Quick Steps to Improve School Culture

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

Technology, pedagogical ideas, and increased funding are great, but nothing touches the success of every facet of a school like its culture. In a good culture, students are eager to come to school and learn, teachers are able to enjoy their jobs, and administrators are free to focus more on facilitating learning and less on paperwork. In a bad culture, the opposite is true. Student achievement is decreased with it.

Improving your school’s culture doesn’t necessarily take district approval, hours upon hours of professional development, or unlimited money. Everyone in the school can help. Here are some simple ideas that can make a difference.

Always be thinking about autonomy

Half of new teachers leave the profession within five years. When asked, they almost never cite money or stress as the reason. All that those teachers wanted was more autonomy to do what they thought was right for their students. Students crave a similar environment, where they feel like they have choices.

There is very little that teachers and students can’t figure out for themselves. If there is a decision that must be made, by either an administrator or a teacher, the option that will allow more autonomy should always be considered.

Conversations are key

No one likes a one-sided dialogue, no matter how engaging the speaker is. People want to be included in the process. Not only that, but they are more likely to remember what’s going on if they are participating.

This is one area where flipped instruction can be very helpful. Give students the material first, allow them to form their own ideas about it, and then gather to discuss it in an authentic way. The same model can be used in faculty and PTA meetings. When the opportunity presents itself, always make time to have a genuine conversation about something outside of the classroom and the day’s objectives. Students, teachers, and parents will all come away with the impression that you really care.

Distribute power

Power distribution is a little different than giving people autonomy. When decisions are needed about the direction of the school or class, teachers and students should have more than just a ceremonial presence. That might mean organizing teacher committees that actually have the power (and money) to make changes or bringing in a student advisory council when it comes time to decide the materials and subject matter to be used in the curriculum. The standards may not change, but the methods you use to accomplish objectives certainly can—in a way that makes everyone involved feel a little bit better about their roles.

Edmentum is dedicated to providing solutions that support students and educators. Want to learn more? Check out this brochure on our New Learner Experience