School Culture Paper

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Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・APA

The way the organization operates is regulated by a collection of values, beliefs, rituals, and other norms known as public school culture. These aspects have become increasingly important in recent years in many attempts to reform school operations and ensure educational achievement ("School Culture," 2014). In an ideal world, a school's community influences its social patterns and other dynamics, influencing future activities and potentially impeding educational change and reform. According to studies, when a school culture is dysfunctional, such as when interpersonal conflicts are prevalent and student problems are seldom discussed, cultural influences appear to stymie or hinder any attempt to reform the structure ("School Culture," 2014). It is in this light that a school like Marylin Avenue has established a learning culture that authorizes the staff to take risks, emphasizes collaboration, perpetuates optimism, upholds expectations, and develops a shared vision and mission. Although there are a few differences between my school’s culture and Marylin’s, both cultures are similar in many ways.

Accordingly, taking risks helps people to move from their comfort zone to the innovative side where great lessons are learned, and new discoveries are made. Marylin Avenue understands this concept, and it is for this reason that the school gives its employees permission to take risks. Similarly, my school encourages its staff to practice risk taking in various ways. Leading by example is one of the means being employed to encourage risk taking. For instance, managers are encouraged to try new things without fear of failure as teaches an important lesson on the value of risk-taking. The school also allows its staff to debate and explore different options in a safe environment, vets potentially risky ideas and has created a safety net required to venture into risk taking.

Both teachers and students face challenging and stressful situations, and part of what causes the challenge is their tendency to isolate themselves. In regard to this issue, Marylin Avenue School has created a culture that values teamwork rather than encouraging competition among the stakeholders. Similarly, my school encourages teachers to work together and with the students in order to ensure proper planning, sharing ideas, and supporting each other in times of difficulties. The school encourages professionalism, but this does not imply people working alone. In fact, professionals in virtually all the fields usually work as a team to improve performance. My school also compares to Marylin Avenue in that both schools perpetuates a culture of optimism. Research shows that shared optimism generates growth and the willingness to keep going until the intended outcome is realized ("Optimism: Build a Culture of Optimism," 2016). My school has established an optimistic outlook that shows that growth and change are possible and more likely to produce a positive outcome.

Next, to maintain high expectations for the students, teachers in my school have established an ambitious academic goal for the students to accomplish, work relentlessly to overcome various obstacles and strive to improve their performance over time via constant learning and self-evaluation. This approach has been found to improve the students’ achievement, resilience, and motivation. In addition to that, my school supports Marylin’s idea of collective responsibility in various ways; for example, the school has created structures that encourage joint problem-solving, provides visible cues in the classrooms to encourage teamwork, and performs strategic planning to welcome new students, to mention but a few. Lastly, my school has also created a shared vision and mission to paddle it towards its future. The system is guided by a clear vision which allows the leaders to actively gather, include and share input from different stakeholders at all levels. What is more important is that the vision develops collaboration which propels the school forward in its mission.

One way that the school can improve its culture is by encouraging smart risk-taking. For instance, the school should introduce a culture that resists the urge to decline ideas, especially from students. In this light, if students approach teachers and other managers with great ideas, the default answer would be yes. However, if managers wish to reject any idea, they should be required to explain why it is a bad idea. In other words, the plan would aim to reduce the tendency of saying no, which will result in more ideas being tested and thus implemented throughout the school. There is also need to adopt restorative approaches to discipline.

According to research, some disciplinary actions like suspending students are associated with many adverse outcomes including increased cases of school dropout, involvement in the criminal justice system and poor academic performance (Klevan, & Villavicencio, 2016). Therefore, the school should try the restorative approach which would involve various practices oriented towards strengthening in-school relationships, mediating conflicts and holding the students accountable to the school community. Further, the improvement plan would require four types of data namely the achievement, demographic, program and perception data. One way to collect these kinds of data would be via a quick assessment of the situation using a triage survey to identify the current condition and determine whether the culture should be maintained or subjected to intensive care.

A positive school culture not only improves the students’ daily experiences but also plays an important part in raising their achievement. Be that as it may, many schools struggle to create a supportive culture for those faced with cultural barriers at school. In addressing these obstacles, my school has implemented different programs aimed at developing a Culturally Relevant Education (CRE), promoting in-school relationships, providing early support for students’ post-college goals, promoting intercultural exchange in schools and reinforcing community engagement.

