A month or so ago, I visited a school in Middletown, DE: Alfred G Waters Middle School, known to my heart as Shark Nation. My first time there was half a decade ago for a These 6 Things workshop, and since then we've done a fair bit of remote work on student motivation.
As I was catching up with their principal, Dr. John Tanner, I started noticing some interesting uniformity in the building: faculty and staff door signs. Let's use Dr. T's as an example so that I can point out what I think is pretty cool here from a Credibility signaling standpoint.
- Smiling face. When kids are walking in for the first time or getting the lay of the building at the start of the year, they can associate rooms with not just names but also faces.
- Number of years in the district. (Teacher signs also say number of years teaching when the teacher chooses to include it.) This indicates experience, commitment. It emphasizes that we all share being here, in this district, this year.
- Educational history. We're not just saying school is important and beautiful; we've lived that reality. (And in John's case: Daaaaang, our principal is a doctor!!!)
- John's Everest. This tells you about John's priorities, about his vision for his work as an educator. (And selfishly, I love it because Everest is the first chapter of These 6 Things — free PDF of the first chapter here — and AGW has owned the idea and made it their own, 100%.)
- The school's mascot/logo. I love that this is right next to Everest; it communicates that John is both an individual with an individual mission, but he's also a member of the whole, a person after not just his agenda but OUR agenda as a school community.
- School slogan at the bottom. Upon these words, we work. AGW has it boiled down to three things: empower, achieve, lead. At my own school, one of our slogans is “personal best.” The thing with slogans is that the degree to which they're lived out correlates perfectly with 1) the number of times that they are repeated and 2) the number of times that those repetitions hold meaning. Like all belief signals, if you want to ensure a thing gets in to the heart of your listener, you have to say it and mean it again and again and again and again.
And obviously, the beauty at AGW is that this same template is used all over the school.
(Here's a link that'll let you make your own copy. And if you do, please share in the comments!)