Written by Chanie Wilschanski
I was chatting with a director a few months ago about school cultures. She was sharing that she feels her school goes through phases of different environments and cultures.
I thought about what she said a lot and also looked at my notes and data of what hundreds of directors had shared with me in conversations that I had with them.
And so a little bit ago I created something I call the School Culture Model ™
Each phase of the model represents very specific activities that are going on in your school.
I wrote a workbook (download it for free here) on each phase with specific strategies to help you identify where you are and the tools to get out of that stage as fast as you can!
In this post, I’ll share a brief synopsis, and you can download the FREE workbook here to learn all the details.
What is a Toxic Culture?
In a toxic environment, there is typically only one way to do things. Teachers hold strong to what they have done in the past and aren’t ready to let go of it. Especially if it rocks the boat too much or requires effort on their part.
A simple trick to encourage teachers to try new things is gratitude. But the gratitude I’m talking about is specifically grateful for what your teachers are doing right.
What is a Passive Culture?
In a passive culture, teachers avoid confrontation at all costs! They will agree with things even if they really don’t want to simply because they don’t want to say what they really think. This causes havoc in the school as many teachers are harboring grudges or are upset at the director for doing things and they just don’t know how to communicate it.
One way to climb your way out of a passive culture is to model what you want to see.
When you are frustrated or disagree at a meeting, show your staff how you share what makes you uncomfortable.
Share with your staff what’s going on. Of course, if you are upset or you feel you might raise your voice, then take a break.
But simply sharing a difference of opinion is so healthy. It shows the teachers that it’s ok to disagree.
I can't tell you how many teachers fear for the jobs and just keep quiet because they think if they share they will get fired!
Of course, many of you reading this would never do that, but you have to clearly articulate that to some teachers. Some people are reeling from abusive bosses you may have done horrible things to them and till they trust you will take time.
What is a comfortable culture?
A comfortable culture is really hard to notice because on the surface teachers are really progressive and innovative. Their classrooms are wonderful, and the directors sing their praises. The problem with this environment is that the teachers are too comfortable.
They like the way things are and the way it's done. And they don’t want to try knew things that will force them out of their comfort zone. They know they are good and schools from all over the world may come to visit them and observe their schools.
But if you look deeper, the teachers are very comfortable, set in their ways and what they are doing. They have learned what works and what doesn't. And if you share a new idea of something you recently learned they will be super quick to share with you that they already tried it and will give you reasons why it won't work for them.
To get your school out of comfortable is a strategy called “follow the leader” you take the first step.
What is a collaborative culture?
This is truly a wonderful place for a school to get to, and it takes years of hard work and consistent discipline and commitment from the leader. I share beautiful stories, and examples in the workbook so make sure to download it.
Especially if you are thinking about what type of legacy you’ll be leaving for your teachers and community, I share in great depth some thought provoking questions to ask yourself about what kind of legacy you want to leave behind.
For now, think about this.
What type of legacy do you want to leave behind?
How would the teachers and parents describe your legacy?
Would the narrative be the same?
As Steven Covey shares, “begin with the end in mind.”
That’s all for now, to learn more about how you can create the culture you want in your school, Download the following School Culture Model: https://fdt-freebies.s3.amazonaws.com/SchoolCultureModel.pdf
This would be a great resource to sift through to help create a more positive culture within the centre as it helps to pinpoint where your educators are on the model. It is possible that your educators may be on more than one level on the pyramid, as I know our centre most definatley is! Can’t wait to work through it!
Yes that is exactly what it was designed for. and of course, your teachers can be in multiple area of the pyramid
I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on our journey as a school and I do feel that this pyramid is in play. As I reflect I believe individual teachers fall into their own step of the pyramid but as a whole we are right in that line that divides comfortable and collaborative. It’s a great place to be as we are plugging along moving our way to the top. We have so much momentum as we are moving into our new school year and I’m ecstatic to see where we are this time next year.
Wonderful news, Stephanie! How exciting for you and your colleagues. Keep us posted on how your year unfolds!
MOST school live in comfortable. when the leader paves the safe environment for risk taking the staff can step into collaborative.
“This is truly a wonderful place for a school to get to, and it takes years of hard work and consistent discipline and commitment from the leader.”
key word LEADER. teachers have to trust and want to work with the leader. I left a school at which the Prinicpal took no responsibility for the morale and culture, her behavior and lack of leadership created. she told teachers moral was a “personal issues” for which she wasn’t responsible. She took no time to build relationships with her staff saying “there are just ok many of you.”
So understandably people who had no relationship with her, weren’t interested in dealing with her. There was a sense of distrust among staff as she communicated and made decisions with only a few, and rarely included the VP or other leadership members. The school was moving into inquiry based curriculum and she wanted more and more collaboration. Well, there isn’t a community here lady. You drive that community feel, you model collaboration and communication. This starts with you!
I am so sorry to hear that, Stacey. I hope you find a collaborative place to teach. Once you find that sweet spot, it’s amazing how much fun teaching and collaboration can be!
This pyramid is truly the actual different cultures that can and do happen. I feel my center is between comfortable and collaborative. Sometimes they have closed minds and I have to push for new ideas and at other times they have so many ideas
Amanda, thank you for sharing. teachers need to be gently nudged in the direction they want to grow in. its not so much about a closed mind. but more about they are scared to try or fear of failure, or lack the competence in that area.
Chanie, all of your insights are so helpful. I need to schedule a month off to catch up on all of your resources! We are working hard to get our culture to this place. I like that it says to show people how to model what we want to see. I also love the beginning with the end in mind! Thanks for the great read.
hi Donna, thank you so much for the kind words. really appreciate it! beginning with the end in mind is so powerful as Steven Covey puts it. and really helps steer us in the direction we want to go! good luck with all.
Lots of great ideas – our school culture is currently in toxic culture spectrum. I have been planning our first staff meeting following the steps I am learning from the Inner Circle and I am looking forward to taking steps towards a more collaborative culture. Staff meeting is next week and I am so excited to get things back on track. Thanks Chanie for all your inspiring ways!!
This was a wonderful article to read, and I would love to download the workbook but the link is not working.