Tomorrow, I’ll be addressing 80-100 educators from around the province about our journey in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools. These educators have formed a community of practice that focuses on the Learning and Technology Policy Framework; an outstanding resource that addresses some of the shifts required to truly graduate students who are engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit. My talk however, will not specifically address technology but will instead focus on our changing culture.
The above phrase has resonated with me for many years and has shaped much of my leadership. But culture is not simply corralled in leadership, it is part of all organizations and includes all walks of life. In education, it may be the most contributing part of success in every classroom, school and system. In the recent book, School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess and Transform It, authors Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker provide a couple of excellent audits on culture for educational leaders.
While I would suggest that this book be read by leaders and formal culture audits taken, I think a great start to identifying culture is simply leading with questions and as Michael Fullan suggests, “perform an autopsy without blame.”
While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some questions that you may find useful as you begin to reflect on your own culture, be it in your classroom, your school or your system.
- Are you happy in your work? Do you enjoy going to work most days?
- Do you believe you can make a difference in the lives of your students?
- Do the problems you face originate from external or internal factors? Do you have any control over these factors? What are the factors you can control?
- Is there collaboration amongst staff? Do you discuss student learning? Do you discuss instructional practice? If so, how often?
- Do you believe that every child can learn or do you tend to make excuses about a lack of learning?
- Does your school/system use SMART Goals? Is there a strong vision? Do you know and understand the direction of the school or system?
- What are the conversations about in your staff room, your parking lot? Are they critical of someone or something? Are they positive or negative? Do they provide hope or despair?
- Are you a learner? Are your colleagues? What do you do to continually improve as an individual, a team, or a staff?
- When you go back to the reasons you went into teaching, are those same reasons still there?
- Is the system you are in or the school you are in or the classroom you are in, a place where you would want your own child to be a student?
Culture is complex and is not “adjusted” after one meeting or one visioning session. It is a long process to develop the culture you desire and requires constant attention. But without a strong and trusting culture that promotes learning, strategies in themselves will never achieve the success that we crave, for all students!
So, what is your culture?