It's relatively straightforward to move the dial on a new academic program. The academic dean takes point, department chairs help, and input from teachers is solicited. Likewise, it’s not too complicated to update an enrollment tool like the website or viewbook: get buy in at the leadership level, put it in the budget, and hire a great vendor.
But how do you move the dial on school culture?
That's a question we discussed at one of our head of school meetups. Here are a few takeaways from that conversation that might be useful if this is something you're wrestling with at your school!
Be The Change
Living the behavior you'd like to see is a powerful way to influence change. Hope your school can be more reflective? Engage in some reflection during a meeting. Want your school to be more friendly? Start a tradition of shaking hands with students when they enter your classroom. If you're a head of school or division head, keep an eye out for adults or children in the school who naturally demonstrate the behavior you're looking for and elevate them. Is there a scramble for new office space every summer? Put positive and charismatic adults in offices that are closer to the front of the building where they'll be seen and heard.
It’s hard to do it all by yourself, and you have plenty of things you need to do in your meetings. But take some time in meetings—whether in a small group or together with the faculty and staff—to talk about the way you'd like your school to feel. By coming to a shared understanding, you're more likely to affect change. When I first started at a school, I struggled to enforce the student dress code because I didn't understand the why behind it. After we came together as a faculty to discuss why we had a dress code, the kind of environment we were trying to create, and how we hoped it felt to be a learner at the school, I was much better equipped to have these conversations with students.
Can you measure culture? It might be hard, but I think you can. Are you tired of adults who are naysayers? Set meeting norms that allow for critical feedback but require pointing out a solution along with a problem.
Are folks fearful of critical feedback? Create norms around how to offer feedback first. Worried about burnout? Why not hold a competition to see which department has the lowest number of unused vacation and personal days at the end of the year?
How do you move the dial on culture? Let us know at the next heads meetup!