Culture: The Lifeblood of a School

One of my favorite quotes comes from Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf’s book Lead Like a Pirate.  In this amazing book on school leadership they remind us that our mantra should be, “Culture First, Culture Next, Culture Always.”  This week has been a true revelation in experiencing a positive school culture. Students feed off the culture that the staff create, and that culture must begin with everyone.  We’re all climbing this mountain, tied together with a rope, and that rope is culture. If it’s weak or frayed, somebody is going to fall behind and not reach the summit.

Building a school culture is about philosophy and remembering who we are here to serve: our students.  I use that word service, because this is not only a service we provide, but it is also a higher service, a calling.  And since we are here to serve our students and help them reach their peak, the message we send and how we “do school” will affect how they treat each other and how they will believe the world will see them.  That also means we have to build each other up as teachers. We need to lift up the great things that we each do in our rooms & help those that are feeling “left out” or “falling behind” their colleagues. We must believe that each staff member is integral to the success of the school & that everyone’s voice is important and valued.

I’ve been part of great school cultures & some not-so-great, even though this is only the third building I’ve been in.  Culture is not about the physical building, or the furniture, or the overall look of the school, though those elements can enhance or weaken an already-established culture.  Instead, culture is about people. Who are the people walking the halls, teaching in the classrooms, providing professional development, the administrators, the custodians, the security staff?  Everyone builds the culture. We all have a role to play and we must embrace that role and set the example we want our students to follow. I firmly believe that a staff that has fun together, that smiles together, and supports each other, is a staff that students will believe care about them.  If those conversations aren’t happening in your building, change it! Be the leader who says “Culture First, Culture Next, Culture Always.” Make your building amazing & people will want to be there, students & staff alike.

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out all three administrators at Summit Trail Middle School: Sarah Guerrero, Nate Kremer, & Keri Snyder. All three have worked tirelessly to build a school culture at Summit Trail that is second to none!  From Dr. Guerrero’s outstanding leadership from the very beginning in setting the tone that we will not accept “average” at Summit Trail, to Keri’s role in providing wonderful social/emotional support to some of our highest need students, to Nate’s leadership in building up the athletics programs, all three have shown themselves to be amazing leaders that I am proud to work for & with.  On a more personal note, early this week Dr. Guerrero took time out of her day to come check in on me after last week’s post about “fitting in” to reassure me that I definitely “fit in” here, and to have an administrator make sure that a staff member felt valued and welcome made my day. These are the things that leaders who believe in the need for a culture of greatness and gratitude do on a regular basis.  I am proud to be a Sabercat! You can follow all three of these amazing educators on Twitter. Dr. Sarah Guerrero: @ST_MS10, Keri Snyder: @buwildcat40, Nate Kremer: @nate_kremer.