It takes a great deal of time and energy to create and maintain a positive culture, but it’s essential for all successful schools. When thinking about what qualities are needed to create a positive school culture, they fall into a top 7 list.
7. Be on a Mission
All school communications clearly state what the institution is about …. their mission, vision, purpose, beliefs and objectives. The handbooks, websites, banners, etc. all reflect what the school is and strives to become. Written policies and procedures are reviewed annually to keep the school current.
6. Stay in the Loop!
Well-designed forms of communication are critical when creating a positive school culture. This includes everything from the school’s website, phone calls, newsletters, etc. Jill Adams, an Educational Consultant, summed it all up when she wrote, “When educators do not communicate, the public fills in the blanks and sometimes the blanks are not positive or even accurate. Control the message” (Adams, 2014).
5. Lead the Way!
There should be numerous opportunities for teachers to take leadership roles within the school and district, such as serving as a department chairperson, professional development coordinator, or curriculum expert. Students should also take leadership roles such as being a school ambassador, student council officers, or student mentors.
Behavioral expectations are clearly defined and supported by the administration and staff. Support is in place and provides services for students. Robert Sylwester states that there should be a focus shift from classroom management to student-teacher collaboration that improves classroom dynamics and helps develop social skills (Sylwester, 2000).
3. Help Students Create a “Growth Mindset”
Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, states that teaching a growth mindset increases motivation and productivity. When students understand that their intelligence isn’t fixed and they can change their intellectual ability, she found that motivation increases and they boost their achievement.
2. “If you don’t feed the teachers, they’ll eat their students!”
Schools that have a strong budget for professional development are sending the message that they care about the continuing improvement of their staff. Besides attending conferences and workshops, schools provide in-house PD by creating professional learning communities, peer-to-peer mentoring, etc. But more importantly, the school creates time during the workday for teachers to meet with one another, share what they’re doing, and allows teachers time to assess their effects related to student learning.
1. Above all … CARE!
Successful schools embrace racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity and expect inclusion to be a “given.” Having teachers who care, that take time to listen, possess empathy, and demonstrate a positive regard for others have a greater impact on student achievement than those who don’t (Hattie, Pg. 118).
A school’s culture includes the perceptions, attitudes, relationships, and the unwritten rules that influence every aspect of the school. It is formed by both conscious and unconscious perspectives, values, and practices. As Rex Miller stated, “Culture is the invisible attitudes, values, habits, and behaviors that run the place when you’re not there.” (Miller, pg. 147).
Lou Whitaker, Ed. D.
Dr. Lou E Whitaker has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Administration from National-Louis University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Having over 35 years of experience in education, she has been a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and served as the Associate Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She is currently an Educational Consultant for Open Minds Enterprises, EdCenter, Global Center for College & Career Readiness, as well as a consultant for MeTEOR Education.
Chosen as one of Dr. Pat Wolfe’s Brainy Bunch Members, she has been involved with Dr. Wolfe’s continuous study of the human brain. The Brainy Bunch is a group of educators and health professionals who are passionate about brain development and its impact on learning. On a yearly basis, the group invites two outstanding neuroscientists to meet with them and discuss their latest research developments. Then this renowned group of educators, led by Dr. Wolfe, translate neurological research into classroom practice. Dr. Whitaker understands the important of keeping abreast of what is going on in neuroscience as well as understanding the importance of data-driven best practice research. These are essential for making a positive impact on our students’ lives.
Adams, J. (2014, May 9). Fostering a positive school culture. (Jill Adams, Adams Educational Consulting) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from Blog: www.effectiveteachingpd.com/blog/2014/5/9/fostering-a-positive-school-culture8-best-practices-html
Bergland, C. (2012, March 7). Enriched environments build better brains. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Psychology Today: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201203/enriched-environments-build-better-brains
Diamond, M. &. (1999). Magic tress of the mind. New York, New York, USA: Penguin.
Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. (E. Week, Producer, & Education Week) Retrieved October 8, 2016, from Education Week: www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, New York, USA: Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2013, November 22). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping. (TEDxNorrkoping, Producer) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwJXUieDOU&t=547s
Miller, G. (2010). Visible learning by John Hattie (2009), Summary by Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller.
Miller, R. L. (207). Humanizing the education machine. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Partnership, T. G. (2013, November 25). School culture. (T. G. Patnership, Producer) Retrieved October 10, 2017, from The Glossary of Education Reform: www.edglossary.org/school-culture/
Sylwester, R. (2000). A biological brain in a cultural classsroom: Applying biological research to classroom management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Crowin Press.
Willis, J. (2017). Why teacher education should include neuroscience. (Teachthought, Producer) Retrieved October 8, 2017, from teachthought: www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/why-teacher-education-should-include-neuroscience/