The Genius of AND

This is the first post in a four-part series around our Sticky Core Values. This blog is co-written by Blair Hicks, currently a 5th grade Taylor Mill Leader, Erik Larson, currently a 3rd grade Taylor Mill Leader, Kelly Savicki, currently a Counselor and Taylor Mill Leader, and Melody Stacy, currently Believer-in-Chief at Taylor Mill Elementary.


Are you ready for a pop quiz? Yes? Ok, but first, think of the most amazing school you can imagine. This school is the epitome of a culture of excellence. Have that visualization in your head? Good. Now answer the questions below…

pop quiz the genius of AND

Ready to see how you did? Did you choose A. OR B. for the questions above? Did you have a difficult time choosing one OR the other? Good.

At Taylor Mill Elementary, we don’t get caught up in the tyranny of OR. Instead, we embrace the genius of AND. We choose to be comfortable being uncomfortable with these paradoxes rather than feeling forced to choose one or the other, which we know leads us down the path to mediocrity.  We value love AND high expectations. We celebrate growth and accomplishments AND have a sense of urgency to improve. Our team includes confident, strong administrators AND empowered teachers. Our approach is both tight AND loose. Our path to greatness requires us to be content with the messiness and beauty that comes with genius of AND.


To us, the Genius of AND, is a revolutionary idea that creates a school culture with strong administrative leadership that empowers teachers AND combines high expectations for students while building positive, loving relationships. 

As Taylor Mill Leaders, we’ve had many experiences with the Genius of AND.  

One example of the Genius of AND at Taylor Mill is the concept of Principals AND Teachers having leadership within the building. There is evidence of this concept throughout the building, from teacher name tags labeling each person with the role of leader to allowing teachers to choose their avenue of leadership within the school.

Another example of the Genius of AND at Taylor Mill is the perfect blend of high expectations and love. Throughout the building you can see students and teachers with strong relationships working together through rigorous activities to produce high-level thinking.  

Blair’s Story – Writing in the content areas was a difficult process throughout the school year.  I knew in order to achieve the high expectation of written work, I needed to hold students accountable while developing relationships centered around trust and belief in themselves.  By the end of the school year, many of the students who were reluctant to write at the beginning of the school year, embraced the expectations of written activities within my classroom.  

Kelly’s Story – A positive culture is something in which we pride ourselves at Taylor Mill. We work hard as a team and we also have tons of fun together. Even though we do not focus on test scores as the single determining factor of our success, when we got ours back last year, we knew we had our work cut out for us moving forward. We’d worked incredibly hard and made so much progress, but the scores didn’t yet support that. So we set off on the new school year being courageous and setting high expectations for our students and ourselves. That meant making difficult changes that weren’t always easy. It also meant that we had to reflect regularly and be willing to face areas of growth together. Along the way we took many opportunities to celebrate successes, after all we value having fun together and that means celebrating. In the last year we made great strides toward combining our passion for a positive school culture with our focus on high expectations for all. We celebrated, we sought out opportunities to grow, we worked together and believed in each other like never before and most importantly we were relentless in these efforts.

Erik’s Story – As a 5th grade teacher of 11 years, moving to a 3rd grade classroom I started the school year uneasy about what kind of expectations were appropriate for 3rd grade students. As the school year began, I noticed one student in particular had difficulty completing tasks and producing high level products. I knew I had to find ways to help the student show their thinking and abilities. As the school year progressed our relationship evolved and we were able to find an appropriate method to demonstrate high level thinking. By the end of the year the student was completing tasks and being more of a productive member of our classroom. Without that relationship, I wouldn’t have had the trust of the student to push him to higher expectations. 


What does our core belief, The Genius of AND, mean to you? Is there a paradox that you’d add? We’d love to connect! Share your thoughts or reflections and tweet and tag us (@TME_tigers, @BlairHicks6, @savicki_kelly@MrLarson212, @me1odystacy) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

2 thoughts on “The Genius of AND

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