Today I took part in my very first #sunchat, the topic of the day: Education Reform, What Would You Change? This hour long chat got me thinking. Initially, my response was assessment and evaluation, the idea that students need more opportunities to demonstrate their learning in the manner that works best for them. Although I’m still passionate about this idea, there were so many other great ideas tossed about in the quick paced, hour long chat.
Growth mindset, curriculum changes, classroom make up, diversity, professional development, skills focused learning, leadership, system changes, student decision makers; so many great responses from thoughtful educators may have changed my initial view!
One big topic I followed and discussed is the idea of School Culture. School Culture sets the tone for student learning. In my opinion, a healthy school culture is one where every member feels valued and respected. A building with a healthy school culture is messy and comfortable. Students are leaders, teachers are team players and administration is visible. These environments produce motivated teachers, engaged learners and happy students.
In these cultures, students feel like decision makers, they have adequate opportunities to express their needs and concerns while offering valuable insights into creating learning spaces and opportunities to grow personally and academically.
In a healthy school culture, teachers feel safe to take risks, to facilitate the needs and desires of the students while maintaining the professional demands of teaching. Teachers are comfortable exploring the curriculum in a variety of ways to engage and empower students. Teachers have the knowledge and ability to meet mandatory testing requirements while maintaining an engaging learning environment. A healthy school culture is one where teachers work together, sharing best practices, empowering each other to take risks, supporting each other when they fail and celebrating each other’s success.
This kind of culture is best supported with a leader who sees themselves as equals or as co-learners. Principals who are willing to take risks, to trust their teachers, who interact with students and whose focus is on student development, not school management are key in healthy school cultures.
If you work in one of these environments, you know exactly what it feels like. If you don’t, take the lead and start the change. Empower your students, collaborate with your colleagues, believe in the process. As the culture in your classroom begins to change, others will notice. As you create relationships with your colleagues a sense of community will begin to form. Take the risk, be the change, what do you have to lose?