“Universal achievement remains a pipe dream until we take an honest look at our beliefs, practices, behaviors, and norms of our organization. These elements make up a very sensitive system known as a school’s culture. This is where many school officials and reformers fear to tread, but it is this place that holds the biggest keys to unlocking the potential of our public schools.”
Anthony Muhammad, Transforming School Culture
This months #blogamonth topic was ‘Creating a Culture’ and as it is the last week of February, I’m just getting to writing this now. I have been thinking about how to approach such a large multifaceted and illusive topic. Questions in my head that I tried to answer were…what is culture, can we see evidence of it or is it something we feel, is it meant to be diverse or the same, how can one thing have such impact and hold on a school community?
What I have noticed is simple…one important component of creating a healthy school culture is Choice. Choice as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the act of choosing : the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities: the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision”. Although choice is a verb, an act, in relation to its impact on culture it is the perception it gives of the ‘opportunity’ to have control over your environment. What I have observed and witnessed first hand, like so many of you, it is that the choices we make define our experiences, motivation, and success. Choice is one way we empower a powerful shift in our culture. Here are some examples of conscious choices leaders make that model the type of school culture they seek to attain:
choosing to make phone calls or face-to-face communication instead of email or mass mailing to inform people on sensitive school related issues
choosing to explicitly seek input using questionnaires/surveys/ focus groups to investigate and learn what the concerns are of the community; identifying common direction
choosing to be responsive and open to making changes in routine
choosing to share/ promote/ celebrate leadership from within and provide opportunities to communicate
choosing to trust professional judgment and support skills/tools necessary for continued growth and learning
choosing to be innovative in the ways we deliver professional learning that encompasses all learners preferences
When a school explicitly makes choices that positively create a culture best fit for learning, it manifests and translates “the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group” which is Websters definition of culture. Something so simple as providing the opportunity or power to choose is a step toward creating a school culture in which we all learn and grow together. The answers to some of my questions, and please add your own; culture can be seen and felt; it should be diverse and the same; it does have the greatest impact and hold on the school environment and because it does we have no choice other than to create healthy cultures in which our students and community can flourish and learn.