Deep Culture

As you know, I travel through a lot of school buildings in my job as an Executive Director and as a coach. When i walk into a school buisding I am invariably drawn to the outward “relics” that are meant to represent a school’s culture.By relics, I mean vision statements, mission statements, slogans, trophy cases (depending on where they are located, trophy cases tell you a lot about the true culture of a school), and even photographs. These tell you what the school leaders want you to believe about their school culture…the surface culture.The surface culture is great for public relations.It is wonderful to feel good that the school’s culture is great.But what about the deep culture? The deepest of the deep in “deep culture” can be discovered by asking one question to anyone in a school building. “Describe [insert school name here] way of handling [insert curiosity point here].For example, you may ask, “Describe the Acme School District’s way to handle bus discipline.”Or, “Describe the Acme School District’s way of curriculum development.”The variations for the questions are endless. You see, surface culture is easy.Feel-good slogans and statements are easy to create and meaningless unless they are tied to actions and beliefs of the entire school community.What is the deep culture in your school? What are you going to do this week to “mine” the deep culture in your school?Please let me know how you will approach this work…I would love to hear from you!

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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