Building Culture, Climate, and Community
Dr. Rutherford gave the example of the Dead Bush Phenomenon. He talked about a bush that was right beside the stairs that went up to the front door of a home. The bush remained there for years because the owners were so comfortable with the environment that they did not notice it was dead. Visitors noticed the dead bush because they were new to the environment. Too many times we are so comfortable with an environment that we do not see a problem. "To improve a school, you must be an insider with the eyes of an outsider" (Lawrence Lezotte, Ph.D.).
We can assess a culture from the inside by doing the following things.
1. Study the physical setting.
2. Ask open-ended questions.
3. Notice how strangers are greeted.
4. Observe how people spend their time.
5. Listen to the stories, anecdotes, or rumors that are going around.
We discussed the elements of culture that must be understood in order to shape or reshape a culture. Heroes, events, rituals, and ceremonies all make up the culture of a school. It takes careful analysis and planning to shape or reshape a culture. Another important aspect of shaping a culture is to look at the cast of characters and knowing how to deal with each different character.
Our school leadership looks at events, rituals, and ceremonies periodically during our school improvement team meetings. In recent years we have added some special events and ceremonies that have helped build a culture where student leadership is the focus. The students and parents have bought into this and students are taking ownership of our school by leading in amazing ways. Students are leading service projects, technology advances, and special school events. We will continue to look at ways to continue to build on and improve the culture of leadership.