Connected school cultures

Is your school their happy place?

The experiences we create and recreate in our schools require some reflection. When was the last time you focused on the feelings you create as priorities to productively enhance future engagement and performance? When was the last time you tweaked or tailored a generic task, such as a performance conversation, so that the context made a positive impact? When was the last time you went out of your way to do nothing other than make a staff member feel happy, valued or special for no other reason than they’d feel good in your school.

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Is the cultural tail wagging your cultural dog?

When I ask school leaders about the importance of their schools’ culture, there is universal agreement that it is culture that creates learning environments that can flourish and grow. However, defining culture is much more difficult, even though it is critical to our moral and strategic purpose. We struggle to capture vague ideas such as gut feeling, atmosphere and perceived climate. Indeed, this is why many school cultures fail to thrive,  and develop only through osmosis.

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How excellent you really are

I remember distinctly listening to Professor Richard Smith provoke an audience of school leaders in Darwin to think a little further than our words. We had gathered together to learn about how Central Queensland University (CQU) had undertaken some pioneering work in pre-service teacher education and that this model was being adopted in the Northern Territory. It was the Teaching Schools model that has now become popular around Australia because of the quality of both the teachers provided to schools and the career pathway it presents our next generation of teachers. We were impressed.

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Measuring the unmeasurable

Most school leaders are confident and assured that school culture matters. They are also equally comfortable with the definition of culture as a set of behaviours – both the behaviours that we encourage and the behaviours that we tolerate. A school’s culture can be viewed metaphorically as the soil that allows our crops (our students and our programs) to develop and achieve to full potential. All good farmers tend specifically to the health of their soil from time to time.

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