A school’s identity exists regardless of whether or not we develop maxims, slogans, posters, or even just talk about it. It just is. Just like each of our own personal identities, a school’s identity is strengthened and clarified when it’s freely and proudly expressed. And since school identity reflects a community, each of its members benefits from its strength.
We had the pleasure of hosting a Crowdsource webinar with Courtney Spelber from Huntington Beach Union High School District (and former principal of Ocean View High School, OVHS), on January 19, 2023. Courtney shared ways to start each new year and each new term the right way by reinforcing your school’s identity with your students and staff. In addition to explaining how OVHS uses schoolwide activities connected to its values to remind everyone in the community about their shared identity, they also create opportunities for students to build better relationships with other students and staff right from the start.
By getting to know OVHS and its unique identity journey, we hope you’re inspired to reflect on your own school community and what its path toward a strong, shared identity might look like.
BUILDING A STRONG SCHOOL COMMUNITY THROUGH IDENTITY
KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY
Courtney details how the school community’s background and demographics are at the heart of OVHS’s shared identity. She addresses moving beyond stereotypes and generalizations and really understanding who their community members are on and off campus.
KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES
A school community’s core shared values lay the groundwork for school identity. From academic programs to behavior expectations to relationship-building, all decisions rise from this foundation.
KNOW YOUR LEARNER PROFILE
Who are your students now and who will they become? What does the school community need to provide to ensure they are nurtured and empowered now and in the future? Intentionality is crucial when developing and integrating your school’s learner profile into all facets of your school’s culture.
KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
Understand your community members and what they envision for their community and their role in it. For staff, connecting identity work to structures that are already in place helps them better understand how identity is not some separate or temporary piece or just more fluffy busywork, but actually improves efficiency and efficacy and fosters engagement and positive results.
RELATED TOOLKIT RESOURCES
- Getting to Really Know Each Other Through Inquiry: Activity with Staff and Students
- Compliment Activity: Create a Caring Campus Community from Day One
- The Two Anchors that Make or Break School Change Efforts: Shared Vision for Readiness & School Identity
- Envision the Future of Your School’s Identity: Develop a Shared Understanding of Your School’s Identity