Stoll (1998) defines school culture along three dimensions, the relationship among its members; the organisational structure including the physical environment and management system; and the learning nature. Some internal and external factors that shape a school's culture include the school's history, the students' socio-economic background, external contexts such as national educational policies, and societal changes.
Stoll and Fink identified the 10 cultural norms that influence school improvement. Our school definitely seems to have most of them pretty nailed. Although the first two maybe need some work. One of the things I love about some of the staff I work with is the collaboration we have. Frequently we spontaneously and voluntarily work together on different programmes and ideas, we share activities and we join forces on activities too – it certainly improves the general feel of positivity and alleviates the stresses of the job. I have found the yearly challenges laid down to us quite taxing sometimes but I love that there is always someone there to help. I love that staff offer support and guidance in their areas of expertise frequently, willingly and often without prompting.
There is an openness and mutual respect amongst staff and this makes the school environment a pleasant place to work in. The areas we need to work on as a school I feel are definitely the first two. I’m not sure that the shared goals are often decided on together as much as laid down in a ‘you shalt’ manner, this makes for a divisive staff attitude and therefor success is often not strived towards with the right attitude – it is rather dragged along kicking and screaming in some cases; depending on the goal structure and discussions that led to it.
I do sometimes feel that the socioeconomic area of our school promotes a culture of judgment and criticism; however, I have also experienced this in other areas in schools also – it’s not just this school. I think a great deal of this attitude comes from the constant media bashing of schools. ‘Schools failing in core subjects’, ‘Parata fires shot at teachers’, ‘Schools under pressure’ etc etc. It is a struggle to rise above the onslaught of negativity but as educators we do need to hold a growth mindset on a daily basis. As Silns, Mulford, Waters et al (2003) state “If we want to nurture a growth mindset, we need classroom, school, and community cultures that reflect the language and expectations that come with it.” (p.2). Our school and culture must be positive even in a sea of negativity otherwise we will all drown. Promoting and using mindfulness on a daily basis has become a useful tool for myself as well as my students. It helps to take stock of the pressures of the world around us it actually helps to refocus the brain on the things that matter. It’s a new strategy I have implemented lately and will continue to implement as the year continues. As Mrnjaus & Kmeta (2014) suggest “maintenance of concentration, social problems resolution skills, how we manage frustration, negative and positive feelings (this is connected with frontal lobe) is extremely important for school, social and personal results”. (p.1046)
Deal, T.E., & Kennedy, A. (1983). Culture and school performance, Educational Leadership, 40 (5), pp.140–141.
Mrnjaus, K., & Krneta, M. (2014). Mindfulness, Concentration and Student Achievement – Challenges and Solutions. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 1044–1049. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.343
Silins, H., Mulford, B., Waters, T., Marzano, D. R. J., McNulty, B., & Blackwell, L. (2003). Growth Mindset in Context Content and Culture Matter Too. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 15(3–4), 43–466. http://doi.org/10.1080/09243450512331383272
Stoll, L., & Fink, D. (1996). Changing our schools: Linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Stoll, L. (1998). School Culture. School Culture, (9), 9–14. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/content/download/483/3690/stoll_article_set3_2000.pdf