“Culture” seems to be a pervasive word that we see, hear and speak a lot these days. For educators, that word seems so familiar that sometimes, it falls deep to the back of our mind and just stays there. We keep saying and writing the word without connecting its real meaning with holistic school design, activities and connections. Maybe it’s time we redefine the perception and once again go through ways to incorporate the designated on-paper culture with what really happens within a school every single day.
So, what is culture?
According to Micheal Fullan in his book “Leading in a Culture of Change (2007),
School culture can be defined as the guiding beliefs and values evident in the way a school operates.
Not only do we need to define and document the belief and values, hopefully positive and sustainable ones, we need to let those absorb through all stakeholders within the school that are students, teachers, staff, management, parents and even the surrounding community. Usually, we will place substantial emphasis on academic activities, conduct codes and disciplines and neglect the physical spaces, school services as well as community engagement. Let’s dig a little bit deeper on these matters.
The School’s Physical Design
The school’s core values should be presented not only in the decoration but also in the ways spaces are created. In all areas such as learning, working, public spaces, beside the safety and functional requirements, users should be able to feel the presence of the school brand, educator and students’ profile. For example, if the school imposes a culture of diversity, the play area can demonstrate by being designed to have different space and corners for a wide variety of activities such as sports, traditional games, reading shades, etc,. If the school cares about nature and environment, it would opt for environmentally sustainable materials, equipment and more green on site. In short, let the school speak for itself.
We have the school services such as student recruitment, transportation, nutrition, security and physical health, in tandem with which are student services like academic, college, career counseling, mental and emotional health. How these services are conducted, delivered and managed is significant in showing people the school’s culture. A school that upholds a culture of respect and understanding will make sure all of its services staff and users feel that way.
School culture should not just stay within the school but also communicated and perceived by other forces outside the school. They are parents, alumni, education network, corporates, and of course the public. We should apply well- connected, consistent communications and procedures in all the meetings, events and collaborative programs.