Research indicates that many students today feel disconnected between individual cultural background and their experiences in schools (Kuta, 2016). The CRE program engages and empowers students by including all cultural backgrounds in classrooms and addressing the underlying biases that lecturers may have about certain groups of students. So far, the program has improved teachers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding some of the misconceptions placed on Black and Latino male students. Secondly, the school promotes positive relationships by creating opportunities for students to spend quality time with each other and their teachers. The school has introduced mentoring programs and advisories for students to interact and get to each other better.

While the college graduation for students of color has increased dramatically in recent years, most of these students are leaving school not fully prepared for their career. In this regard, my school has implemented a number of strategies to provide support for post-college goals. For instance, the students are provided with educational trips, which play an important role the career development. My school has also introduced a cultural exchange program to expose the students to people from different geographic, religious, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. The program has allowed students to develop a deeper understanding of diversity and positive relationships with each other. Lastly, the school goes beyond the traditional Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) activities to engage the school community which represents diverse talents and skills.

The implementation of these programs should be evaluated for many reasons. First, the evaluation can improve the program design as well as its subsequent implementation (Duerden, & Witt, 2012). Moreover, assessment enables the management to demonstrate the program’s progress or success. This information allows the school to communicate better the impact of the program to different stakeholders, which is critical for staff morale, public relations and attracting the support from current and potential funders.

Currently, the implementation is in the final stages; the school has established a process of ongoing reflection and learning. This exercise includes holding regular staff meetings to share experiences and address the barriers to the program implementation. However, the school is yet to perform the final phase of the implementation. The gap exists in the sense that the institution is yet to schedule meetings with the developers regarding updates to the programs. Although most of the programs were updated in response to prior knowledge of the issues, there is need to plan for regular meeting with the developers in order to get the most up-to-date information. The implementation of the last step has delayed because the institution is focused on addressing immediate needs namely the issue of standard based instruction and the need to introduce a culture of differentiation while teaching. The institution is trying to meet these needs by training lecturers on teaching according to standards.

Good leadership is also key to establishing a positive school culture. According to Bernhardt, an essential factor of effective leadership is its capacity to influence others and give meaning to the members of the institution. This statement implies that there is no leadership without influence because such responsibility involves complex tasks like inspiring and mobilizing different people around a vision of the future. In my school, managers and lecturers lead by modeling ways of thinking and encouraging students to adopt new ways of perceiving situations.

The entire leadership structure consists of the president, dean, the board of trustees, faculty, and students. All these people are in a way responsible for the progress that has been made and future developments aimed at achieving the vision. For instance, the president leads the overall strategic planning for the institution. On the other hand, the college deans lead the different faculties, fundraising and setting academic policies. The Dean is also the person responsible for developing and promoting academic programs. Further, the board of trustees has complete jurisdiction over the government and welfare of the institution. The board constitutes advisors and well-known alumni who perform duties like nominating the president, approving policies. Reviewing budgets and determining the primary goals of the college. Lastly, the faculty members are the lecturers that administer courses to students. It is noteworthy that every part that each stakeholder plays makes a significant difference in the school culture.

As can be seen, the college has taken the necessary steps to create a positive culture. However, the school has made little effort to promote profession learning. Accordingly, I would recommend the management to helping professional learners to apply the knowledge gained from the courses to their work practice. The integration theory is vital for the students as knowledge without context is usually lost or becomes obsolete quickly. In the long run, the institution should consider designing its platform and courses to support professional learning.

References

Duerden, M. D., & Witt, P. A. (2012). Assessing program implementation: What it is, why it's important, and how to do it. Journal of Extension, 50(1), 1-8.

Klevan, S., & Villavicencio, A. (2016). Strategies for Improving School Culture - NYU Steinhardt (1st ed., pp. 1-12). New York: The Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Retrieved from http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/sg158/PDFs/esi_school_culture/Strategies_for_Improving_School_Culture_Executive_Summary.pdf

Kuta, S. (2016). Survey: Less than half of undergrads feel valued by CU-Boulder | The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement | University of Colorado Boulder. Colorado.edu. Retrieved 29 May 2017, from http://www.colorado.edu/odece/2016/06/09/survey-less-half-undergrads-feel-valued-cu-boulder

Optimism: Build a Culture of Optimism. (2016). Ncls.org.au. Retrieved 28 May 2017, from http://www.ncls.org.au/default.aspx?sitemapid=6171

School Culture. (2014). The Glossary of Education Reform. Retrieved 28 May 2017, from http://edglossary.org/school-culture

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