Tuesday, June 22, 2010

School Culture? Come on!

Kent Peterson recently spoke to a group of Cardinal Stritch conference attendees and doctoral students. He asked the question - how do people answer the "Where do you work/What do you do?" question? Does it sound like this?
"I work in non-profit."
"Doing what?'
"I work in education."
"Doing what?"
"I work in the K-12 area."
"Doing what?"
"I work as a teacher."
"I work in the Fill-in-the-blank District."
"At what school?"
Reluctantly, "At So and So School."

How can we fix this? In our never ending quest to manage by fact, should we listen to the research about how school culture effects everything that goes on in a school? Michael Fullan once said, "Effective leaders know that the hard work of reculturing is the sine qua non of progress." Great leaders in all sectors including business, education and health care all tend to the culture. To truly realize "Schools for All", formal and informal leaders might want to consider monitoring and influencing school culture.

1. Ask staff to collaborate on identifying three or four songs that best defines the culture. Is it "Take This Job and Shove It" or "We Are the Champions"?
2. Assess the messages you send when you are engaged in the hiring process.
3. Review your formal and informal induction or on-boarding process. Evaluate the messages your newest staff receive in their first few months in the new role.
4. What actions speak to the values of your leadership? Are you in classrooms? Are you collaborating with colleagues?

We are all cultural leaders. If we want to have schools for all we need to read the culture, assess the staff AND student culture, and transform the culture. Terry Deal and Kent Peterson have great ideas in their most recent 2009 publication.

Please consider adding your best idea on how to tend and transform school culture by posting a comment! Regardless of the sector, how do you ensure that negaholics are not empowered?

1 comment:

  1. This is Tecumseh's Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wG6Cgmgn5U

    My closing email to the staff:
    It has been a great year. It has had its normal ups and downs. It is similar to taking a long family vacation, you only remember the good times. I am very proud to be the principal of this school and each one of you should be proud of teaching here as well. Not everyone can do our jobs. I firmly believe that there are easier places to teach but not many better places to teach. In the end, the students come and go, but we have always had each other. We have always been there for each other; to laugh and cry with on the good and bad days. Every organization’s success is predicated on the quality of its people and Tecumseh is a perfect example of it.

    Great people to work with and I am very lucky.