One of the joys of summertime is considering new ways you are going to make a positive difference during the next school year.
Many of you may be reading and thinking of ways that you are going to transform your school buildings and classrooms. After all, education is one of the few professions where we “get to start new” every school year in the fall!
What kinds of things are you thinking about? Creating collaboration time with your leadership team and / or professional learning communities? Utilizing educational technology into the classrooms? Developing common assessments and better interpreting data in your district? Working with design thinking and innovation projects?
What makes your “top 3 list” to implement for the new school year as changes in your school or classroom?
There are so many worthwhile and positive goals out there now in education to pursue…
Can I ask you this?
Do any of the three goals you listed deal directly with your school’s culture?
Dr. Anthony Muhammad (@newfrontier21) asserts, “Culture eats structure for breakfast.” In other words, if you are only planning for technical/ structural change and aren’t addressing cultural change, the chances that your technical changes are going to be successful and make a systemic positive impact are very low.
A school’s culture is like the soil, while technical/structural changes are like seeds. As any farmer or gardener will tell you, the size of the harvest is very much dependent on the quality of the soil. Poor soil often leads to a less than stellar harvest, no matter how good the seeds are.
Have you thought about this? Do you have a plan? How are you going to positively influence and grow a positive school culture to support your other targeted change initiatives?
Rick Ackley (@Rickackerly) in his blog on Decision-Making: The Key Variable in School Culture (June 17, 2017) makes this assertion, “Making schooling educational requires changing school culture. School reform keeps failing not because of standards or curriculum or poverty or parents or privatization or technology or tests or textbooks or money. It certainly doesn’t fail for want of trying. It fails because of culture.”
Ackerly explains in his post why school culture matters so much, and how, in many schools, the culture results in low access to undistorted information, low student decision making, low student risk taking, low student ownership, and low student feedback.
It is so easy to overlook the culture of your staff and the culture of your school given all of the other things to attend to as a school leader or teacher. However, getting the culture right is the single most important factor in the long-term success of a district or school building in creating favorable conditions for universal student achievement.
Looking at a school’s culture is not only important for students, it is also critical for staff and securing teacher buy in.
Muhammad, “Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (Leadership Strategies to Build a Professional Learning Community),” conducted formal and informal observations in 34 schools across the United States in every geographical region of the country of staff (teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff) interacted in the school culture and articulated their beliefs through their behaviors. In every school he visited, he found a war of belief systems between four distinct groups: Fundamentalists, Believers, Tweeners, and Survivors.
Each group has distinctive characteristics and weapons (behavior and tools) that they use to exercise their will. Two of these groups are actively engaged in a battle to make their belief system the norm of the school. Muhammad stated, “I determined that in order to transform from a toxic to a healthy learning environment, it is essential for leaders to understand and influence change within these groups of educators within the school” (p. 29).
Resistance to change poses the biggest and most critical challenge to schools seeking to implement needed change, to create equity for all students, and to improve student achievement.
Look back at your “top 3 list” of changes that you want to implement in your school or classroom this upcoming school year.
Are your selections “technical” changes, “cultural” changes,” or a balance?
Do you have practical methods that both administrators and teachers can use to loosen resistance, overcome staff division, and focus the school on its primary purpose: student learning?
Learning Forward PA (LFPA) is honored to host Dr. Anthony Muhammad at our annual Fall Conference on October 5, 2017, at Harmony Hall Estate in Middletown, PA.
We would love to have you join us to share some of the strategies you are using to build, enhance, and grow your positive school culture, and we invite you to join us as we learn some high-leverage strategies from Dr Muhammad.
Between now and August 15th, LFPA is running an “Early Bird Special” registration drive at the discounted registration rate of $150.00.
Please consider joining us!
Learning Forward PA