Changing a school's culture...

Discussion in 'General Education' started by GTB4GT, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Mar 17, 2013

    is this possible? Have you seen it done? What happened to accomplish this?

    some background info as to why I ask...I teach in a rural school. The state requires all juniors to take the ACT. I did a week of ACT prep for the upcoming test (of course it also related to my course standards as well). On Friday, the students did poorly. additionally, many of them failed to bring their notes and wanted help with the test questions. Maybe 5% had done any studying the previous night. This was not a one off event either, quizzes or tests generally go like this. These kids are juniors but lack not only actual math skills but also skills win the habits to be effective in the classroom (notes, preparation, etc.) Looking at sample ACT questions, most of my kids will do poorly. Sadly, about 70% of them say they want to go to college.

    My observations are aligned with another new teacher in my department. He has taught in other schools before moving back to his hometown.We are both sad for these children.

    So, back to the question above...is it possible to change a school's culture.?
     
  2.  
  3. TeachTN

    TeachTN Comrade

    Joined:
    May 9, 2012
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 17, 2013

    If the administration agrees and you can convince the community, it can happen. It is not easy, does not happen overnight, but it is possible in the longterm.
     
  4. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    1,476
    Likes Received:
    58

    Mar 17, 2013

    The thing is that you obviously need the teachers on board. And in America today, either: a) they feel entitled by the system (i.e. made untouchable by the system), and don't want to hear about how they've potentially failed students. And, they certainly don't want to hear about things that may potentially throw a monkey wrench in their routine or take away more time from their family life... Or b) they feel overburdened, underpaid, and constantly put-upon as it is (i.e. non-unionized state), and rightfully don't want to hear about how you want them to change even more, etc.

    In either case, it sounds like a very difficult proposition.
     
  5. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,188
    Likes Received:
    1

    Mar 17, 2013

    It takes a community of parents, teachers, administrators and community members who are motivated, see a problem, are willing to work together to solve it, have imagination and the willingess to work hard. Yes, I have seen it in action when my kids ' school went charter to have autonomy from the district to have more local control over what they thought was important for kids and families. It takes a lot of vision and work but they did it, and continue to do it by having "big picture"'meetings to tweek it every year.

    Your observations are exactly why a group decides to start a charter.
     
  6. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Mar 17, 2013

    The thing is....I don't really feel like this is a "teacher's" issue only.The teachers in my building are competent (imo) but are a bit discouraged by the status quo...i.e teaching to large % of unmotivated and underachieving students. the toll of that reduces effectiveness from what I have witnessed.It's a chicken and egg cycle (or appears to be).

    The solution must not come from any one subset of stakeholders (i.e. teachers, students, community, or admin). To me, a real and effective solution would involve all 4 parties equally with shared responsibilities and accountability.
     
  7. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Mar 18, 2013

    If that is how you see it, then no, it can't happen. Shared responsibility might as well be no responsibility which explains exactly where we are right now.
     
  8. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2009
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 18, 2013

    It takes a whole team of people to do it starting at the very top with the administrators then on down to the teachers and parents. As a teacher, I don't think you could do it on your own. Trust me, I've tried and it's just hopeless and I only get in trouble for it.
     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,363
    Likes Received:
    1,499

    Mar 18, 2013

    It is possible, but only if the community is behind the effort. Is there a PTO or other parent organization? Perhaps that might be a place to start (with collaboration from school administration, of course).
     
  10. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Mar 18, 2013

    If I infer correctly, are you implying that one teacher, on his or her own, can change the entire culture? While I respect your opinion, on a more rationale and analytical level, let's examine my case. I am in a small school, thus I come in contact with about 10% of the school's population each day for approximately 50 minutes per day. Since I am fairly new at this school (second year) I know maybe 5% of the other student population. Honestly, I would like to understand how you believe that one teacher can change the entire school culture. I ask this question in all sincerity and not in a rhetorical sense.

    Can I impact my classes? Yes and don't mind being held accountable for that.But for the whole school?? I am anxious to hear your response.

