Think of a job you had that you disliked. What did you dislike? I've had a number of jobs while in high school, college and professionally. I've worked in restaurants as a fry cook and delivery driver, fast food drive-thru lane, retail supermarket, retail drugstore, and I have taught in 4 high schools and 2 community colleges. I have good and bad memories from each job, but there is one common thread. If the people on top created a positive culture and climate, one where the focus was on getting the job done by trusting your people, there are more good memories. That is not an accident, it means something.
As many of you have seen on Social Media, Tyler (another Einstein Fellow) and I went to Hawaii this past week for the Hawaii University International Conference on Educational Research. We were both incredibly impressed by the quality of the sessions. During our first session, the speaker gave a quote that struck a chord with me.
"Culture and climate eat strategy for breakfast."
One of my big frustrations I had with my previous district is that coming off of COVID, when teachers and students were stressed and experiencing mental health issues, they felt that adding work to teachers by pushing 4 separate initiatives/strategies was the answer. A lot of districts are doing this same thing across the country thinking new initiatives/strategies are the solution to learning loss. I am here to say, without doubt, that is not the answer.
The answer comes when you create a place where people feel safe, cared for, and valued. Creating a culture of acceptance and a climate of helping one another is not an easy task, but that's how we turn around schools and address learning loss. To start, that takes administrators who trust their teachers. If teachers feel trusted and valued, students feel that energy as well, making classrooms a joyful experience for all. Bringing back the joy of learning is how we fix students, teachers and schools. New strategies will never yield a single positive outcome if the school's culture and climate are bad.
Let's stop relying on the latest educational fad (strategy) and go back to basics, creating a positive culture and climate by celebrating our similarities and differences and making sure everyone has a seat at the table.