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Think about the technical / structural changes that have been implemented in your school district over the past three years. Have they had a profound impact on practice? Why or why not?
Have you ever had the experience where you implemented a technical or structural change in your school, and in some school buildings it seemed to do well, and in other school buildings it seemed to fall flat on its face? It had nothing to do with the validity of the technical change.
Dr. Anthony Muhammad (@newfrontier21) will assert that the most likely reason for the failure of a technical or structural change is your school’s culture. He asserts, “Technical or structural change that is not supported by cultural change, will always be overwhelmed by the culture.”
“School culture is the is the set of values, norms, beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories, that make up the ‘persona’ of the school” (Deal and Peterson, 2002). Education World talked with Peterson about the differences between positive and negative school cultures and how administrators and teachers can create a positive culture in their schools.
For many schools, the school culture is not an area that is considered when a school tried to implement change. When is the last time you have assessed, or surveyed your school culture to determine whether it was “positive” or “negative?” A healthy school climate is the cornerstone to school improvement. However, it often goes unmentioned or unaddressed in school change and reform efforts.
Teacher leader Alex Kajitani, who travels the country working with schools to improve their culture, believes that the number one factor that determines whether a school culture is toxic or thrives is how staff members deal with their own conflicts when they arise.
Transforming the school culture is so important. You can have all the best strategies, all the best techniques, the best practices in the world, but if you do not get a positive, healthy school culture in place, none of that is going to make a bit of difference.
If you have assessed or surveyed your school culture and found it to be less than desirable, what steps are you implementing to positively effect change in your school culture? Or, do you even know what steps to take to positively influence the state of your current school culture?
Dr. Muhammad set off on a research journey with 2 research assistants to conduct a research study of 34 schools from around the country—11 elementary, 14 middle, and 9 high schools—to identify the prevailing beliefs and assumptions of teachers working in the schools. From that research, he wrote the book “Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (Leadership Strategies to Build a Professional Learning Community).”
In July 2017, Dr. Muhammad will be releasing the second edition of his book, “Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (Leading the Four Types of Teachers).”
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. Between now and August 15th, LFPA is running an “Early Bird Special” registration drive at the discounted registration rate of $150.00. We invite you to join us!
Come learn about how important your school culture is to implement and effect change, and learn how you can build a culture that creates capacity for leading, learning, and implementing changes with profound impact on student learning. Even if your current school culture is “healthy” based on your most recent assessment and survey of your school, there are ways that you can bolster that positive impact even more.
We hope to have you join us at our annual conference, and we look forward to having you read (and respond) our next blog post.
Learning Forward PA