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“Elements of School Culture”
Please allow every teacher to realize what awesome power they hold in their hands and that they are the doors through which whole new worlds of possibility can open for their students. That by understanding students, day to day, and not judging them or shutting out the many opportunities for their success teachers can, and often do, make all the difference. Sandi Redenbach (Autobiography of a Dropout)
A complex pattern of norms, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, values, ceremonies, traditions, and myths that are deeply ingrained in the very core of the organization.
Why is culture important?
It influences and shapes the way teachers, students, and administrators think, feel, and act.
“At a deeper level, all organizations, especially schools, improve performance by fostering a shared system of norms folkways, values, and traditions. These infuse the enterprise with passion, purpose, and a sense of spirit. Without a strong, positive culture, schools flounder and die.”
(Peterson and Deal, 2002)
Culture is a powerful force that exists in any organization in which people share some history. It develops as people work together, solve problems, cope with conflicts, achieve successes, and deal with tragedy.(Schein, 1985; Deal and Peterson,1999)
Take 2 minutes at your tables and choose a song that would describe how your school currently works together to solve problems, cope with conflicts, achieve successes and deal with tragedy.
Norms, Values and Beliefs
Symbols and Artifacts
Stories that Herald Values
Rituals, Traditions, and Ceremonies
Think about your school or county system:
Is improvement important?
How motivated is everyone to work hard?
How do people feel when students do not perform well?
What do we talk about in public or in private?
How much support to innovative colleagues receive?
Do we believe all students can learn?
Do we feel student capacity is determined by background?
Is your daily work a calling or a job?
Take 2 minutes at your table to develop a list of six adjectives that would describe the culture of your school.
Teachers and students are more likely to succeed in a culture that fosters hard work, commitment to valued ends, an attention to problem solving, and a focus on learning for ALL students.
READ the Culture Historian and AnthropologistASSESS the Culture Analyst and EvaluatorREINFORCE or TRANSFORM the Culture Visionary, Symbol, Potter, Poet, Actor, and Healer (Deal and Peterson, 1994; 1999)
Negative Values and beliefs hold sway in toxic cultures.
Sense of purpose is spiritually fragmented.
Relationships are negative and destructive.
The cultural network’s most powerful members negaholics (Carter-Scott, 1989)
The only heroes are anti-heroic.
Few positive rituals, traditions, or ceremonies exist to develop a sense of community and hopefulness.
Deal and Peterson (1999).
1. Share strong norms of collegiality and improvement.
It is not enough to be busy. The question is: “What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau