Tag Archives: Culture

Creating a Fearless Culture

19 Jan


“Can interrupt you for a second” or “Please see me in my office in your free.” These are phrases that I have used as a school leader.  Unknowingly I have sent a message of fear to the receiver of the information. While innocently I have created a culture of fear. Ok then how can I avoid doing this:

Be clear with your interactions:

Be careful when I see people. Pick the moment. How we perceive the world helps us determine how we react to it. Self-knowledge can serve as a source of strength allowing us to manage stress through the ups and downs of life and learning. Knowing who we are socio-politically means understanding your core values and how your background and cultural context has shaped them.

Knowledge of self is powerful because it can lead to a genuine respect and appreciation of other people’s values. Additionally, knowing what you stand for can help you identify when and why the behaviors, action or beliefs of others’ clash with your own. We believe “knowing yourself” is the key ingredient to our next competency because once we know ourselves we are empowered to create a place where others can do the same.

Build Trust:

Build trust with others and in yourself. Build deep trust by creating space where people feel safe to share feedback and ask questions Being able to bring your whole self to work is critical; It is also often a luxury because it is risky. Creating a space where individuals can explore their identities inevitably leads to a place where difficult questions and conversations emerge. Brené Brown, known for her research on vulnerability, talks about the components of “Rising Strong” in her book by the same name.

Trusting environments lead to strong teams and strong teams lead to innovation. Imagine what we can do if we intentionally build school cultures that nurture trust: trust to explore, experiment, fail, and learn. Consider the ripple effects this could have on teaching, learning, and problem-solving.

I taker time annually to analyse my educational vision. I need to connect it to my practice. Do you do the same? What do you core values tell you about how you approach tasks? When have my core values lead me to clash with others? What might their core values be? Are they different when dealing with peers and tamariki?

Changing Our Culture

4 Jun


I found this a brilliant reflection this week.




Culture Again….

1 Nov


Culture is fundamentally about relationships. Technology is a critical component of all learning environments. However, learning without human rapport and interactive relationships is a poor ecosystem for human development. A landscape in which the foundation has not been prepared to adapt to change, to embrace what is best for students, to accept that risks, constant change and uncertainty are the order of the day, is one in which initiatives will ultimately fail.

A healthy culture is immediately discernible, though perhaps difficult to define: “A collaborative culture feels a bit like family: Although individuals may not always get along, they will support each other when push comes to shove. A collaborative culture is a strong culture in which most people are on the same page.” (Gruenert, Whitaker)

A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes.

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. Being relational. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Gruenert, Steve & Whitaker, Todd. School Culture Rewired. 2015.

Friday Reflection: October 20

19 Oct


Our students need the skills to know when they are being manipulated so they can take control of their learning and their life. They also need to know that if they get a recommendation from a company to purchase something, they don’t have to buy it. They need to be able to spot fake news. They need to be critical thinkers. They need to be sceptical, curious, and critically consider what will be best for them. That’s our job as educators. It’s about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice so they are intrinsically motivated to want to learn.

Let’s help them navigate the new world of what some call “personalization.” But let’s be clear what that means for teaching and learning and fight for our students so they are the ones personalizing their learning experiences with teachers guiding the process not a company that is using their data to tell them that they know best how they learn.

We need students that are not “compliant” following the leads from a company based on clicks. They are so much smarter than we give them credit. We need to encourage learners at a very young age to learn how to learn, to reflect on their learning and to be the ones in control of their learning so they are lifelong, self-directed learners.

Culture vs Strategy

19 Sep


Is culture really more important than strategy to an organisation? Peter Drucker’s oft-quoted appreciation for the importance of culture is rooted in his strong belief in community. But surely a company that places greater value on culture over strategic planning is doomed to failure? I don’t think so. In fact, when it comes to schools, I think culture devours everything it encounters.

While places of learning need to be strategic, nothing is more important than school culture, what Michael Fullan refers to as “the guiding beliefs and expectations evident in the way a school operates”. Culture is all about people. Therefore it follows that the single most important thing a great school needs is great teachers

We know that placing the latest cutting edge technology in the hands of a weak teacher will do little to improve learning. And so it is in a school with a great strategy and a weak culture. School leaders need to pay more attention to recruiting the very best teachers then supporting them in a collaborative, supportive environment that enables them not only to embrace change, but to lead it.

Catholic Schools

16 Jan

In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.

Curriculum Leaders are Key

11 Oct


Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.  Curriculum leaders have played an important role as our school set their strategic plan. They have the ability to create curriculum individually and with a team of teachers.  I have witnessed teachers from our school share strategies with teachers across the country.  Curriculum mapping, alignment, and revision require strong curriculum leaders.  When teacher leaders are involved in designing and revising curriculum, you will have a strong product. High performing schools have multiple curriculum leaders. They are the SLTs of the future. I advocate they should be developed and grown. What do you think? What are you doing to support these people?

As a staff here are some key questions to reflection on:

  1.  What do you think of when you hear the term curriculum leader?
  2.  Are you a curriculum leader?  What makes you a curriculum leader?
  3.  Are there additional reasons why schools need curriculum leaders?

Lift the Team Morale

15 Aug


Leaders own the job of creating engagement. Although individual engagement is critical, team morale is the key. You might have a difficult team, but when they share common values, drivers, and motives, and care about each other much like friends, they will raise their performance for each other. Thus any leader should focus a great deal on helping his/her team members bond. If they fail to cohere, intragroup competition will trump any collective success, leading to intergroup failure. This may seem like common sense, but too many managers are so focused on managing processes and attending to the formal aspects of task performance that they forget to build an engaging culture. In addition, when leaders are interested mostly in their own career, and success is not defined in terms of their team’s performance, they will tend to neglect and eventually alienate their teams.

In short, good leaders can turn B players into an A team, by following the right strategy, gathering precise performance data, giving accurate feedback, and building and maintaining high morale. Since few leaders manage to achieve this even when they have a team of A players, there is much hope for those who do.

What do you think?

Schools and Culture Again

13 Feb

What is one thing that you think everyone should do for positive school culture? (If everyone did this, the school’s climate would be improved.)

This question does the following:

Has each member of the school community assume a leadership perspective. Even simulating a leadership role in people’s mind, allows them to think of the greater good and not just their own situation.

Links the aspirational to the concrete. Grand aspirations might motivate people, but they should be connected to concrete actions that are relatively easy to do. This can translate “change in climate” to specific words and actions people can commit to.

Helps people see the power of collective action. Small acts done sporadically and by just a few have little positive impact. When everyone does even one small thing together, change has already happened. For example, a 10-page letter to Congress has less impact than a 1000 postcards.

Becomes a great resource for determining the best first steps for change. Great changes can come from small first steps, especially if those steps are generally viewed as representing the will of the community.


Culture and Metaphors

8 Feb

I have been reflecting on the importance of metaphors in the culture of schools. Metaphors are value-laden, embody a view about the world and society, and create the myths that we live by. Perceptions and assumptions about reality are revealed in the vocabulary used to describe that reality.

There are metaphors, which have been used for many years to shape thinking about schools and school systems, such as an army, a monastery, a prison, a family and a factory. In recent years there has been a considerable emphasis on the school as a business, with business terminology being used to describe the functions and outcomes of the school. A recent article by Stephen Holmes advocated schools adopting corporate management structures and techniques. [1] Such a move by schools would require a new way of thinking about a school, and would require change of culture which would reflect the new metaphor of the school as a business. For the principal placing a high value on providing information to parents, working within frameworks of accountability, developing approaches to marketing which have educational integrity and becoming comfortable with a more expansive view of the role of school in society, nationally and internationally.


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