Monday, August 24, 2009

School Culture

This week, my personal reflection prompt brings together what I have been learning in my Effective Leadership course and what is currently occurring in my school building.
  • What impact does the creation of a positive school culture have on school reform?
  • How has what you have learned so far in the course shaped your concept of an effective leader?
We have been reading and discussing effective leadership in the context of school reform for six weeks. This week focused on school culture; what it is and how is it formed. When learning about qualities of leaders early in the course, especially, servant leadership and stewardship, I began to understand the consequences of leaders' actions and how they contribute to a positive school climate. Oprah Winfrey was quoted in Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, "leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives." The tone that is set becomes a part of the invisible pulse of the school that resonates throughout the students, teachers, administrators, parents and community. This tone or pulse is the school culture. Without a positive school culture, there will be no desire, impetus or capability to enact school reform.

Today was the first day of pre-service for teachers in my school district. We spent the morning reconnecting with staff that we have not seen for a few months and learning who the new additions are. The icebreaker that we had not only allowed us to stretch our legs, but provided groundwork to reforge old bonds and make new connections. I believe that the leadership team was effective in conducting a morning that energized us and set the stage for new initiatives. We are focusing on the issue of bullying this school year. The mission is to make personal connections with our students to set a climate or culture that does not tolerate bullying for any reason. Among other things, "Our job [is] to galvanize [our] communit[y] to create a pervasive culture of achievement that celebrates and, yes, provides protective cover to achievers, that neutralizes negative peer pressures, and that endeavors to motivate youngsters who scorn academic achievement" ((Price, 2008, p. 4). It is going to be very important for our entire staff to remain focused on this area of concern, use one voice in their interaction with students and parents and be firm with consequences.

Effective leaders are proactive in their interactions with school community and staff. Effective leaders remain ever vigilant to monitor student learning and promote effective teaching. One strategy that our leadership used today was to promote positive interactions with each other. Our staff development teacher introduced the book, How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. She gave a brief presentation on the salient points of the book; everyone has an invisible bucket--we are at our best when our buckets are overflowing --and worst when our buckets are empty. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill or to dip from other's buckets. Whenever we choose to fill other's buckets, we in turn fill our own.

I think our school is on the right track to create a culture of understanding, sharing, empathy as well as a culture that expects rigorous learning and high quality teaching. Effective leaders need to know how well their school is doing and how to continue to motivate a highly successful staff as well as to know when the staff needs to be lifted and motivated, as school culture is not stagnate. How coincidental that my school is working to increase a positive school culture at the same time that I am studying that very thing!


Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind. New York: Riverhead.

Price, H. B. (2008). Mobilizing the community. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Rath, T., & Clifton, D. O. (2004). How full is your bucket? Positive strategies for work and life. New York: Gallup.