What does pizza have to do with school success? Beyond class parties, staff celebrations, and the reason we all look forward to Fridays in the lunchroom, it’s a great metaphor for the school leadership process. There are many ingredients that make up a great pizza, and certain steps we have to follow to ensure it comes out right. Similarly, there are many qualities school leaders must develop to be effective, and many tasks that must be completed to ensure continuous improvement. Without an organized process, it can be difficult to keep track of what to do and when to do it. In this blog, we will share key ingredients of school leadership, and steps leaders can take to improve for student success. Think of it as a recipe for how to build your perfect school leadership plan.
Step 1: Make the dough
In order to be a strong leader, you need to build a solid foundation for leadership. Just as the crust of a pizza provides structure to hold the toppings, your leadership foundation will provide support for everything you do to build a stronger school. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
1. Vision and Direction
Setting high expectations for students and staff creates a climate of excellence that motivates everyone to strive for success. Like the flour in pizza dough, your vision and direction are essential. Take time to visualize your goals for your school, clearly state the vision, and communicate it to others.
2. A Positive School Culture
Adding water to pizza dough brings the ingredients together. In the same way, fostering a positive and inclusive school culture brings people together, and helps everyone feel included. Ensure your school is a place where students feel safe, valued, and motivated to learn, leading students to engage actively in their education and experience a sense of belonging.
3. Effective Instructional Leadership
Pizza crust isn’t made with flour and water alone. To get a light, fluffy crust, you must add yeast, which causes the dough to rise. In your school leadership pizza, Instructional Leadership is the yeast. When you support teachers in honing and improving their instructional practices by offering guidance, feedback, and professional development opportunities, they will rise to the occasion—leading to better student outcomes.
Step 2: Spread the sauce.
Sauce serves as a base for the toppings, and brings out the flavor of your pizza. In our metaphor for student leadership, sauce represents:
Advocacy for Student Needs
Advocating for students at the district, state, and even national levels helps to prepare the way for their success. Being an advocate for students can make a big difference in securing necessary funding, resources, and policies that benefit their education. Spread the word about what your students need, speak up on their behalf, and take action to impact positive change.
Step 3: Select your toppings.
No two people—or two pizzas—are exactly alike. Some people like a classic pepperoni pizza. Others prefer a vegetarian pie. A few even crave pineapple on their pizza. No matter which toppings you choose, the important thing is that your pizza tastes great to you and the people you share it with. Just as different people like different toppings, leaders may have different leadership styles. The good news is that you don’t have to lead the same way as someone else in order to be effective. Here are few ways to “top” your leadership pizza:
1. Allocate Resources
Think of allocating resources like choosing which toppings to put on your pizza.
During your school’s visioning and planning process, you identified needs and set goals. Now, you need to decide how to allocate your resources in order to meet the most pressing needs. While you may not be able to include every topping on the list, you can choose those that are most important. Allocating resources wisely ensures that your school has the necessary materials, technology, and personnel in place to support student success, prioritizing investments that have the most significant impact on learning.
2. Engage with Families and the Community
Think of this ingredient as the cheese on your pizza. Arguably the most essential pizza topping, cheese brings everything together and makes every bite better. In the same way, engaging with families and the community brings people together, and makes every part of the school better. Effective school leaders involve families in the educational process and connect with community resources to provide additional student support. Work to build strong partnerships with parents and the local community, and your school will become stronger as a result.
3. Make Data-Driven Decisions
While cheese pizza is great on its own, adding proteins like pepperoni, beef, or veggie crumbles makes for a more substantial pie. Using data to make decisions is like adding protein to your pizza. It will make your school stronger and more successful. Analyze student data to identify areas for improvement, and tailor instructional strategies accordingly. This will lead to more personalized and compelling learning experiences.
4. Be a Role Model to Inspire Others
You know that you should consider healthy toppings like spinach, olives and mushrooms on your pizza. But will you? Like adding vegetables to a pizza, modeling healthy behaviors is good for your school. School leaders who embody qualities like resilience, determination, and a passion for education inspire students to aspire to greatness. Serving as a role model shows that success is achievable through hard work and dedication.
5. Solve Problems and Manage Crises
There are some toppings you may not want on your pizza—like hot peppers, spicy jalapeños or anchovies. However, even if you prefer to leave these toppings off your pizza, there’s a chance someone else may order them. While you can’t control when problems and crises arrive, you can respond wisely. Every school leader must have the ability to address issues promptly and effectively during challenging times or crises. Though things may get hot, and even leave a bad taste, handling difficult situations effectively will ensure students continue to receive a quality education.
Step 4: Cook your pizza just right.
Now that you’ve built your pizza, it’s time to put it in the oven. To ensure it cooks evenly and comes out great, you must set the oven to the right temperature, and bake the pizza for the correct amount of time. But what if it comes out a bit overdone or underdone—or you have an idea to make it even better? That’s where continuous improvement comes in.
Work Toward Continuous Improvement
School leaders are committed to ongoing improvement. They lead by example, demonstrating a growth mindset and a dedication to learning, and encourage staff and students to do the same. Don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy, make changes, and improve your “recipe” in order to get the best results.
Now that you’ve built your pizza, don’t forget to enjoy it.
As a school leader, you make an impact that extends far beyond the classroom. Your leadership, guidance, and commitment critical are critical to creating an environment where students can thrive academically and personally—and your efforts deserve celebration. Like biting into that first slice of pizza, it feels good to see the results of your hard work in action. And, it’s even better when you share it with others. So, enjoy every success, and celebrate with your team. (This might be a good time to order out for pizza.)
Need help sharpening your school’s leadership skills?
806 Technologies offers a number of professional development workshops in leadership, including Principals L.E.A.D., Power Up!, Take Flight Learning, and Leading Systems Change. Click here to learn more.
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