At the conference I began to realize that we definitely have to reshape school culture. Education has changed, yet the school culture has not (at least not where I work). As the presenters of this workshop said, we need to reshape culture to truly reflect college and career readiness. Changing this school culture is a lifestyle change. It has to be, so that it just becomes natural. The question then becomes how do we do this and get other people on board?
In order to get people on board, you have to start having conversations with your school community. Find out about the myths about college and career readiness? We were sitting at tables and we discussed this during the workshop. Many said that in their communities many feel that since their family never went why should they, it is too expensive and they can’t afford it, they hate school and have no interest in college, you need college as that is expected yet they do not want to, career technical schools are not valued, etc. It was an interesting conversation I had with the group that I was sitting at. The presenters then said that you need to go out in the community and find out what jobs are out there, and you have to value the product! They shared a school that was located in an area where housing was needed. The schools “shop” class built houses. The school talked to colleges. Those students that took the shop class and did a great job, they actually earned some college credit and/or scholarship money. This helped to motivate those students to go on and continue on for a degree. The school encouraged them to at least go to college and get that associates degree. Then, think about if you want to go on or not. This school had the students working in the community, housing was what the community needed, they gained college credit, and what they were doing had relevance! A win-win for all! This was truly College AND Career readiness, which is what the standards now say!
The presenters also talked about how culture can block you from achieving your destination. As Bill Daggett said in his workshop – culture trumps strategies. That is why it is important to reshape school culture so that it reflects the college and career readiness. It is important to understand that school climate is behavior, NOT school culture. School culture is a hidden set of values and beliefs. It is important that people understand the difference.
Every school has unique DNA that contributes to that culture. What we need to do is adapt that DNA so that everyone is on the same page. Now, when you start having conversations you can change, adapt and see the connections. To do this you need to make sure you are reading the culture correctly. The suggestions the presenters gave are – 1st listen, 2nd listen before you leap, 3rd diversify groups that you listen to. Listen to everyone, and 4th use a structures checklist or survey to learn the history of the community.
This is where I became extremely excited. I love positivity, community, and collaboration. Love those things in life! Strongly feel that they are needed. Hopefully you have figured that out if you have been reading my other posts. If not, check them out – ha 🙂 ). Anyway, they talked about culture change basics. First, you have to affirm the why. Talk about why we need to reshape the culture. Second, we have to promote VALUED behaviors. Here you select a few staff behaviors to value. Then you model and review these behaviors. Hopefully others will then get on board and start to follow. Think about Ray McNulty’s presentation which I blogged about – we have the power to change! Third, redirect “Groupthink” with good questions. Groupthink is basically putting together a group to think about how you can go about reshaping the culture. It is important that you do not just put team leaders in these groups. NO! They need to be interdisciplinary across all areas. If you make them specific you will not see change. That made excellent sense to me! If you want change, don’t put all who think the same way together. They won’t change because they all agree. You need to diversify the groups to ask the tough questions. DARE TO CHANGE AND TO BE DIFFERENT. Fourth, you need to start telling stories that reinforce the preferred culture. Tell positive stories to motivate, and influence the culture. People remember stories! At this point I became extremely excited because I have heard this said in other areas – not just school. I actually took a photo of my chicken scratch notes and sent it to those that I have this conversation with. Yup, I guess I am a nerd :-). It does not take much to excite me!
So, it is going to take some work. It will not be easy. However, I strongly feel that if we do these things, it can happen. Flying back, I was talking to the other person from my district who went. We had a conversation on ways we can hopefully change the culture. We want to definitely get the community on board. I think they are some great suggestions. I just hope that we can follow through and get the rest of the staff on board. Now that the conference is over, we have our work cut out for us!
I promise that I will stop posting about workshops. I could post more since I went to many, many workshops. However, I chose to blog about the ones that I feel are the most important. Without what I learned at these workshops, you can’t do what I learned in the others (trust me, that makes sense even though it sounds weird haha) All of the workshops really seemed to tie in nicely. I am not sure if that was just my luck in how I picked them or what!
This conference was an amazing experience. At first when I was asked I was extremely nervous and not feeling it. I was thinking the school year just ended, I was suffering from burn out, and now I have to back and go to this conference. However, while there I became excited. I become more motivated and excited. I had a great time. I learned so much! Also, I had time to explore a wonderful city. This was a great adventure. It truly did allow me to open up and see things in a new perspective. A great learning experience. Now, I am glad that I was asked to go and glad that I said yes! Do not be afraid of adventures. Let your faith be stronger than your fear!