The Intangibles of School Culture

photo credit: Auntie K via photopin cc

photo credit: Auntie K via photopin cc

What makes your school a special place to learn?

In the past few years, school administrators have become intentional with the ‘branding’ of their schools. Be it in public or private schools that I have been involved with, the intentional communication/creation of a school identity that distinguishes it from the rest has been a focal point. And today’s parents/students are selecting their schools. From carefully created and cultivated websites, Facebook accounts, glossy pamphlets and feeder school visits; showcasing what makes your school the place to attend is now a major piece of our work.

I have been a part of some amazing school communities. Public and private schools, schools in Canada and overseas; there are some strong commonalities in creating a strong school community.

How does your school develop a strong school culture?

Most educators will begin answering this question with the organizational structures in the learning community that promote engagement and participation in a democratic environment. Schools intentionally create structures and processes that facilitate student /community voice and action. Student senates, parent councils, specialized programming and diverse opportunities for extension and growth are important. A strong school culture places intentional focuses on the growth of the whole child; cultivates optimism and hope in an environment where members feel safe, cared for, and involved. School trips, clubs, leadership programming, athletics and enrichment activities all are elements that build a positive and vibrant school culture.

Lately, thinking back to amazing schools with vibrant school cultures, my mind inevitably goes back to the people. To simple actions that have a powerful impact. No matter how much organizational intentionality, programming and activities, it all hinges on the people in your building. The relationships and connections that go one step further to develop a positive and engaging spaces. These are the intangibles of building a school culture.

So what does the intangibles of school culture look like?

It looks like the amazing secondary school principal I currently work with that intentionally schedules time in his calendar to ‘say goodbye’ to the kids.  No matter what comes through the door at dismissal time, or what he is doing, he has committed to ten minutes for this simple act. In a thick French accent, while handing out high fives, you can hear “good- bye and see you again for another GREAT day of learning!” Every dismissal. No exceptions. Who doesn’t like a heart filled goodbye as you go out the door?

It looks like the outdoor courtyard that an elementary principal I worked with, who every winter spends a weekend with her husband building a winter wonderland full of huge blow up Santas, reindeer and snowmen. And I loved the following morning as the  kids would come into school to discover their courtyard completely and magically transformed. Kids, suddenly stopping by courtyard windows, completely mesmerized with what they are seeing. Who, throughout the day, will stop and smile as they look at the courtyard. Who doesn’t like their space transformed; with a little magic and wonder?

The people who create the intangibles of school culture; who create welcoming and ‘magical’ school spaces through intention and spirit; that make our schools a great place for kids to be, I applaud you!

What are the intangibles of your school culture?

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