The Importance of Culture in a School


I have been in many schools ranging from high performing to struggling. I have gotten pretty good at guessing school performance when walking into a school for the first time. No, I am not a mind reader. So, what’s the trick?

It all boils down to culture. Ok, truth be told, this doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it sure gets pretty close. Culture, you ask? Yes… culture. You see, schools are a sort of mini-community, and it’s residents tend to adhere to the social norms of that community. In other words, kids live up to the expectations of the culture of a school.

So, what are some of the school cultures? There are about as many varieties of culture as there are schools, but there are some common traits many share.

For example, a school who has a staff who expects greatness often achieves that greatness. The culture of the school must be a culture where everyone in the school pushes kids to be the best they can be. Yes, EVERY person in the school. To have a mixture of staff in the school, some of whom expect greatness, and some of whom expect less, creates a school that is lucky to achieve mediocrity.

You see, kids learn, often in spite of their teachers. Kids learn to put forth the effort required to ‘earn’ an A. The problem here is when the required effort is not sufficiently rigorous. This is when you end up with lower performing students with high grades.

On the other hand, for schools who have a culture where little is expected, little is achieved. When teachers do not have any enthusiasm for the subjects they teach, have no passion for their profession, and little concern for their students, naturally, students should not be expected to succeed. The culture they live in, their school, doesn’t promote it. You can not expect a school who does not have a culture of encouraging reading to have a love of reading… so why would you expect high scores in reading? The same holds true for every subject.

So, how does your school measure up? If someone walks into your building and down the hall, what do they see? Culture is evident. Often, it is glaringly obvious. If your culture is not what you want, change it. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen. Set the bar high, and be the first to clear the bar. Don’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do yourself.

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