Submitted by brian on


Last week, as part of a quick review of recent events, I shared a little bit of information about the Top Twenty training the district has undertaken.  On our early release date of November 22—and scheduled throughout the remainder of the year—we will hear from the team that has developed the Top Twenty resources. 

The Top Twenty training is in the second year within the district.  We had the concepts introduced at the start of the 2012-13 school year.  The Staff Development Committee, charged with meeting the training needs of the district, has made the training a priority for this school year with sessions scheduled throughout the year.

Because of the emphasis we are placing on this training, I thought it would be an important topic to explain in a little more detail.  Although there is considerable depth and information to the Top Twenty training, I will provide a brief overview to the concepts.



We have chosen Top Twenty as a district theme for the year in regard to professional development efforts.  As I explained last week, this is an approach focused on creating positive building and classroom environments.

We were introduced to the Top Twenty concepts during the 2011-12 school year.  Several members of our staff heard presentations from Top Twenty representatives at professional workshops.  Those staff members encouraged our administrative team to look into the program and potentially bring it to the district.

We were able to hear an overview of the program from Willow Sweeney, one of the consultants.  Willow lives in the St. Cloud area and was willing to come out to an administrative meeting to share information about the program.  As we heard the information, our administrative team agreed that this would be a good theme for the ROCORI Schools.  We “booked” a presentation to the entire staff for the Back to School inservice in August, 2012.

The presentation that August was well received.  The presentation has a very natural, humorous, but challenging message.  Staff members enjoyed the inservice presentation and, at several levels, initiated further review and discussion of the concepts.  It became a “book study” for many staff at Cold Spring Elementary and some of the core concepts were quickly adopted across the district.



We continue to work to implement concepts from Top Twenty into our system and our culture in the ROCORI Schools.  The idea behind Top Twenty is that we all have choices in how we interact and engage.  We can exercise decisions to act in positive, productive and supportive ways (Top Twenty) or we can choose to act in negative, divisive and critical ways (Bottom Eighty). 

The focus of the work is to be aware of our choices and to, as much as possible, make conscientious choices to act in the positive manner.  Decisions to act in a positive manner are explained, in the resources, as “above the line” behaviors.  Decisions to act in a negative manner are called “below the line” behaviors.

These become very simple phrases to remember and can be “cues” to assist each other and ourselves in working in a positive manner.  Classrooms, for example, have placed the two phrases on the wall as posters to encourage and promote positive interactions.  Some classrooms simply have posted a “line” on the wall as a reminder to stay above the line in behaviors and interactions.

Essentially, “above the line” behaviors are things done to support, help, encourage, respect and act in a positive manner with others.  It is being open, direct, and framing things with the best interests of others in mind.  Above the line behaviors build a positive relationship and environment.



The theme for our early release afternoon was a Positive Culture.  As the information was shared (both in presentation and the supporting textbook), there are four cornerstones of developing a positive culture.  The cornerstones are 1) Job One—Help Others Succeed; 2) Communicate:  “You Matter”; 3) Honor the Absent; and 4) See the Problem—Own the Problem.

The first cornerstone declares that it should be the primary job or responsibility of everyone in the system to help others to succeed.  Of course we each have a responsibility to do our best and to work hard to succeed, but we (institutionally and individually) can be much more successful if we work together toward that goal.  Rather than look for problems, blame others or focus on what someone else hasn’t done, our first job is to assist others and help them to succeed.

The second cornerstone is to communicate to others we encounter that, “you matter.”  This can, and should be done, in both word and deed.  It means that we treat others in respectful and appropriate ways—we listen, interact, and respond in ways that express that the other person is important or matters.  It means to give appropriate time, acknowledgement, and courtesy to others.  It may be to take a little extra time to fully understand the other person’s perspective, issue or concern.  There are many different ways to demonstrate that another person is important but the critical element is that a positive culture is built on clear expressions that “you matter.”

The third cornerstone is to “honor the absent.”  This concept deals with the way that people are treated when they are not present!  Does the culture expect that those who are absent will be treated in a positive manner and respected or is it acceptable in the culture to belittle, demean, or “attack” others?  To honor the absent, it really means to treat others in a respectful manner at all times—especially when they are not present.

The fourth cornerstone is to “see the problem—own the problem.”  This means that everyone is responsible for whatever might be unfolding around them.  Problems and issues don’t simply “belong to someone else”, they are each person’s responsibility.  If, for example, there is a mess on the floor or in the hallway, it is not just the custodian’s problem to clean up.  If you see the problem, the encouragement is to “own” the problem.  If, then, I see a mess in the hallway, it is part of my responsibility to pick up the mess. 

This involves not just physical issues like garbage on the floor, but all kinds of situations. If interactions between students in the hallway seem unusual, the person observing it should engage to understand and resolve it.  See the problem and own the problem means that everyone takes responsibility and engages when needed.



Although many of the issues within Top Twenty are founded in common sense, it is always appropriate and important to continue to reinforce these concepts!  The Top Twenty approach gives common language and themes to positive interaction and behaviors.

As we continue to work with Top Twenty concepts and presentations, we are working to build a stronger and more positive school system.  The staff development committee, after some of the work a year ago, determined that this program was valuable enough to continue to pursue the program and implement its principles.  We will continue to work through the Top Twenty resources and processes throughout this school year—and into the future!