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Looking at the Non-Negotiables Inspired me to Reach for More

Last week Jennifer Hogan wrote a post about Non-negotiables for schools and challenged readers to articulate non-negotiables for their schools. The more I thought about it, I was eager to look at non-negotiables for several areas.

I started out by brainstorming  a list of non-negotiables for my home, my classroom, our yearbook  and student council.  I started thinking about what our school might consider to be no matter whats. I like the idea of creating four main categories of non-negotiables within each area.  I decided to look at my home, classroom and school, while giving next year’s leaders the opportunity to brainstorm non-negotiables for the yearbook and student council in September.  Creating non-negotiables reminds me of drafting a mission statement or a philosophy.

In Our Family

In our Family we will share our story, encourage growth, support each other and strive for excellence.  


Share our Story.  We have a legacy to continue.  We need to learn our family’s history, pass down our faith, positive outlook, love for reading and work ethic.  It means honoring future generations by putting our family in a good financial position and encouraging opportunities and education.  It means leaning into new adventures.  

Encourage Growth  Focusing on a growth mindset means looking for ways to be challenged.  It means doing the hard thing, and stepping out of your comfort zone. It means being the nice kid or adult, it means focusing on kindness, it means treating all people with dignity and respect regardless of whether or not their decisions are different from ours.  It also means It means trying new things, and really digging deep to help bring out the best version of each person.

Support one another. Our family includes 5 incredibly active and involved individuals.  If someone has a game, race, or is being awarded for an honor; we go and support that person.  It means providing food, transportation, education, clothing and other basic necessities. It means providing support when members of the family act like they want it the least; such as ways to keep them safe.  Sometimes people who need the most support ask for it in the most unloving ways.  If someone is struggling, we find a way to encourage him or her by being present.  We never turn our backs on our family members no matter what. 

Strive for Excellence.  Excellence involves being intentional with time, showing appreciation, respecting a person’s environment, listening to each other, encouraging curiosity, working to an individual’s potential at work, school, in a sport, club, or whenever it applies.  It means not accepting excuses and requiring that we finish what we start.

In the Classroom    


In the Classroom we will tell a story, support one another, facilitate growth, and require excellence. 

Tell a story. I love the idea of using a story to engage students.  Stories have a way of capturing our interest and teaching us valuable lessons.  The story of our experience in a class is worth being told. It is also interesting to use the sequence of order (beginning, middle and end) to organize my class.  There are several other story elements like foreshadowing, symbolism, setting and flashback for example that can increase the success of my lessons and activities.  I also want students to be able to explain what they are learning, and seek a depth of understanding beyond the basic level.   

Support one another.  Some days are easier than others, but everyone deserves to be treated well.  Supporting each other means respecting each person’s opinions, aspirations, time and space.  It means lifting each other up every single day. Supporting one another means giving grace when you don’t feel like it.  Supporting one another means helping each other find resources to accomplish goals. Just as I am supported by  administrators, I want to also support my students in any way that I can.  

Look for Growth Opportunities.  We need to take charge of our own learning.  Sometimes the content in a classroom, or the dynamics of a particular group of students does not require growth in order to be successful. However, the challenge is to be curious and not furious. It is both of our responsibilities as the teacher and students, to seek out opportunities to further a depth of knowledge as well as investigate ways to learn something new.  Opportunity for growth also looks like having a growth mindset where you encourage others silently and verbally.  

Require Excellence.  Excellence does not happen by chance.  Excellence happens after hard work, dedication and grit.  As I expect the best my students have to offer, I too need to bring my best.  It means not turning in work unless it is something that he or she can be proud of.  A person’s best is his or her energy. This summer I am learning a lot from John Meehan’s book Edrenaline Rush.  Meehan’s book does an amazing job showing educators how to bring game-changing student engagement that is inspired by theme parks, mud runs and escape rooms.  It is a book that shows me where I want to be as an educator.  Lastly, a person’s best includes being intentional with time.  A person’s best is a willingness to be accountable to the teacher, other students, and most importantly, him or herself. There is a lot of space for excellence in my classroom.  Every single person can achieve it every single day.  

In our School


In our School we will have a warm and welcoming environment.  We will develop students as good people and learners.  Staff will serve as a model for students.  And, we will support and not extinguish curiosity.  

I decided to do a little research on this one, and ask our principal, since I knew he would have high standards for this topic.  He pointed me to George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset. and the 4 Non-Neogtiables that Couros talks about for schools.  He said that he is very passionate about our school focusing on these four areas as well.  I don’t think any school will ever be able to master the four completely, but it is the effort towards focusing on these key areas that will make  difference over time.

IMG_3688Our schools must be a warm and welcoming environment.  This is created by the details in the physical look of the school, the way the office presents itself and the overall feel of the classrooms.  Within a few minutes an impression is made. This also includes calling people by name, acknowledging them in the hallways, and being intentional about interactions with students, staff and visitors.

Schools have to develop students as good PEOPLE and LEARNERS! Schools not only teach this through a well put together curriculum, but they use resources like the Positivity Project, empathy inspired projects, positive behavior systems, developing individual plans with parents and staff, and provide opportunities to enrich and help our students grow. Parents send us the best they have.  We commit to doing whatever it takes to take them from where they are to what is possible.

Schools model the learning they expect from their students.  We can help students grow by modeling and sharing examples from our own lives that relate to hard work, generosity, empathy, kindness, gratitude, being on time, and dressing appropriately.  Actions always seem to speak louder than words.  When students have a chance to see what it looks to be grateful, or respectful for example; there is a much greater chance that overtime, he or she will develop those same skills.  Or, at the least have a point of reference from where they can be developed from in the future.

We have to support curiosity, not extinguish it. I think these things go for staff and students.  Our goal in education is to drive students and staff to be hungry for more knowledge.  We want the individuals in our school to ultimately seek out knowledge on his or her own. We want to encourage people to challenge ideas, push problem solving, create, and be innovative.  I like how Couros talks about school being the beginning of learning, and not the end.  He also mentions that curiosity is closely linked to intelligence.  Supporting constant curiosity is something we are striving to do.  It is not easy, and definitely requires courage and bravery; since there is unknown.  But, in the end it will be worth it.

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