“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This statement is originally attributed to Peter Drucker and succinctly illustrates the need for studying and seeking to understand the impact of culture. In an effort to engage in conversations on culture I have developed the model shown below. Today, I will discuss student centered beliefs and values. It is important to remember that these domains are interdependent and cannot exist in silos.
Everything should revolve around students including our belief and value systems. What we believe determines more about our effectiveness than any other variable. Unfortunately, there are some people who hold beliefs that can negatively impact student learning. For example, some believe that certain students are incapable of mastering specific skills. This can be a result of work ethic, behavior, or previous achievement. Unfortunately, this belief too easily allows us to absolve ourselves of responsibility and ultimately justify giving up. Our students deserve better!
Conversely, there are many educators who believe that all students can even if they haven’t yet done so. The power of this belief enabled students who have only experienced failure slowly begin to believe in themselves. My experience as a turnaround Principal in an alternative school validates the power if the word “yet”. Many educators around the country encourage students to avoid saying “I can’t” instead saying “I can’t yet”. This belief in their power to change a students trajectory is critical in doing so.
A second commonly held belief that is detrimental to building a winning culture is that impoverished families do not care about their children because they are “not involved”. This belief has a profoundly negative impact on culture as the engagement level of families is paramount. Engagement in learning is not dependent on a patents ability to physically be at the school. This belief can result in educators failing to communicate with families at all much less in ways that enhance student learning. These behaviors only fuel distrust and unfortunately our students pay a heavy price.
The belief that all families care about their children and want the best for them changes the behaviors of educators. Suddenly, schools begin to reconsider meeting times and examine their practices to better engage all families. We begin to experience positive results that far outweigh the occasional negative experience that previously skewed our perspective. When families understand how they can help their child the students benefit.
Our beliefs about students and resulting values are at the heart of a winning school culture. Schools exist for students and without them we serve no purpose. Great schools spend time reflecting on their beliefs about students and aligning their actions.