Sunday, October 17, 2010

Changing the culture of a school

How hard is it to change the culture of a school? I have been thinking about this more recently due to studies and my recent full-time stint with Mum. Here I am, this young, innocent and naïve being thinking that she is able to ‘save the world’ with her 4-year accumulated knowledge in a foreign land. But will my degree experience be applicable?

The culture of a school has been there way before I and for me to make changes, would take some Herculean effort. Culture works both ways, as it affects us as much as we affect it. We simultaneously learn the culture we are immersed in and create new culture as we adapt and modify our mindsets. Existing perceptions and notions are always hard to overcome and change. So do we change or modify things?

I suppose, it depends on which parts of the school culture it is that we intend to change to determine if we really do require the powers of Hercules. Together with all members of our teaching team, point out the pros and cons of the school culture. Which do we want to keep and improve on? Which do we not want to keep and discourage? How are we going to achieve the outcomes and by what precursors? Whose standards are we going to abide by? Yes, we have the local state rules and the umbrella Government ones. We also have those from the various departments the school falls under. But in school, whose rules and regulations will fellow colleagues, students and we submit to?

If there are members of the teaching team who are not willing to develop the same vision and work along the same philosophies as the collective, it is suggested that they leave and allow others who do to come on board. That way, it would be a win-win situation for both sides as it would be more meaningful for everyone. There is nothing worse than feeling like there is a gun pointed to your head when going to work everyday.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the teaching team would be one step to take, as well. Have a look at your hand, your fingers. Are they all the same length? No, they are not and so is your team. Every team would be made up of different people from diverse backgrounds, who, when put together and recognized for their strengths, would be able to do wonders. Reason being each member of the team would fill in for each other’s weaknesses.

Where possible, it would also be of much help if effort is put into understanding the needs and wants of the community that the school serves. There is no point in drawing up ambitious plans and visionary goals for the school if it does not relate to the children’s lives. When what the children do at school serves purpose outside of school, especially when it involves their parents’ thoughts, children would feel more motivated to attend school. Why? Simply because they feel valued. That what they do is not something totally alien. In essence, the student-teacher-parent relationship would need to be one that is respectful and understood to make things happen in a meaningful way for all involved.

To change the culture of a school, there must be some understanding of the current culture. Talk to the children and find out what are the underlying issues in the school are, get to know them and make those connections genuine. Children are experts in detecting if you are just playing up to them or if you really want to help them, teach them, change things for them.

It also helps when there is a special someone in the school or the community to guide you along. Perhaps someone like a mentor, mother hen kind of figure. That person does not necessarily need to be highly qualified – just a treasure trove of information and experience and a ready torchlight should you require some shining light. Always remember that no matter what position it is that we hold it is never not okay to ask for help. We are only human and it is human to err, to not know the answers to everything. So do not try to be Superman or Wonder Woman – go to the right resources and start off the right foot.


Ken Wooi said...

it takes enormous effort to change a school's culture.. and also the peer support is needed.. :)

Chrys said...

Yes yes, agreed! Haha, it does take enormous effort. It's not something that would change in a few years - it would probably take one generation because it's the mindset of people that we are changing.

Thanks for your input, Ken! :)