The Hidden Culture in Schools: The Traits to Look Out For and How to Address Them

From the vantage point as an experienced principal, I know that the hidden culture in schools can often be the biggest barrier to success. It can impact how people interact with each other and behave, without anyone being aware of it. This can lead to conflicts, tension, and affect the productivity and morale of the school. To address this, I always look out for specific traits when identifying a hidden culture, such as a lack of teacher support, presence of cliques, and lack of community involvement.

It is important to understand that every school you lead has its unique culture that shapes the values of the community and staff. It can be challenging to identify this hidden culture, but it has a profound impact on the school’s climate and students’ experience. A negative school culture can create a feeling of isolation and exclusion, leading to academic problems and less motivation to engage with studies. To create a positive school culture, it is essential to understand the contributing factors and address them through specific policies and initiatives.

In my experience, it’s crucial to start by looking at the school’s mission statement and curriculum to identify the hidden culture. Teachers can get clues from the resources available to understand the school’s hidden culture and how it can be changed. For instance, if the mission statement mentions “tradition” or “heritage,” it may indicate a focus on preserving the past, while a curriculum that promotes innovation and change may indicate an openness to new ideas.

I believe that a positive school culture is characterised by supportive relationships, a sense of belonging, and a collective commitment to the success of all students. To cultivate a positive school culture, you need to promote social and emotional learning, encourage student voice and leadership, and nurture a climate of respect. When everyone in the school community feels valued and connected, they are more likely to be motivated and invested in supporting the success of every student. A positive school culture can have transformative effects on the entire educational experience and that is something working hard for!

Author: Dr Jake Madden

Jake Madden (Dip Teach; B.Ed; Grad Dip: Leadership; M. Ed: Leadership; EdD; FACEL; MACE) Dr. Jake Madden is currently the Principal, St Edward’s Primary School, Tamworth. He has enjoyed a successful teaching and principal leadership career over the last thirty years building teacher capacity through the development of learning in the contemporary world, the promotion of flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and curriculum for global mindedness. Jake is a leader in the notion of teacher-as-researcher and is widely published in this area, authoring and co-authoring books and a number of journal articles showcasing his experiences and research into leading educational change.

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