Schools – institutions that strive to prepare students for the future. Schools all have the same underlying goal, but there is one factor that differentiates each school from another… culture. According to SHRM, culture is defined as “the shared belief and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods.
When you first step into a school, you can immediately feel its culture (good or bad), as it is reflected in the students, the staff, and the faculty throughout the school. At its core, culture is comprised of the relationships formed between these groups of individuals. When these relationships are formed, students develop trust in leaders, modeling their behavior; but how do you build that strong relationship with students? It can be pretty simple… Engage with them!
Six ways to build strong organizational culture in a school environment
1. Recognize and celebrate great behavior and achievements
When you acknowledge students for personal success, you are showing students you truly care about them and their efforts. A way to intentionally put this to practice is to strive to compliment students daily. This could be something as simple as telling James you appreciated when he helped Brady troubleshoot his laptop yesterday. Some schools celebrate the achievements of academic excellence through ceremonies, pictures, school events, and announcements; things like this will go a long way in building a strong culture.
2. Define and incorporate a strong mission and values
A school is a community made up of a plethora of different groups… including teachers, staff, administration, students, and even families of these groups of individuals. It is important to establish a strong mission and values that build positivity within the community. These should be realistic and exhibit what you aspire to live out every day within your school. Carefully define what your mission and values are and then incorporate them in everything you do as a school.
3. Model the values and behaviors you want your staff and students to replicate
Students are constantly taking in information while at school, being hit from every direction with stimuli. Role models and leaders in the community tend to provide most of the stimuli students are receiving every day. Teachers, being a major role model, set the expectations for students through the behaviors they display. For example, if teachers fail to demonstrate punctuality, a student will think that’s acceptable and may replicate this behavior. While this may not seem like a big deal now; students who develop these bad habits could pay for them when they enter the workforce where professionalism is required.
4. Encourage staff to teach students in engaging and innovative ways
In today’s age of constant messaging and stimulation, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep a student’s attention. This issue is even further magnified by the stagnate nature of most learning environments. How can you keep a student’s attention in the classroom? A simple way to capture the attention of students is to teach students in an engaging and innovative way. Switch it up from your typical lecture and integrate various technological aspects to your teaching, helping students feel refreshed.
5. Promote constructive discipline
When a student doesn’t follow the rules, it is important to discipline them in a way that helps them understand their behavior was wrong. Discipline should not, however, be used solely as punishment. Your goal when taking disciplinary action should be to instruct a student on the correct way to behave or handle an issue, hopefully correcting behavior for the future. If two students get into an argument… Rather than immediately sending them to detention, have the students write letters of apology to each other and then work on a task together, such as being dual hall monitors. This promotes teamwork and shows students a productive way to interact with each other.
6. Measure and monitor your schools’ culture, adapting when needed
Schools are an ever-changing living environment, and like your personal health, it’s important to keep track of your school’s cultural health. Having a shared set of mission and values communicated through positive relationships brings individuals together for a common purpose, creating a stronger community. This makes it easier to take notes of positive and negative trends in your schools’ culture, able to adapt and make changes necessary.
Conclusion: Creating a positive change in your school isn’t easy, but a few positive changes can make a huge difference in your culture.
Creating a culture of positivity and success takes time. If you haven’t previously focused on a strong and intentional culture, the shift toward this will take effort, requiring you to break the established norms and culture present in your organization. However, the push toward a stronger and more productive culture can begin with an action as simple as showing a student you care.