What is School Culture?
Academicians define school culture along the lines of the shared beliefs and priorities driving the thinking and actions of people within a school community.
I see school culture as:
Norms: “That’s just the way things get done around here.” (When “portables” become “permanents.”)
Default Behaviors: How decisions are made when administrators are off campus. (Think principal’s secretary.)
Risk taking: The willingness of staff to try something new. (Do staff and administrators reinforce risk-taking or risk avoidance?)
Locus of Control: Whether people in your school deal with challenges by finger pointing or teamwork. (Is the conversation “that’s not my department” or “they’re all our students?”)
The bottom line is that your school’s culture is whatever “normal” means at your school—from teacher innovation and administrator expectations to student attitudes and parent involvement. The more successful “normal” is at your school, the more successful your school.
Can an individual school stakeholder improve their school’s culture?
Absolutely! School culture improvement is best driven by the people within a school community. Any school stakeholder can start the process. The key is to create the buy-in and momentum which ultimately transform the beliefs and attitudes within a school community. It’s important to know that dramatically improving a school’s culture typically takes 3 to 5 years. However, the sooner you start the process, the sooner you will see results.
*The above text excerpted from 50 Ways to Improve Schools for Under $50. Copyright Jason Ryan Dorsey 2007. All rights reserved. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to distribute.