Great schools / districts all have one thing in common: great organizational culture. Dedicated teachers and a researched-based curriculum isn’t enough to make a school great. Culture is everything. Management guru, Peter Drucker wrote, “Culture eats strategy for lunch”. He is right. A poor organizational culture will send these amazing teachers straight into the arms of another school or district. Here are five ways to create a strong, collaborative school / district culture.
1. Don’t Mirco-Manage Teachers / Principals
Teachers and principals need to be focused on one thing: their students. Too often, their focused is shifted from maximizing student achievement to compliance issues, paperwork, or other aspects that are not important or urgent. However, they will get email after email, memo after memo, reminding them to complete these tasks that will have no bearing on student achievement. Let them keep their focus on students. Trust in them that they know what their students need. After all, they are with them all day long.
2. Be mindful of Building Improvements
We all know that educators have a smaller chance of having cosmetic maintenance orders processed than walking on the moon. However, never underestimate the impact that small changes can make. Considered smaller improvements that will make a big impact such as new paint on playground benches, planter barrels in front of every classroom, new décor in the staff room, new posters for every room … Classrooms can go decades without being painted. If you are lucky enough to be able to do it, go for it. I have never seen teachers so happy before or since the day they were surprised by fresh paint in their classrooms.
3. The Student Council Coffee Cart
Want to brighten up everyone’s day? Try this: Once a month, have your student council dress up a book cart with a table cloth, flowers in a vase, fresh coffee, and pastries. Have them go from classroom to classroom treating teachers. For less than 40 bucks, you will make everyone’s morning. You can always do hot chocolate or tea for non-coffee drinkers!
4. Give Them a Voice in Decision-Making
No one likes to have decisions dictated from the top down. Teachers and principals must be trusted to make decisions for the students they work with. These decisions need to come from within, not from downtown. Like I stated above, teachers and principals are the ones with their students all day long.
5. Share Success With Your Community
Notice how media focuses on the negatives? There always seems to be a story on corrupt administration, money siphoning, abuse scandals … We need to interject some positive stories into our community’s collective consciousness. While we can’t always control what the local paper or new stations report, we can control what we put out. It is essential that educators utilize social media and websites to share daily successes with their community. Create Twitter and Facebook accounts to share the hard work of educators each and every day. Educators are happier when they are receiving praise for the hard work.
Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.