What do Passion, Deviance, and Long Marches Have to do With the Culture of a School?

Gordon R. Rode

The culture of your school is the overall quality due to the dynamic collective sum of the beliefs and behaviors characteristic of all constituencies of the school.  Every action of one participant in this society ripples throughout the school network and all of its constituencies; parents, students, faculty and staff, board of trustees, and the local general public.  Margaret Atwood explains it this way, “A culture may be conceived as a network of beliefs and purposes in which any string in the net is pulled by the others, thus perpetually changing the configuration of the whole.”

So how does one go about creating a school culture, internally and externally, such that its enrollment is always sound and not significantly effected by a constantly changing economic climate?  I believe that the answer lies in creating an culture that nurtures and educates the student so that they grow up to be successful and caring adults.  I propose the following ten strategems.

Stratagem #1 – Have an abiding love of children with an understanding of and willingness to serve their needs!

Quote #1 – “A culture defines the heart of the organization.”  Frances Hesselbein

Question #1 – Do your teachers treat their students as if they were their own?

  • There are two kinds of teachers, those who love children and those who love power!  I have always felt that one of the outward signs of this was an open or closed classroom door.  The teacher who loves power is the ruler of this room and sometimes they rule with fear and intimidation.  This requires that the door be closed.  They have high expectations for their charges and they had better not disappoint.  These are the teachers who will not listen to the child’s extenuating circumstances such as a grandparent passed away or their aunt and uncle were visiting from out-of-town.  The homework is do, no excuses, the book must be with you for class, no excuses, and you had better have the right color pen or pencil.  I find it amazing that this is the same teacher who is late for a faculty meeting or misses it altogether due to a doctor’s appointment and expects no consequences.
  • The best teachers get to know their students, ask about their lives, understand when life occasionally gets in the way of an assignment.  They attend school sports contests to cheer their students on and might even attend an outside activity such as a sporting contest or community or church event.  You can’t teach (engage or connect with) who you don’t know.  When asked the question are teachers born or made, I answer yes.  If I had to put numbers to it, I would say that 50% of a great teacher is content knowledge and 50% is a love of children and an ability to communicate with them.  In terms of Howard Gardner’s Intelligences, a great teacher needs dominate verbal and interpersonal intelligences.
  • A great teacher never gives up on a child.  They are just as happy when a student masters the concept in the last week of school as for those who understand in the third week.  They are passionate about what they do, a labor of love!

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