    I guess one argument hat you might make is that Einstein, Ghandi, MLK, etc. were able to impact the entire world so that one individual can move mountains. That would be plausible. But what about us regular people?;)
     
  11. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2002
    Messages:
    3,274
    Likes Received:
    38

    Mar 18, 2013

    My son's school is organized in trimesters. Every Junior 2nd tri is required to take ACT prep. They spend most of the tri, up until 2 weeks before test taking time learning how to take the ACT. Waiting for results.
     
  12. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Mar 18, 2013

    No, not one, but the teachers together can change the school's culture. I think you're right that you can impact your kids (and a few extensions like their close friends, club members, kids you see in the hall,etc.) but perhaps not much else. Your previous post said teachers (plural) couldn't do it alone, that is what I'm saying is the wrong idea.
     
  13. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    1,927
    Likes Received:
    158

    Mar 18, 2013

    Rock, you never post much positive about public schools or the people that comment about them. I will apologize if I am wrong. How does shared responsibility mean none? Maybe she meant if the shareholders all took some ownership of the schools instead of being antagonists it could be better. Instead we have a faction out there dedicated to ending what we have now with lots of lies, name calling, using tests and insanely complicated evaluations to prove that point. If public schools are so bad where did all those excellent college students come from and how did America come to lead the world in innovation and creativity so long. Cheer up my friend. He cannot run for a third term.;)
    Back to the original question. I have seen one new principal change to whole culture of a school in one year. Small school but he did it.
    And I have seen the opposite (in a negative way by a new principal).
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    Mar 18, 2013

    I agree that the entire school community needs to work together to effect change. It's the teachers, parents, administrators, and the students! Without buy-in from most of the members of all those groups, I don't believe that positive change can happen.

    While it takes all the groups to effect positive change, all it takes is one group to effect negative change. Even if you've had a positive and productive school climate to date, an unsupportive administration (for example) can entirely derail everything. I'm sure the same could be said about any of the groups.

    In my school, there is a culture of mediocrity. Students often (more often than not) fail to turn in work, and work that is turned in is often incomplete or subpar in some other way. Students approach exams with an attitude of "It's not a big deal if I pass or fail, I'll just retake it later." As a teacher with access to only a small percentage of the student body, any change I effect will be limited. I still do it, even though I know that it probably won't impact the school at large, because I know it's best for my students. I have high standards and expectations, and my students usually reach them (or at least try their best, which is all I ask). I can say that the culture of MY classroom doesn't match the culture of the school. While it's not perfect, and while a lot of the school culture does creep in, I'd say that my classroom is a safe place where learning happens and where students know that they will be supported as long as they give their best effort. It's maybe just a drop in the bucket, but it's what I can do.
     
  15. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Mar 19, 2013

    In a nutshell, this describes my biggest challenge/disappointment as a teacher. I am teaching after 30 years in another career. I worry constantly about these students and their futures while realizing that they are still adolescents.

    Like you, I try to do my best for the ones that I have and hope to make a difference. I just think that alot more is possible for our (or perhaps most) school(s). Interestingly enough, I think the admin is very competent here in terms of day to day running of the school: support, discipline, aware of what's going on, etc.
     
  16. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Mar 19, 2013

    Did you read either of my posts in this thread? I said teachers absolutely can change a school culture. I'm not the one saying they can't. I'm calling for teachers to stop blaming everything else and step up and do something. When they don't, you're absolutely right I have a negative view of public education. I've seen the system fail far too many kids to think it is functioning well right now.

    If we are going to sit back and wait for administration to do it, or for parents to do it, or for politicians to do it, it will not happen. I believe we are the strongest force in education by a very large margin and we have given that away with our constant deflection of responsibility.

    Shared responsibility allows us to say "oh well, it is the parents of these kids" or "I just have a bad principal" which gets us absolutely nowhere. You said it yourself with the "us against them" mentality that has become so prevalent in public education circles. If we can put the responsibility elsewhere then it isn't our problem, right?

    As far as the ridiculous Obama comment, I think he's actually done quite a great job on education. He didn't wait to get everyone on board, he started pushing the teachers to do what we need to do right out of the gate.
     
