Creating a Supportive Culture for All Teachers
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about school culture. As you know, mentoring is just a small piece of an effective induction program. Effective induction involves creating a positive, healthy, supportive climate and culture for all teachers. In doing my thinking, I have read a lot of articles on line about the subject. At the end of my post, I have also included some text resources. Here on the blog I have included excerpts and or links to three of the articles that I found most interesting. The third linked article was especially heartwarming to me as it describes The Circle of Courage Model. Creating a positive climate and culture does often involve courage and standing up for what we know is right and just. Feel free to share comments, resources, and stories of courage by posting on this site.
1. Harvard Education Newsletter
July/August 2001 Retaining the Next Generation of Teachers: The Importance of School-Based SupportClever incentives may attract new teachers, but only improving the culture and working conditions of schools will keep them
By Susan Moore Johnson, Sarah Birkeland, Susan M. Kardos, David Kauffman, Edward Liu, and Heather G. Peske of The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
United States, school officials are either anticipating or already experiencing a teacher shortage. The projected need to fill 2.2 million vacancies by 2010 will be intensely felt in high-poverty schools and in certain subjects (math, science, and foreign languages) and programs (bilingual and special education). Recognizing this, policymakers are devising ways to make teaching more attractive, and the competition for high-quality teachers is fierce. Recruiters in various districts can now waive preservice training, offer signing bonuses, forgive student loans, and even provide mortgage subsidies or health club memberships. While such strategies may well increase the supply of new teachers to schools, they provide no assurance of keeping them there, for they are but short-term responses to long-term challenges. . . . “
|Supportive and Shared LeadershipSchool change and educational leadership literature clearly recognizes the influence of the role of campus administrator on school improvement (Hord, 1992). This leadership provided by individuals within the school is critical in guiding and supporting successful implementation of new policies and/or practice. Within professional learning communities, the traditional role of omnipotent principal has been replaced by a shared leadership structure. In such a model, administrators, along with teachers, question, investigate, and seek solutions for school improvement. All staff grow professionally and learn to work together to reach shared goals. Campus administrators provide the necessary organizational and structural supports for such collaborative work among staff. Administrators display a willingness to participate in collective dialogue without dominating, and they share the responsibilities of decision making with the staff.
Shared Values and VisionA fundamental characteristic of the professional learning community’s vision is its unwavering focus on student learning. The shared values and vision among school staff guide decisions about teaching and student learning, and support norms of behavior. In this community, the vision is what Martel (1993) would define as “a total quality focus” (p. 24). The values, as noted earlier, are embedded in the day-to-day actions of the school staff, wherein the learning community engages and develops the commitment and talents of all individuals in a group effort that pushes for learning of high intellectual quality. These values then create the norms of a self-aware, self-critical, and increasingly effective professional organization, utilizing the commitment of its members to seek ongoing renewal and improvement (Sirotnik, 1999; Little, 1997).
Collective Learning and Application of LearningOriginally “collective creativity” (Hord, 1997), the name of this dimension has been changed to reflect more accurately the learning, and the application of learning that occurs. Professional learning communities engage school staff at all levels in processes that collectively seek new knowledge and ways of applying that knowledge to their work. The collegial relationships that result produce creative and appropriate solutions to problems, strengthening the bond between principal and teachers and increasing their commitment to improvement efforts. Such schools move beyond discussions of revising the schedule or establishing new governance procedures to focus on areas that can contribute to significant school improvement— curriculum, instruction, assessment, and the school’s culture. High standards are adopted in all content areas, and professional staff take the responsibility to ensure high levels of achievement for all students. Teachers use a pedagogy that establishes relevance of the curriculum, and students are engaged in learning activities that respond to their cultures and needs as learners (Reyes, Scribner, & Paredes Scribner, 1999). Educators seek the best strategies and instructional practices to engage their students in learning, and they make the necessary adjustments to respond to the students’ diverse learning needs.
Supportive ConditionsStructures that support the vision of a school and learning community are vital to the effectiveness and innovation of teaching at the classroom level. Creating supportive structures, including a collaborative environment, has been described as “the single most important factor” for successful school improvement and “the first order of business” for those seeking to enhance the effectiveness of their school (Eastwood & Louis, 1992, p. 215). Hord (1997) cited two types of supportive structures found within professional learning communities: structural conditions and collegial relationships. The structural conditions include use of time, communication procedures, size of the school, proximity of teachers, and staff development processes. Collegial relationships include positive educator attitudes, widely shared vision or sense of purpose, norms of continuous critical inquiry and improvement, respect, trust, and positive, caring relationships. Within professional learning communities, it is often necessary to find innovative ways to create the necessary time and resources to allocate to whole-staff learning, problem solving, and decision making. Creating supportive conditions is a key to maintaining the growth and development of a community of professional learners.
Shared Personal PracticeElmore (2000) states that “schools and school systems that are improving directly and explicitly confront the issue of isolation” by creating multiple avenues of interaction among educators and promoting inquiry-oriented practices while working toward high standards of student performance (p. 32). Teacher interaction within a formalized structure for collegial coaching provides the means for confronting the issue of isolation in professional learning communities. Through such interaction, teachers continue to build a culture of mutual respect and trustworthiness for both individual and school improvement, and they also exhibit increased commitment to their work. Shared personal practice is limited, even in highly functioning learning communities, and tends to be the last of the dimensions to develop. Darling-Hammond (1998) cites research reporting that teachers who spend more time collectively studying teaching practices are more effective overall at developing higher-order thinking skills and meeting the needs of diverse learners. Sharing personal practice requires a complete paradigm shift from traditional roles in education. It is, however, the clearest link to the classroom.A professional learning community produces high levels of achievement for all students within an environment of continuous inquiry and improvement if it is focused on student results. It values and respects each of its members and insists that all students achieve to high standards. One factor organizes all contexts within a professional learning community, and that is the shared purpose of improving student learning outcomes. All members of such a community are invested in the learning and changing necessary to address the needs of all students and help them to achieve high standards
3. What Every Administrator Needs to Know About Creating a Caring School Culture:
The Circle of Courage Model
Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership (Jossey-Bass Education) by Terrence E. Deal and Kent D. Peterson
The Shaping School Culture Fieldbook (Jossey Bass Education Series) by Kent D. Peterson and Terrence E. Deal
Transforming Schools: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement by Allison Zmuda, Robert Kuklis, and Everett Kline
Building an Intentional School Culture: Excellence in Academics and Character by Charles F. Elbot and David Fulton
Revisiting “the Culture of the School and the Problem of Change” (The Series on School Reform) by
Seymour Bernard Sarason
Transforming School Culture: Stories, Symbols, Values & the Leader’s Role by Stephen Stolp and Stuart C. Smith
Mentoring Teachers Toward Excellence: Supporting and Developing Highly Qualified Teachers by Judith H. Shulman and Mistilina Sato
From Isolation to Conversation: Supporting New Teachers’ Development (Teacher Preparation and Development) by Dwight L. Rogers and Leslie M. Babinski