Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Activities for the New School Year Reflect School Culture

The beginning of the school year is an ideal time to shape and reinforce the culture of your school. Every school year is full of the promise of a new beginning as well as a measure of nervous anticipation. The principal is responsible for helping everyone feel safe and secure as they begin and setting the tone for the year.

In one Michigan school the year begins with the teachers and older students lining the hallways and clapping as the new students arrive. Another school posted the name and picture of every new student in the lobby.

Activities like this reflect the underlying culture of the school, the underlying values, beliefs and norms about how you "do business." It reflects the "unwritten rules" and assumptions that shape school routines. The culture is often transmitted from generation to generation as informal leaders and opinion makers talk with others and go about their work.

Successful principals recognize the power of culture to shape their school. They are skilled at linking everyday practices, like the way new students are welcomed, in ways that reinforce core values and the schools mission. Principals impact their school's culture in several ways:
  • What you pay attention to, measure and control becomes important;
  • Your reaction to critical incidents and events;
  • The way you model behavior and coach others;
  • The criteria you use to acknowledge others and allocate rewards;
  • How you go about recruiting, selecting and promoting staff.
The beginning of the school year is a unique time to reinforce your school's values and culture. I encourage you to think about the ways that your work can be used to promote a positive and healthy school culture. I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you work to strength the culture of your school.

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