  17. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    1,927
    Likes Received:
    158

    Mar 19, 2013

    I want to believe you on this and in some ways agree completely. I am always exhorting my colleagues that unless they speak up this utter nonsense of politically driven education reform will be the end of it all. But the reality is most teachers are too damned busy to blow their horns or protest the inane reforms that fall on their heads like bird poop from a flock of robins moving south. The power or force you mention always seems to be (in our nation) driven by the dollar. The laws are made so often by lobbyists that can sign those checks. As for being held responsible I see most of my colleagues accepting the challenge of doing their jobs well but when the bar moves each year and the standards morph into new ones and the tests change along with rules just how many damned hoops need to be jumped through to prove your worth. Top that with lousy pay (in many areas) and insurance that is laughable (mine to be sure) and you are going to have some PO'd teachers. I think we agree on more than I originally thought before and apologize if I misread you. Maybe I have. Your voice is important. I just wish great educators, concerned teachers, the young and old along with advocates for kids could come together with a united voice on real reforms and ideas for better schools. If you ever get to Fla. I will buy you a beer and lunch and we can hash this out. Peace!
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Maven

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5,884
    Likes Received:
    1,803

    Mar 19, 2013

    I agree that this is what needs to be done, but I expect that it won't happen because there really aren't any issues for which teachers, as a whole, can come to a consensus.
     
  19. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    143

    Mar 19, 2013

    what is frustrating is this...I think everyone who has replied thinks that things are not as they should be. I think the public agrees with that as well. What is upsetting is that there is no grass roots level effort to fix things. There is a lot of posturing, political mumbo jumbo, and great ideas coming from the ivory towers and other places on high..but no real consolidated effort at the community/school/student level.

    as far as rockguykev, I have no doubt about your passion and integrity. I have to believe your perceptions are altered by what you see in your school as much as mine are by what I see in mine. I have no qualms or misgivings about the effort/commitment/abilities of my peers. Yet this doesn't seem to be enough. I get from your responses however thay you may indeed be working with some teachers who are not up to par. So you look internally for solutions and answers while I tend to be more externally focused. I see, from my vantage point, that teachers alone aren't enough to get things where we would all like them to be. Granted I have only worked in one small little rural school as I have admitted before.
     
  20. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

    Joined:
    May 22, 2006
    Messages:
    1,457
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 19, 2013

    Read Michael Fullans book All Systems Go. It addresses these issues. In the meantime maybe you teach study and organizational skills in your class.
     
  21. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Mar 20, 2013

    I will agree that my view is of course tempered by my own experiences and my own experience is that even teachers who are excellent in their 50 minute classroom periods are not particularly willing to push beyond that to change a culture.

    I think A2Z came close saying in that we teachers can't even agree on solutions. I think the even bigger issue is that we can't even agree on the problems. Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap was a huge eye-opener for me and I recommend everyone at least read through the first chapter. I honestly believe that if most teachers had a larger perspective of our education system and what it is trying to accomplish we would make such a noise that people would listen.
     
  22. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2009
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 20, 2013

    One teacher alone cannot change a school culture. It takes a group of teachers standing together and they all have to be on the same page. Even then, they might be up against administrators and parents.

    I've only seen one principal turn an entire school around but in terms of student behavior, not academics. Even he couldn't get that far in terms of improving academics. But he also had the backing of people higher up than him. Without support, anyone trying to do it is going against a host of people and an entire system that accepts mediocrity.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Maven

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5,884
    Likes Received:
    1,803

    Mar 20, 2013

    What level was this? We often hear the problem that students aren't learning is behavior issues in the classroom.
     
  24. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2009
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 20, 2013

    High school. Even if the behavior changes, it can't fix the academic problems because the whole system is broken, starting from elementary school. It was an urban area.
     
  25. a2z

    a2z Maven

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5,884
    Likes Received:
    1,803

    Mar 20, 2013

    I was thinking high school when you said academics didn't improve.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. Linguist92021,
  2. renrupa2u,
  3. Sarge,
  4. Ima Teacher,
  5. TamiJ
Total: 618 (members: 8, guests: 591, robots: 19)
test