SCHOOL CULTUREAn Introduction
As small schools become more autonomous, they create new identities and establish uniqueschool cultures. We also believe that the school’s culture is inextricably linked to classroomculture. This section of resources discusses the meaning of organizational culture and explores thechallenge of building school culture. You’ll find tools for assessing your existing culture,developing group norms, and generating effective intergenerational dialogue. The resourcesexplore various approaches to the issue of organizational culture, including techniques from the business world, the connection to physical spaces, and the use of traditions.The concept of
refers to a group’s shared beliefs, customs, and behavior. A school’sculture includes the obvious elements of schedules, curriculum, demographics, and policies, aswell as the social interactions that occur within those structures and give a school its look and feelas “friendly,” “elite,” “competitive,” “inclusive,” and so on.Just as culture is critical to understanding the dynamics behind any thriving community,organization, or business, the daily realities and deep structure of school life hold the key toeducational success. Reforms that strive for educational excellence are likely to fail unless theyare meaningfully linked to the school's unique culture. For small schools newly born from a largehigh school, creating a unique school culture will be an important component of success.According to small schools researcher Mary Ann Raywid:If you want to get the benefit of small, then the kids have to affiliate with the unit —the small school—in order to bring it off. Unless teachers can create their ownschool climate—unless the kids can see some difference when they leave their own part of the building—then they are not going to identify with it. And if theydon’t identify, you have lost the battle. Unless the kids bond with the teachers(and the students as well) then they aren’t going to feel that they are reallyinvolved with or a part of this process and won’t buy the schools values, andtherefore schools won’t work.
The school profiles, beginning on page 148, reveal that school culture is variously defined by:
Graduation requirementsAnd any other aspect of “the way we do things here.”Because these aspects of culture are primarily formed through teacher-student interactions,classroom culture is an intrinsic part of school culture. The
section further explores this connection and introduces methods for restorative practices in classroom discipline.
Raywid, M.A. (2001).
Viewpoints: Small by design: Resizing America’s high schools.