In the past year, experts and practitioners in the field, whole child partners, and ASCD staff have shared their stories, ideas, and resources to help you ensure that each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged and prepared for success in higher education, employment, and civic life. These are the top 10 posts you read in 2012.
An effective school culture is established by the work we do together on a daily basis, with values determined through a synergistic process. Our culture defines us and our ability to positively impact students and their learning. So how do we truly shift our school cultures toward positive changes that align with supporting the whole child? And how do we develop a collective mindset that leads to dynamic changes and, ultimately, sustains school improvement?
Here is a mantra worth considering: Students first, than standards, than curriculum.
Teachers should be evaluated on the atmosphere they create in their classrooms and the degree of trust they have established with their students. Several findings from the Schools of Integrity and other research literature support examining both classroom culture and teacher-student relationships.
Post written by Elle Allison, cofounder and president of Wisdom Out in Danville, Calif. Wisdom Out is a leadership and organizational development company that helps people sustain transformational change and bring their best initiatives to deep implementation. Connect with Allison by e-mail at email@example.com. This post was originally featured in ASCD Express.
As many states prepare to launch new educator evaluation systems and amidst ongoing controversy about how to make them fair and meaningful, teachers and administrators alike would do well to ask these questions: What is it about the current culture in which we are introducing these new instruments that will imperil their effectiveness and prevent them from helping teachers and students? How can we engineer cultures for effective teacher evaluation?
Until now, principals have been the overlooked constituency as states have sought to gain acceptance of the standards from rank-and-file classroom teachers while simultaneously working with district-level leaders to create systemic supports and reforms aligned to the standards.
Every school has a culture. Some are positive, while others are toxic; many are somewhere in between. A school's culture affects the lives of everyone in the building. Educators working in a positive school culture (PDF) experience collegiality, trust, and tangible support as leaders and peers, creating an environment where there are high expectations, involvement in decision making, and open communication. Students entering a positive school culture feel safe, engaged, and connected and see school as a place where they can learn and contribute to the world around them.
Academics are important in any school, but some school leaders say the idea of school culture is perhaps just as important. In this video, a reporter visited schools in Detroit and New Orleans to see what school culture is all about.
Michael Fullan wrote about the principal's role in leading sustainable cultural change in schools (and school districts) in the May 2002 issue of Educational Leadership saying,
"An organization cannot flourish—at least, not for long—on the actions of the top leader alone. Schools and districts need many leaders at many levels. Learning in context helps produce such leaders. Further, for leaders to be able to deal with complex problems, they need many years of experience and professional development on the job. To a certain extent, a school leader's effectiveness in creating a culture of sustained change will be determined by the leaders he or she leaves behind."
Students are a part of the school community and can play powerful roles as leaders in a positive school culture. In cultivating students as leaders, schools provide opportunities for personal engagement; skill development for future college, careers, and citizenship; and a richer experience for all. In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, Klea Scharberg, project manager for whole child programs at ASCD, talked with members of the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee—Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a whole child partner—about why they got involved in Special Olympics, what being a leader means to them, what they as students need from adults in schools and communities to help foster social change, and what progress looks like. You'll hear from
Dallas Lopez, from Texas;
Rachel Alm, from Hawaii;
Danielle Liebl, from Minnesota; and
Margaret Drake, a special education teacher from Wyoming.
How does your school culture cultivate and empower students as leaders as well as learners?
"Leadership is leading by example, but it's also ... helping others realize the leader within themselves."
We live in a parallel universe. Here at ASCD, we are committed to ensuring that each child, in each school and in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. And one of the things we know for sure is that for that to happen for kids, the adults around them must also be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That parallel need is particularly striking this month as we consider the best questions about school culture.
Culture—school, community, workplace, political, and so on—is a direct reflection of adult behaviors. Where adults bully, children will bully. Where adults cheat, children will cheat. Where adults feel and act helpless, children will feel and act helpless. Where adults are motivated to work hard, children will work hard. Where adults are supported by supervisors and colleagues, neighbors and friends, children will be supported. It's exactly that simple and exactly that complex.