The «New» Foundations of Teacher Education – A Reader – Revised edition
Edited By Eleanor Blair
18. How Leaders Influence the Culture of Schools
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How Leaders Influence the Culture of Schools
Kent D. Peterson and Terrence E. Deal
Parents, teachers, principals, and students often sense something special and undefined about the schools they attend. For decades, the terms climate and ethos have been used to capture this pervasive, yet elusive, element we call “culture.”
Although hard to define and difficult to put a finger on, culture is extremely powerful. This ephemeral, taken-for-granted aspect of schools, too often over looked or ignored, is actually one of the most significant features of any educational enterprise. Culture influences everything that goes on in schools: how staff dress, what they talk about, their willingness to change, the practice of instruction, and the emphasis given student and faculty learning (Deal & Peterson, 1994; Firestone & Wilson, 1985; Newmann & Associates, 1996).
What is school culture, and who shapes it? Culture is the underground stream of norms, values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals that has built up over time as people work together, solve problems, and confront challenges. This set of informal expectations and values shapes how people think, feel, and act in schools. This highly enduring web of influence binds the school together and makes it special. It is up to school leaders—principals, teachers, and often parents—to help identify, shape, and maintain strong, positive, student-focused cultures. Without these supportive cultures, reforms will wither, and student learning will slip.
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