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5 Culture Killers

There is a growing belief and understanding about culture embodied in the saying, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” The culture of a community, a school, and a classroom is a major factor in learning and student success. Here are 5 “Culture Killers” – are they present in your school?

  1. Silence. Cultures that actively or implicitly stifle and silence its members is a dead and dying culture. Silence is often assumed to mean agreement – but only in cultures where voices are allowed to be heard and such acts are not met with resistance or outright punishment. This is why the student voice is so critical in the transformation of education. Student silence, faculty silence, and parent/community silence are deadly. Rich and vibrant cultures foster, nurture, encourage, and provide meaningful avenues for respectful debate, discussion and disagreement.
  2. Boredom. Poor cultures can be identified by the boredom and apathy displayed by its members. If your students are quietly or boisterously bored, you have a culture incapable of reaching its highest potential. Do you know if, when, and where your students and staff are bored? What are you doing as a leader to rid boredom from your culture? Don’t get crazy here – we’re not talking about periodic boredom and disengagement we all sometimes experience. We’re talking about boredom being a regular, consistent part of the student, staff or parent experience. Do you know your data and stats on boredom/engagement?
  3. Few/No Degrees of Freedom. Degrees of freedom speak to the matter of choice. How much meaningful choice do your parents, staff, and students have? Cultures that are tightly defined and managed tend to purposefully or inadvertently drive out choice. Do your parents and students have choice in how, when and where they learn and in what sorts of content and experiences they get? Do your teachers have choice in the types of courses they offer and how they drive high engagement and meaningful learning?
  4. Punish Acts of Commission. An act of commission is when someone actively tries to do something or make something happen. An act of omission is when someone chooses not to do something or to act. Far too often organizations and people punish only acts of commission – when someone tries to make something happen and it doesn’t work out. The subtle but powerful message? Doing nothing is a safer move than doing something. Grades and points are often the biggest violators in punishing acts of commission. Why doesn’t that student take that tougher class? Often its because taking that class means risking poor grades so its better to not take the class than risk getting punished with a poor grade for trying. A move towards standards-based and competency-based approaches can make it more appealing to take action rather than to sit back and do little or nothing.
  5. Hold a Deficit View of People. Cultures constantly focusing on people’s weaknesses and shortcomings are overly focused on people’s deficits. Focusing primarily on improving our weaknesses only serves to help us be average. If we recognize people for their gifts and talents and then foster and focus those gifts and talents, we unleash the power of people and we help them to develop above-average skills and passion!

Don’t let any of these 5 Culture Killers derail your efforts to transform the learning experience for your kids and community!

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