What Is School Culture? Does It Need To Change?
Every school has its own culture. It can be vibrant and cooperative, dysfunctional and uncooperative, or fall somewhere in between.
Our organization is in a unique position to observe the vast differences in school culture. Having this vantage point has encouraged us to consider how we can contribute to a healthy school environment. It’s one of the reasons we’ve included parent and teacher components as part of our programming. Could there be a better way to unite a school that by using arts as the centerpiece to inspire parents, teachers and administration? We don’t think so.
“School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school,” says Dr. Kent D. Peterson, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. How can the arts affect school culture?
Our programs address each aspect of what Dr. Peterson mentions above. Through our arts residencies, which begin in kindergarten, we begin establishing new norms for teachers, parents and children with our Secrets of the Heart program, establishing a curriculum that conveys a set of values: beginning with friendship and a smile, kindness, imagination and gratitude – values that set a framework for personal success…even at the tender age of 5.
The rituals and symbols that embody these principals include the ASL signs the children are taught and the pledge they learn affirming “I promise to use my gifts.” They include the songs they not only learn, but learn to create, and finally the ceremonies include a presentation of their “gifts” and the dedication of our “friendship tree,” which unites not only the kinder class but the entire school around the idea of friendship. There is a sense of self-pride that begins to take root as these rituals are carried forward as our programs follow children through 2nd grade.
Does your school culture need to change? Do you know a school whose culture would benefit from change? We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that creating a spirit of cooperation, connection and inspiring teachers, families and administration add to creating a healthy school culture.
The arts create a foundation for change, they plant new seeds and inspire new ideas. Ask principals at schools hosting Dream A World Education programming. They share how our programs fundamentally change the way children look at themselves and over time how teachers work together.
Creating healthy school climates is creating an optimal learning environment. We’re proud to be a part of helping schools create the very best atmosphere in which children can thrive.