Friday, June 08, 2012

Tending Culture

Educators tend culture. They tend the culture of their classrooms, schools and systems.  Recently I outlined a list of  important aspects of school culture. Now I'm wondering about how to tend culture in effective ways in my classroom, and contribute to a positive culture effectively in the school community.

I believe it's essential that we discuss culture.  At the start of the school year, and throughout the year, students and educators should have the chance to think about and openly discuss what's most important, and how they spend their school time.  What do those conversations look like?  What is the best structure?  I'm so curious about what my colleagues think regarding cultural norms and expectations--it's been so long since we discussed this with any depth or transparency.

I'll take the time to open up this discussion in my classroom today by asking, What's important to you with respect to how we end the year?  Do you have any suggestions for our class to make this a happy, caring end of the year?  Those direct questions will give students an open avenue to discuss our current class culture.

Next year, I'll make time at the start of the year to discuss culture with my students. I'll ask, What makes a great classroom culture?  I'll explain the meaning of culture with regard to classroom climate and events. We'll list our ideas, then think about ways that we can make those ideas come alive throughout the year. Then we'll revisit that list often and revise as necessary.

With regard to the school community, I'm wondering what that discussion might look like.  We might start with defining culture and the aspects of culture we think are important to a positive, responsive school community. Next we could prioritize those aspects of culture.  After that, we might define what those cultural norms look like in our work day today. Then we might look at the calendar to make sure we make time for the events and actions that support the desired culture. It's possible that we'll prioritize some events and potentially eliminate others. By taking the time as a school community to discuss culture, we'll positively impact our collaboration and student work.

Creating and tending culture is a big part of an educators' job both in and out of the classroom--an essential element to serving children well. How do you do this in your classroom, school or organization?  What experts, books and practices lead this effort?  I want to learn more about this.