 2015

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS - When was the last time you asked WHY?

Simon Sinek's Golden Circle
This past year, after teaching many years in public/charter schools, I taught at a struggling Lutheran school. By the end of the year, I am quite sure that I drove the leadership and the principal absolutely crazy. Why? Because I was always asking, "Why?" Why do you do this and why do you do that? Sometimes they had legitimate answers, but more often than not, they weren't sure.

I didn't ask the questions because I was trying to make a point, I didn't ask because I thought they were doing everything wrong, and I wasn't accusing those in charge of not doing "it" right, though they may have thought so. You see, most Lutheran schools (K-8) now teach double grades and their enrollment continues to decline. They don't know why it is declining, so they mostly blame it on changes outside the school:  charter schools, change in the culture, the neighborhood, or the culture of the neighborhood, and most often, lack of funding. The leadership is working hard, the faculty and staff are working hard, and the church keeps putting more of their budget into the school.

I asked all those questions because I wanted to know why the school was failing. They have a mission statement and a strategic plan. What's the problem? About midway through the year, after asking "Why?" about a million times, I discovered their problem and I believe it's a common problem among Lutheran schools. I don't think they know why they do what they do.

The problem is not the leadership (noun), it's the leadership (verb). It's knowing why people should send their kids to your school. Some will say that if you don't have money, then that is your priority. Yes, but if you don’t change fundamentally, you’re putting a Band-Aid on a gushing vein. Money is not the problem. Giving more money to failing schools is not the answer. Parents not sending their kids to Lutheran schools is the problem. So, the questions are:
  1. Why does your Lutheran school exist? 
  2. Why should parents send their kids to your school? 
  3. What can be done to become a school which parents want their kids to attend? (Every school educates.)
  4. What can you do to get people to believe what you do about your school?
  5. How can the leadership inspire action that will lead to change? 
I believe in high standards and my students always thrive, grow, and meet my standards. Always. I know what I do... but most of all I know WHY I do it. I believe it. I saw this Ted video by leadership expert Simon Sinek about why some businesses/organizations are successful and some are not. It might help you.

If your Lutheran school has lost its identity, 
start asking WHY.