I had some difficulty writing this response because I am struggling with how to explain our culture. I don’t want to present my school in a bad light because I truly care about it and everyone in it. However, we are definitely far from perfect.
If anyone asks our faculty how they would describe our school, almost everyone would say that we are a family. In some ways I would agree with that. We are a very small school and everyone knows everyone and we would do whatever we could to help each other if needed. But at times, I would describe us more as a dysfunctional family – people talk behind each other’s back and criticize each other all the time. Which some of that is to be expected in a building full of women. I also don’t feel like everyone in the building is included in this “family” description. We definitely have our fair share of cliches. There are the groups of older teachers who don’t want to try anything new, and just want to do what they have always done. There are the teachers who see it as a job and not as a passion so they do the bare minimal. Then there is a core group of us who live, eat, and breathe teaching. We are the ones who are the collaborators and constantly doing what we can to improve our students and set those high expectations. There are also teachers who prefer to do their own thing and don’t like to have other people in their room or share ideas.
Do I trust everyone in the building? NO. Are there certain people who I know I can go to and vent without it going anywhere else? YES!
I think some of our culture is because of personality styles – I feel like we are a very eclectic staff. I also think some of it is due to administration styles. I have been at my school for 12 years and have had 3 different principals and 4 different assistant principals – each one very different from their predecessor. I feel like I am a person that a lot of the staff trusts so people talk to me frequently about how they are feeling about our school. My principal also often asks my opinion because she says I am a good school barometer and always seem to be aware of what our climate is like. I have noticed in the last few years that the culture and climate of our building is definitely changing. I feel like people are losing their spark and good teachers are feeling unsuccessful, unappreciated, and unheard. The general consensus from the people who are open and honest with me is that their is a lack of trust between the administration and the teaching staff. Teachers feel that things are said but not done – they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. For example, we are often asked “what can we do to help make things easier for you?” Many suggestions are given but rarely are they followed through. Teachers also don’t feel like the administration’s vision is clear and that we know where we are going or if we are all even on the same page because we don’t know what that page is. One of our administrators only taught for a few years and sometimes seems to struggle empathizing with issues teachers have – they may seem like a big deal to us, but she doesn’t feel the same way. There is also some broken trust because administration has spoken poorly about staff members in front of other staff members and since we are a small school, word gets around. Teachers also don’t feel like the administration is visible enough and therefore, does not even know what is going on in all parts of the building. Teachers and administration in my building also have different opinions about how discipline should be handled.
If I had to pick what would help improve our school culture, it would be building trust between the administrative team and our instructional staff as well as having better communication and collaboration between those groups as well.