Culture and climate are often misunderstood and used interchangeably, when in fact, they are actually quite different. Climate is more immediate, and easier to feel by outsiders. The school culture is developed over time and reflects the stakeholders’ values and beliefs. One author equates the culture to the personality, and the climate to the attitude of an organization (Gruenert, 2008). By achieving a positive school climate, one can build a healthy school culture.
Five ways to build a healthy school culture:
- Give a School Culture Audit Survey. Giving the teachers and administrators a survey, the building leader can find strengths and potential weaknesses. This will aid in prioritizing needs and finding the right place to begin.
- Involve teachers in decision-making processes at the school. If teachers feel like they have a voice in the school’s happenings they will trust their administrators more, work harder for the benefit of the organization, take more ownership in curriculum and instruction.
- Create community support by bringing all stakeholders together. There needs to be efforts taken to actively build relationships between parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other community members. This can happen through a variety of ways like Fine Arts nights at the school, technology training sessions open to the public, common goals (i.e. reading initiative that is community-wide, or canned food drives).
- Build community within the school among staff members. This can be accomplished by holding social gatherings outside of the school day. These could be for mini-celebrations, for holidays, or strictly for the sake of socializing. Staff will be more willing to take risks, and more willing to work together if they care about one another as people first.
- Choose teams wisely. It is the principal’s responsibility to seek teacher-input, to form teams, and get people in the right place to utilize talents and passions to better the organization. Culture is healthier when teachers and staff are involved in scheduling, curriculum adoption, and behavior management systems,
Five ways to build a healthy school climate:
- Give a School Climate Inventory. As mentioned above, starting with this assessment will allow the leader to set appropriate goals on how to create a healthier school climate. The inventory (like the audit survey) should be anonymous, and the results should be shared with the staff as soon as possible.
- Model, model, model. The building-leader should be modeling the expectations she has for her staff. If they should be learning through professional reading, then so should she. If they are expected to be visible in the hallways before and after school, then so should the principal. By modeling positive attitudes and behaviors, others will change to reflect those expectations.
- Establish a school-wide safety plan. There need to be well-known, and practiced procedures in place for all kinds of crises, and tragedy-prevention. If students, teachers, and staff feel safe, then the climate will reflect that feeling of personal security.
- Instruction and materials are differentiated to meet each learner’s needs. This goes for differentiating with the classroom so all students are learning at their best. It also applies to the teachers’ professional development. PD needs to be modified to best meet the needs of each teacher. If people are engaged and experiencing success, they will be happier and a more positive climate will result.
- Students have leadership opportunities. Adults should give students the chance to be social justice leaders, taking part in service projects within, and outside of the school community.
FAQs about school climate. National School Climate Center. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/faq.php
Gruenert, S. (March/April 2008). School culture, school climate: they are not the same thing. Principal. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Principal/2008/M-Ap56.pdf
Measuring school climate. National School Climate Center. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/programs/csci.php
Promoting a positive school climate: A resource for schools. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/introdoceng.pdf
Spencer, J. Classroom Leadership: Culture vs. Climate. Retrieved from http://www.educationrethink.com/2012/06/classroom-leadership-culture-vs-climate.html
Wagoner, C.R. (December 2006). The school leader’s tool for assessing and improving school culture. PL. Retrieved from http://community.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Inqbqt4qtQQ=&tabid=4484
I love professional development. I love learning new things about education – it keeps me fresh, but more importantly, it keeps me excited about the career I’ve chosen. Today I was able to attend the Advancing Global Learning Programs in Indiana Schools Workshop. To be quite honest, I registered to go because it sounded like an interesting topic and it was free (always a good thing). I had no idea what to expect.
The event was coordinated by Caterina Blitzer, Global Learning World Languages Specialist for the IDOE. She brought in professionals in the fields of education, agriculture, immigrant learners, international business, immigrant workers, and commerce. It was a fast-paced, fully-engaging time where the audience got to hear about what global skills and competencies employers are seeking from our graduates. What are we doing, as educators, to provide experiences of cultural awareness and diversity to our students? Does it go beyond a foreign language class? The Big 3 we must be doing is teaching Acceptance, Respect, and Appreciation for other cultures. How can we do this?
Our students need:
- increased international interactions
- cultural exposure
- learning a second or third language
- open-minded behavior
- academic excellence
- confidence and boldness to step outside of what is comfortable
I had a great time learning trade statistics about Indiana that I never knew (like the title of this post regarding Warsaw, IN). Students would be interested in knowing what makes their states important in the international market and I guarantee there will be some surprises. Lessons, materials, guest speakers, bits of information making cross-cultural experiences the norm for our students can be woven throughout any grade level or subject area. This is not the responsibility of our social studies and foreign language teachers (just like teaching reading skills isn’t reserved for English classes). We are in the job of preparing our students to be successful global citizens post-high school. And it takes everyone.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” ~Anon.