Got Culture?

So last week I wrote a little bit about the importance of culture in schools, and how it is inside each and every one of us to be a culture leader for our community. I’ve been thinking more and more about this, and after reflecting on the kinds of things that we tend to prioritize in schools, and the time and effort and money that we put towards specific initiatives, I’ve noticed that the idea of culture and climate seems to be many times left out of the equation…like a positive culture and climate will somehow come about naturally without any specific focus, planning or attention. Over the past 20 years I’ve been at schools with incredible cultures, where the positive energy is palpable and inspiring, and I’ve been at schools where the climate and culture is like a dark raincloud hanging over the buildings, and I can tell you that creating an inspiring school culture doesn’t just happen…it takes a lot of work.

I’m at the point now, after 6 schools and 6 countries, that I believe schools should target school culture the same way that they target other important strategic initiatives…with time, professional development, money, and a clear focus. With all of the research around the effect of a positive school climate on learning, it makes me wonder why schools leave culture to chance? I’d even like to see schools adopt something like a “director of climate and culture”, similar to a curriculum director or a technology director…a person or group of people who specifically and intentionally target and prioritize school culture, and look at introducing initiatives that improve school climate, relationships, and community…maybe even open a culture department where educators across divisions get together like they do in a Math or Science department…why not?

Let’s regularly get together in teams to ensure that we are celebrating enough as a school, and that faculty and staff feel valued and appreciated for all of the incredible work that they do, and that we know each other as people outside of the classroom and across divisions. Let’s work together on learning how to improve relationships, and how to have those hard conversations in productive ways that will give us the courage to address any issues that may be bubbling up. Ultimately, let’s regularly work together to build that trust that we need in order to truly collaborate and share our expertise for the betterment of our kids.

To take it even further, I think there is a job out there for a school climate and culture consultant (maybe this can be my second career), where just like a literacy or math consultant, a person can come into a school and not only audit the culture, but specifically work with faculty, leaders and all stakeholders to introduce initiatives and to set up structures so that the energy of a school really does inspire…why not? That would be an amazing use of professional development funds. School culture is an area that often gets neglected in schools, and an area that if improved, even slightly, can have transformative implications.

Anyway, I honestly believe that school culture needs to be on everyone’s radar, everyday and every year as a strategic imperative. I’m going to continue this in the lower school for next year, and I’ll put a couple people in charge of bringing it to life in fun and creative ways. You see, we get so, so busy in schools and the days and months fly by. It’s so easy to get into routines, and ruts, and go days and days without coming up for air. It’s easy to forget to take the time to play together and to celebrate together and to enjoy each other’s company. Improving relationships and building trust takes time, effort, and hard work…let’s do this work together. I guarantee that with a little attention to this, our lives at school, and at home, will become more inspiring. The best part about this however, is that this attention to climate will enhance the learning of our students. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Oh yeah, Happy Mother’s Day to all you incredible Moms out there!

 

Quote of the Week…

Great acts are made up of small deeds – Lao Tzu

 

Related Articles –

The Importance of School Culture

A Three Step Process

School Culture Now

20 Ideas From Principals

Why It Matters

Culture Building is Tough Work

 

Classic TED Talks –

8 Secrets of Success

Flow

Winning and Succeeding

Work-Life Balance

Philosophy of Success

 

Happy Mother’s Day –

Toughest Job in the World

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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