You know it almost immediately when you walk into a school. You can feel the positivity and enthusiasm hit you like the heat wave when you open the oven door. Many people mistakenly think that a positive school culture just happens. In reality, it takes a lot of work from both administrators and staff to create a welcoming and positive school.
School culture starts with the administration. Like most organizations, attitudes and behaviors start at the top and trickle down. With as many things that get thrown on an administrator’s plate these days, it would be easy to understand why nurturing culture might not be at the top of the priority list.
Great school culture cuts down on teacher burnout and turnover, both big problems in many districts. The administration can start by organizing teacher appreciation days and possibly partnering with the school's parent organization. Having a few days where everyone says “thank you” to the teachers may not seem like much, but teachers greatly appreciate the kind gesture.
How the administration supports teachers can also profoundly impact school culture. Administrators who listen to their teachers’ concerns with open minds and act as partners to help resolve any issues earn the respect and loyalty of their staff. Just as administrators prefer that teachers give them a heads up if an unhappy parent is headed their way, teachers love it when principals encourage parents to talk over issues with the teacher before bringing issues to the principal. Nothing helps build a great school culture like mutual respect!
Having opportunities for the administration, staff, parents, and students to interact socially is another excellent way to build community. Whether it’s a school seasonal fair, a theme night for a sports event, or a school movie night, seeing one another outside school hours authentically explores personal identities.
Lastly, building a connection within grade levels and classrooms is a fantastic way to create an optimistic sentiment. Friendly competitions between classes through sports games or fundraising challenges for charity can help group bonds. Having buddy programs where older students spend time with younger students through activities like reading together can help bridge the divide between grade levels.