Am currently doing some research into organisational culture within schools and as such am reading around the subject. Deal and Peterson (2009) cited a number of research studies of both businesses and also schools where evidence suggested that the culture of the organisation impacting on the outcomes of the organisation. As such it hit me that culture is a critical part of a successful school
In an earlier post I mentioned about the importance of relationships; well these relationships and how people interact, share, discuss and even argue provides us some insight into the culture within a school. If all interactions are open, positive and focussed on continual improvement and on learning, then the culture is likely to be of the positive open type. If discussions and interactions are undermined with selfish motivations or if staff discussions are polarised by individual points of views then the likelihood is that the culture will be closed and negative, assuming such motivations and opinionated points of view permeate the whole organisation.
So the next time I am having a conversation I need to be wary of how my interaction paints the organisational culture to others who are watching. Now this suggests the self fulfilling nature of organisational culture. A closed negative culture will result in negative interactions between staff and even students. These negative interactions will result in negativity growing within the school which will result in further negative interactions and so on and so forth. If a positive open culture exists then the positive interactions between staff will create a positive open environment which will result in more positive interactions. Now here I am looking very much at the overall school culture as it is possible that a school with an overall negative culture may have positive sub-cultures existing within it, and vice versa.
Culture therefore is a powerful feature of an organisation in its ability to encourage positivity which in turn will increase motivation and ultimately student outcomes. The issue is that we very seldom look at the culture of a school instead choosing to look at the measurable aspects of school performance such as standardised test results. Seldom do we stop and look at the traditions symbols, history, stories and routines which go to establishing, as well as providing us a window on, a schools culture.
Now the issue of stories strikes a cord with me after a recent training session. At the end of the session the attendees stated that they had very much enjoyed the session, stating that they particularly enjoyed the stories and anecdotes I had used throughout the session. So my question to school leaders at the moment would be: What are the stories of your school and what do they tell people about the school and its culture?
For some time now I have been suggesting to teachers the need to get connected. Through the use of twitter we can access a pool of experience, skill, ideas and talents which bt (before twitter) would have been impossible, using this pool to improve or maybe evolve our own teaching practice. As a teacher I can spend just a few minutes each day searching for ideas which I can use within my teaching practice, or I can spend a longer period of time when I have the time. This is very much different from how it used to be where I had to wait for the next professional development ( or Professional Learning) session which was often held at the end of the day when I was at my most tired having spent all day teaching. In addition these PD sessions were often expensive for the school as they involved paying someone to deliver the session.
Recently I read a blog post entitled “Why teacher should connect” which echoes my feelings. I also saw the below post on twitter (surprise, surprise) which sums up the reasoning behind why teachers should make use of social media such as twitter:
Another post I saw referred to the need for communication.
We are preparing students for a a globalised world where more and more people are migrating to work away from where they were born and grew up. As such do we not need to start considering a globalised approach to education? If we are going to consider such a globalised approach there is a need for discussion across the world and surely social media such as twitter provides just the tool needed to facilitate such discussion.
So, if you haven’t already, Get Connected!!
Now you may be wondering what brings me to this statement with regards teaching. Well the answer is a number of different posts I have recently read on Twitter. One particular post talked about students being encouraged to be champions.
But in order to encourage students to become such champions we must embrace them as individuals and seek to understand and encourage such individuality.
Another posting talked about how education was being reduced from an art to a science through increasing focus on achievement data and standardised testing. (Apologies for not including the link/reference however I appear to have misplaced it for now: Will hope to resolve and include the reference asap). This posting suggested to me a move towards processes and systems at the expensive of relationships and away from the fuzzy arts of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
Day in day out we walk into classes to work with our students, to learn with our students and importantly to interact with our students. I remember back to some female staff who worked with me who had particularly good results in terms of student achievement. When asked how they achieved this they explained that they “mothered” the students. Now what they meant by this as far as I was concerned is that they spent a significant amount of time focused on relationships; on understanding their students and allowing their students to understand them.
So when we look at improving outcomes we look at more differentiation, assessment for learning, target setting with D grade students and the like. We focus on processes. Maybe we should first examine the relationships as without proper relationships any process we implement are likely to fail.
@mrbadura summed it up perfectly on twitter as below:
And just as an additional thought the relationships don’t stop with the teacher and student. What are the relationships like between staff or between teacher and school leaders? What is the organisational climate of the school like? Also, what about the relationships between the staff and parents or other stakeholders?