School culture is a funny thing that we don’t talk about enough. It’s powerful and the better we build it, the better we educate our kids. But don’t put too much stock in school ratings to evaluate the success of school culture. These ratings are immensely misleading and are based on data rather than “feel” a school vibe or tone. Literally stand in a school and just feel how happy the staff and kids. This will tell you everything you need to know.
What are the basic cultures?
Here are 3 main cultural vibes you can sense when you spend some time in a school:
- Happy and healthy vibe: There is a sense of support, everyone being on the same page, a sense of belonging. You can sense this because people connect, smile, their shoulders are relaxed, they look peaceful.
- Suffocating vibe: People feel micromanaged, watched, monitored. It feels rigid. There isn’t a strong sense of trust or togetherness amongst staff. You can sense this in a school because there is an underlying sense of overwhelm, anxiousness and a tension in the air.
- Abandonment vibe: People feel alone, thrown to the sharks, unsupported and separate. You can sense this in a school because it feels disconnected and like no one is on the same page.
How can a school culture be optimized?
A great school culture does several things well:
- They empower staff to shine.
- They truly put students first.
- People feel completely safe questioning the rules in honor of doing what’s best for kids.
- People are valued and encouraged to build upon their personal strengths rather than to conform.
- The school holds a safe space for personal & professional growth and for service to kids.
- People feel emotionally safe to show up and be their best.
- People feel heard, they know their voice is important.
- People feel happy in the culture and are having fun!
- People feel like they matter.
- People can question the status quo and talk about anything. They can move forward!
- People are on the same page, they are clear about and believe in the school mission!
- Praise and gratitude. People value each other, they openly praise the wonderful efforts of everyone. People are noticed for what they contribute.
- Leadership actually leads rather than manages. There is a critical difference.
This video post was inspired by an awesome IEP meting that I went to recently where the school culture was incredibly supportive. Unfortunately, I don’t often feel this level of strength in schools I visit, but it’s not rocket science. We can change these cultures!
Teachers want to shine, they want to serve kids. So why do over 50% of all teachers in America leave the profession by year five?
Because of the culture. They don’t get what they need in order to serve their kids, and they burn out. Same old story, teachers often don’t have the money, resources, training, time or support they need, and it is utterly exhausting. A great culture can make all the difference.
Enjoy the video, and please share it with someone you care about.