Climbing a Mountain, Not a Molehill: Changing a Culture of a School

What is it about cultural shifts that make life so difficult for an educator?  The answer is simple…CHANGE!  Why is change so hard?  We do it all the time with other things, don’t we?   We might style a new haircut with pride, sport a new car, change from a Droid to and iPhone, or move to a new country (even if just temporarily).  Why is it so hard to change the way we operate our schools?

In my opinion, it is due to the many different assumptions, beliefs, and values people have about learning.  When you have a lot of mixed views stirring in the pot, it is hard to “stew” everything together for good, especially when some of the views are rotten.

Have you ever polled your faculty to see what they honestly believe about certain things, like…..

*  Beliefs about student learning

*  Beliefs about your own professional learning

*  Students do so well in __________ because ____________.

*  Students do not do as well in __________ because _____________.

Here is an idea I am going to try during our back to school staff development days…  Teachers and leaders will think about the four statements above and write their assumptions on different corresponding colored Post-It notes.  For instance, the first statement response will be written on a green Post-It.

Now, have the faculty sort their statements into positive and negative responses.   Place the answers on a continuum line (drawn on the board).


(Negative ex:  I believe parents do not help their children at home.)

Using collaborative efforts of groups or small teams, try deciding what is needed to move the negative assumptions over to the positive assumptions. Basically you are just changing the wording.

Now, once you have positive assumptions, have teams research or plan innovative methods to help these areas flourish and grow.  If there are still negative statements, have teams find solutions to this.  If a positive statement needs action behind it, then have teams make a plan and activate it.

(Example: I believe that parents can be taught how to help their children at home.  Our Plan:  In order to do this, we need to hold a parent night early in the year to help with reading fluency.)

If teachers and administrators actually evaluate their own beliefs to these questions, do you believe they would be more apt to change for the better.  I don’t think this activity will work miracles; however, I do think it shows a school how to move in the right direction.

Changing culture is a huge mountain, so why not start with the molehill?

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