Leader in Me and School Culture
Culture is a buzzword often discussed in conversations with educators, business executives, and politicians. Leaders often emphasize what a critical part culture plays in the creation of an effective organization. As popular as it might be to talk about culture, however, many people still do not understand the concept.
Regarding school culture, Stephen R. Covey said, “Culture is not the mission, the vision or the strategy that is printed on a sheet of paper or mounted on a wall. Culture is not the list of school values or the school's policy manual. Culture is not what is proclaimed out of someone's mouth. Rather, culture is how people actually behave and treat each other on a consistent day-in and day-out basis. Culture can be seen, felt, and heard.”
Participating in a positive, collaborative school culture can be one of the most rewarding experiences for teachers and students. Unfortunately, all the pressures, agendas, and “to-do” items on educators' minds rarely leave enough time to design the culture of the school. Because of this, the culture happens by accident. It happens based on the attitude of teachers, it happens based on the characteristics of the students, and it happens based on the excitement and energy (or lack thereof) of the administrative staff.
The Leader in Me Approach to School Culture
When Leader in Me is implemented in a school, culture becomes an essential focus. Leader In Me helps educators craft a culture where staff and students feel empowered to do their personal best, inspire the best in others, and contribute to the success of the entire school. Below are three keys Leader in Me Schools use to do this.
Leader in Me Schools devote significant time helping students feel connected with each other, their teachers, and the expectations for the year to come.
During the first week of school, students at Leader In Me schools often participate in crafting class mission statements; applying for class leadership roles; setting personal and class goals; writing classroom codes of conduct; learning about accountability, respect, and responsibility; and creating artwork to put in school bulletins and hang on class walls. Within the first week of the year, students are engaged, excited, and involved in actively creating their school culture.
Leader in Me Schools are passionate about creating a unique school environment—murals, street signs, paintings, quotations, posters—that bring school culture to life by providing a visual representation of the goals and passion within the school. The art within the school (all of which is made by the students) reverberates a message to each and every student: “You are important, you have gifts, and you have potential.”
By empowering students to create an environment that encourages participation and growth, Leader in Me Schools are able to reinforce the message that is coming from teachers and administrators. When students cover the walls of their classrooms and hallways with posters and reminders of the goals, traits, and qualities they strive to attain, the physical appearance of the school becomes a daily reminder of the culture they are building within.
Leader in Me facilitates a common language between teachers, students, and parents that facilitates communication. Using the terms found in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The 4 Disciplines of Execution, phrases such as "Think Win-Win", "Carry your own weather", "Seek first to understand," and “Wildly Important Goals®” are not only common, but well understood and internalized by everyone associated with the school. This language is used in discussions on academic topics, disciplinary issues, and assemblies. It accelerates the understanding among stakeholders.