I have always found the work of history museum curators to be fascinating. They are tasked, in many cases, with selecting artifacts of our ancestors and displaying them in a way that allows people to make connections with the past. Do they always get it right? Do they always represent a culture with 100% accuracy? – Of course not. But there are take-aways, for us in education as we explore the concept of culture change.
Just a quick reminder from a previous post: Culture is defined as the beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a social group. These attributes are agreed upon and shared by that social group. There are five key tenets of culture:
- Culture is learned
- Culture is shared
- Culture is based on symbols
- Culture is integrated
- Culture is dynamic
To curate is to collect, select and present information, artifacts and/or experiences. School culture is curated by defining who we are from our collective shared experience. Shaping a positive cultural norm takes purposeful, diligent effort in collecting, selecting, and presenting experiences in our schools.
Culture curation requires we are cognizant of the context in which we are working. Are we trying to shape our classroom culture with students? Or are we trying to shape our school building culture? Or is it an entire school district/board that we are looking to shape?
A little more direction on this might be helpful… here is the N-S-E-W Positive Culture Shift practices:
- Nothing to Lose – you have to start somewhere, why not now? Showing a little bit of vulnerability now and then can go a long way. We often want to help everyone else with their stumbling blocks, but getting that help ourselves is less natural. We need to demonstrate that we, too, are learners and receive help from anyone as it comes.
- Share – promote positivity in the way you speak. With colleagues, one conversation we can talk about is: why we became teachers to begin with! With students, share how your background may be related to theirs.
- Empower – give a voice to others. For many teachers speaking is easy, listening is equally as important. Train yourself to listen as much as you speak… easier said then done for some.
- Walk in Their Shoes – make an effort to better understand their experience more intimately. Some people are more empathetic than others, but with some effort, we can all have a better sense of empathy. Begin to refer back to the experiences of students and colleagues in your conversations with them.
Shaping positive school culture is possible through cultural curation. Move forward, speak positively, give voice, and work to understand each other… it is from here that we can begin to grow together.
Looking to change your school culture? Check out WanderlustEDU: An Educator’s Guide to Innovation, Change, and Adventure.