Looking around today, schools are all around us, large and small, international, regional and local and so many other varieties. But when we begin the process of looking at the ones that work and the ones that don’t, the difference is not just about facilities and budgets and funding, it is about their culture, the fundamental precepts that drive them. Schools often attempt to ‘brand’ themselves with “mottos” and “visions”, but until and unless these statements become an accepted part of the living existence of the school, it will not become a part of its culture.
The ideal school environment and culture is one in which the goals of the teacher and student align, coming together in common purpose to form a deep bond. It is a bond that is filled with a joyful desire to provide challenging and impactful experiences that truly stimulate each and every child. The difference between a good school and a great school is that the latter, in addition to having high-quality teaching and strong leadership also focuses on building and maintaining relationships with their students as well as with parents and teachers. These relationships lie at the heart of the school culture, creating an environment, an ethos where both students and teachers are driven by true caring and respect for the school.
The key values that drive a great school, underpin both learning programs as well as other day to day aspects of learning. These include:
- Respect & Trust
- Peace & Tolerance
- Giving & Sharing
- Freedom and Happiness
- Honesty & Humility
- Courage & Perseverance
- Compassion & Hope
- Self-Discipline & Responsibility
- Friendship & Compassion
- Tolerance & Courage
The above values are inherent through classroom activity. Teachers, by their interactions with students, project the life force of the school culture. Students absorb this and reflect it back in every one of their interactions with peers and staff. Other stakeholders get ‘infected’ and reinforce the consistency and coherence of the message. In simple words, school culture has to be born within the collective consciousness of the school community and must be brought to life through social interactions and personal beliefs.
Walk into any truly excellent school and you can feel it almost immediately — a calm, orderly atmosphere that hums with an exciting, vibrant sense of purposefulness just under the surface. Students carry themselves with poise and confidence. Teachers talk about their work with intensity and professionalism. And despite the sense of serious business at hand, both teachers and students seem happy and confident rather than stressed.
As a parent the search must be not just for a “well branded” school but rather for one which offers a strong, resilient culture.