Every weekday morning (when I can), I participate in a great PLN called The Breakfast Club 5:30. The hashtag is #bfc530. It is a 15 minute spark chat. One question, 15 minutes to share and then you go on with your day. It is a fantastic group of educators from all across the world. We have people from Australia and California join each morning. Last week, we had a really interesting chat about what you would say about your school. The exact question was “You’re making a 1 minute film about your classroom/school: what words showcase the highlights, feelings you want to convey?”. So you have one minute to sell your school, tell your story. What would you choose? I’ll tell you what I thought of. Family. I tweeted out that we are a family. We take care of each other, we look out for each other, we debate and fight and make up just like any family. But in the end, we care for each other. In today’s fancy education language, that is called “culture of the building”. Whatever. I know that the people who come through the doors, the vast majority of them are happy. Some of the members of #bfc530 then began a little sidebar conversation about school culture. And that is when it hit. School culture isn’t an important thing. It is THE important thing. It is the glue that holds everything else together.
Everyone talks about the importance of school culture and climate. Bit have you really thought about WHY it is so critical? I thought I had, but this particular chat made me look at it again from a different perspective. I started to think about the reason why culture and climate are so important. First, let’s talk a little about culture versus climate. Are the the same thing? Are they different? If so. how?
So what is the difference between school climate and school culture? Dr. Kent D. Peterson, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, defines school culture as “the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school”. According to the National School Climate Center (yes, there really is such a thing), “School climate refers to the quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures”. Here is how I look at it. I understand that this might be a little oversimplified, but I believe in simple. Culture is what you do and how you do it. Climate is how you feel about where you are and what you are doing. For me, climate is the most important of the two. Don’t get me wrong, culture of the school is hugely important to having a successful school. But policies and procedures can be changed and altered. Rituals and symbols evolve over time. But how people feel about your school? That is a different questions all together.
Think about how you feel every morning when you get up. As you get ready for work, what are you feeling? Are excited? Are you looking forward to the day? Is there a sense of dread? Now, take that question and expand it to every human being that walks through your doors. How do they FEEL when they come to your school? For me, if the climate is positive, then opens so many possibilities. When people are happy, they are more open to change, to trying new things. When they are happy, they are less likely to become discouraged when things don’t go as planned. More importantly, they are more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for the greater good. Make sure you are checking the feel of your building from the perspective of others.