The law of conservation of mass states that in any closed system, the mass is constant irrespective of its changes in form; the principle that matter cannot be created or destroyed.
So too are the cultures of the systems in which we work. The power that exists in a school culture exists in whichever form it maintains. Too often I have read and/or heard from friends about the negative cultures that are weighing down the instructional creativity and passion of educators resulting in the underserving of teachers, parents and students. It is, therefore, incumbent upon all members of the school communities to maintain the school culture in a positively excitable state so as to harness this power for growth and learning.
Unless teachers and administrators act to change the culture of a school, all innovations, high standards, and high-stakes tests will have to fit in and around existing elements of the culture. They will remain superficial window dressing incapable of making much of a difference. -Roland Barth, 2001
It all begins with trust
I believe that the beginning of culture is trust. I trust that my students come to school to learn. I trust that my teachers come to school to teach and learn. I trust that my parents have aspirations for the learning their children will acquire, the growth their children will make to become moral and value driven young adults, and their own desires to learn. I trust that I and all members of my community are committed to being better each tomorrow both for our own betterment and for future generations. I trust that none of this will be flawless, and I wholeheartedly believe that there will be great learning in the places where it is not.
Trust implies respect
When we begin with a community where trust is afforded and offered in all directions, we display that we have both a respect for and responsibility to each member of the community. As a respected teacher or a dedicated student we are empowered to embrace “first attempts in learning” (fail), feedback, reflection, and further attempts in learning. Just as it is essential that we satiate Maslow physiological and safety need of our students in order for them to focus on growing and learning, we must make sure our environment satiates our teachers Maslow need for professional safety. If teachers feel safe in the culture to question, offer dissenting opinions, and try new strategies without the fear of “failure=inadequacy”, learning innovation occurs.
A proactive culture of honesty and transparency is not a culture of bliss. It means progressing from all is good, to a non-stop process of making learning, environment and yourself better each tomorrow. I welcome the challenges that tomorrow will bring as I know they will be lessons for my own learning, and I hope that my personal growth contributes to the team, school, and community. (Where Am I Leading?)