In today’s world of constant accountability and transparency, a measure of school success might equate to AYP status, test scores, student attendance/behavior reports, and graduation rate. These numbers are only a small part of the entire picture. A school is so much more than a number.
The culture that happens in a school is a very powerful structure. One definition of school culture submitted by Phillips (1993) states that it is the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which characterize a school. Culture influences everything that happens within a school!
When adults in the school community are preoccupied with adult issues, student learning will always suffer. Without a culture that supports and recognizes the importance of learning goals, change and continuous improvement will not happen. On the flip-side, healthy and sound school cultures correlate dramatically with increased student achievement, motivation AND teacher productivity and satisfaction.
One of my PLN partners currently works in a culturally toxic high school. Frustrated faculty come to staff meetings ready to attack any new ideas, criticize those teachers that are making a difference with students and make fun of any staff that are willing to volunteer to attend a conference or workshop. Negative staff have effectively “frozen” this school in time, impairing any attempts at collegial improvement.
Other symptoms of a negative of toxic culture include:
- lacking a clear sense of purpose.
- blaming students for a lack of progress.
- discouraging collaboration.
- active hostile relations among staff.
- celebrate successes.
- emphasize accomplishment, collaboration and continuous improvement.
- foster a commitment to staff and student learning.
- cultivate a sense of personal responsibility for student learning and success.
- prioritize professional development.
- create time for staff reflection and sharing of professional practice.