Friday, February 15, 2008

Understanding School Culture

As part of our middle school data team, I spend a day with a group of my colleagues talking about protocols. There are certain ways that we do things and we need to be consistent with those things. The concern was that we don't want to stiffle creativity or teacher flexibility, but we want to make sure that our staff is on the same page.

This conversation evolved into a discussion about school culture. As a year-round school with three tracks of students, some colleagues felt that we are becoming divided -- three schools in one. While this may be the nature of the year-round schedule or simply the result of middle school teaming, we felt there was a real need to understand our entire school culture.

What do we believe and value? What are we really conveying?

So to that end, we are embarking - in baby steps, let's hope - to flesh out our feelings and perceptions of education, students, parents, all sorts of related topics and how it affects our teaching and interaction with colleagues.

For example, one teacher noted that she had a biased against academically gifted students and their parents. She knew that she treated them differently because she saw them as spoiled kids and pushy parents. Another teacher was concerned about the division between her team of students and other teams of students and teachers. We don't view our school as just that - OUR school -- but give in to the US and THEM mentality.

At our next faculty meeting, our principal is going to lead us in an activity to write down all of the ideas about education, what we believe and value. And then she is going to ask us to write down what we REALLY believe and do and say.

Will we create a culture of mutual respect, open-mindedness, and professional sharing and comraderie, or will we become a divisive, disrespecting, discouraged group of hard-nosed, isolated teachers?