Marcell Kirk is Dean of Students at CICS Lloyd Bond. He is also the Director of Climate and Culture, a role that is his passion. He has been at Lloyd Bond for 11 years and works with teachers, staff, students and their families to create a positive school culture that promotes students’ learning successes, reinforces collaborative interactions between all stakeholders, posits shared values and celebrates excellence. Mr. Kirk believes that the culture at CICS Lloyd Bond is what draws students and their families to enroll in the school. The following is Mr. Kirk’s perspective of school culture at Bond. It’s a story on why it is important to connect with students and build a community of trust and motivation for all children in an educational setting.
CICS Lloyd Bond is considered a home away from home for many of our community members. Home is a place where growth is nurtured, where you are accepted for who you are. Home is where you are loved and the four walls that surround you represent safety and endless possibilities. The thoughts and efforts that go into creating this space take place long before anyone decides to occupy a home or, better yet, bring kids into the space.
For school-wide culture, it is equally important to engage in the same thoughtful considerations prior to scholars entering our schools. While educators are not the parents of the scholars we teach, we must treat the development of the school culture in ways that are similar to a home environment, especially in regards to the development and growth of each family member. The components we would want for a home are aligned to what we want students to experience within our schools. These experiences are what a school community should create. This is what all of the stakeholders at CICS Lloyd Bond have created for themselves, their students and their families.
Finding opportunities within a family to boost the self-esteem and confidence of all members at Bond is extremely important. A family celebrates the authentic person and builds on the foundation of each member. At Lloyd Bond, we look for members who are being exceptional in every space we enter; it’s a habit that all stakeholders are encouraged to do. We celebrate each other every Friday as if it’s the last day of school. We also have mini-assemblies (and still do virtually) that acknowledge what it means to be exceptional from every perspective. A teacher can talk about the “why” behind giving positive merits out, a parent can speak about the efforts they put into their students' daily success and students are given the opportunity to stand proud and speak about what is driving them in their classrooms. When a school community is brought together, it is an essential practice to recognize all of the factors that go into a community as recognizing the whole is always better than recognizing an individual piece. Every parent, every student and every staff member adds something to every initiative we develop for the Lloyd Bond community. We have made it a habit to celebrate all aspects of the amazing culture that we have here at our school. None of our celebrations would be as impactful without the school family making time for one another to have genuine connections throughout the building.
And, just as you are a part of your own family forever, our school family stakeholders carry the lessons they learned at Lloyd Bond with them throughout their lives. Our family has a desire to leave a legacy that resonates far beyond our time with the scholars, students and staff. Every home has a legacy, and for better or worse, this legacy has the power to influence the mindsets of not only the members of the family but also the community where the home resides. Understanding the important role of culture in a school, as it relates to a community, is the first step to establishing a culture that makes an impact beyond the walls of the building. We have established a legacy of emphasising the whole person. Teachers aren't just teachers in our space, they become lifelong friends; we know each other's kids' names and we share our life stories on professional development days throughout the year. Our retention is high because we know what motivates our teachers and we support them as they move to the next level in their career, even if that means that they move on from us.
Our students are active participants in creating the culture on our campus, They mirror what they see in the culture that the teachers and staff have created. Students make it a priority to update their favorite teachers on their progress even after they graduate. Students share that our space is where they felt safe and the most cared for. We establish what a “Win” is for each scholar. As you walk into our building, you see students walking into the office being cheered on by the principal for getting 6 positive recognitions. Our security people uphold safety and joy by handing out incentives to students for their attendance and behavior. Students know what to expect when they enter our home and the routine created by the culture is their comfort. In a home, the importance of the kids observing healthy interactions between the adults of space helps them model that in their lives daily. One constant in our routine is that we start our day together and end our day together. School-wide morning meetings and end of day huddles have become essential in rooting ourselves in joy to begin and end the day. The Lloyd Bond family, through every obstacle we can imagine, have managed to be a hub of support for every member of our community. Through every obstacle we have faced in our corner house in Altgeld Gardens, we have always been rooted in building the best home we possibly could for our Lloyd Bond family. This process of building a home is continuous. We continue to build a legacy of tradition that is generational and not circumstantial.