The importance of school culture

Tons of research in the education field points to an important fact – no sustainable improvement in student results and gaps in achievement can be filled until the school leaders, teachers work on strong norms of behavior. School culture has been defined in many ways but we are focusing here on how the adults – the school leaders – behave in a school setting. What practices they follow, how they interact with each other, what values inform their behavior, how do the leaders model their behavior – these become the main guiding force in the schools capacity to learn, improve, design its long term vision and mission and impact the various stakeholders from the students to the parents.
Some of the ways this can be demonstrated in schools is by:

1. Creating an environment that fosters education for one and all – by making extra efforts to reach out to the slow learners and disadvantaged students.

2. By appreciating and acknowledging the hard work that is put in by teachers and support staff.

3. Constantly looking for opportunities to enhance the teaching capabilities of the teachers.

4. Creating a language of support and care around the school.

5. Providing the teachers a space where they can fearlessly talk about their challenges and difficulties (Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high – to imbue the school with these lines of Rabindranath Tagore)

6. Backing the teaching practices with cutting edge research and data. Aligning the teaching process to what is working in the education sector

How do all the above mentioned translate into behaviors that need to be implemented? First and the foremost way is to create strong bonds among the school community between the teachers and the leaders. The leader needs to be trustworthy and should drive the agenda not from an ego perspective but value perspective. There should be value given to other points of view and language of respect and care should be used. He/she should demonstrate by practice the value of right conduct. The school leadership should subscribe to magazines, journals that focus on latest research in the field of education. The leader needs to be genuinely interested in the well being of his team and makes the effort to be seen interacting with all without prejudice. He gives due appreciation and recognition to a job well done. The leader participates in professional development courses with the teachers thus demonstrating regard for constant learning. In following the human values of love, respect, understanding, trust, kindness and right conduct the leaders can create a culture that will create a model environment where all the education stakeholders will not just survive but they will thrive.

The author is Dr. Nalini Taneja, Chief Enough Officer at Aham I Am Enough Training Group. She can be reached at ahamiamenough@gmail.com.

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