Guest post: Hannah Turk
I recently attended EdCampNOVA in Leesburg, VA where two different counties were primarily represented by attendees. During one session I attended, we discussed how to create a positive culture in schools primarily among the staff. We had principals, lead teachers, tech coaches, and ‘normal’ teachers joining in with all of their different perspectives and input on this very important topic. It was interesting to hear all of the different points of view, especially the administrators, and what strengths and weaknesses they had seen in creating a positive learning environment for students and staff. Everyone had something to add from their role’s point of view.
The administrators were very honest...it really does start with admin. They set the tone with their attitude toward their teachers and toward growth. The importance of allowing a space for new ideas to be introduced and to potentially fail, and the attitude toward failure, was a common theme. If new ideas or difficulty are met with frustration or disappointment, teachers will feel discouraged moving forward and will in turn pass on those feelings to their students. A culture of growth and learning cannot thrive when mistakes aren’t allowed and anything new is disapproved of immediately. They know that they hold a lot of responsibility in making sure teachers feel supported and heard, and can facilitate the culture whether good or bad. It was pointed out by the admin present that a lot of thought goes into planning teacher teams, staff meetings, and how to keep lines of communication open between themselves and their staff. It seemed like the admin who were attending the Edcamp were trying to create positive cultures, and shared great ideas about what they do in their own schools to help encourage and support their teachers.
The teachers talked a lot about how to encourage a positive culture among students, including with parents. Parents are, of course, the other majority stakeholder in student’s educations, and education of their children is starting to look a lot different than their own education did. We talked a lot about the importance of communicating with parents from day 1 to make sure they understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. Keeping everything positive and being able to explain the rationale behind what we do goes a long way with parents. Education is such high stakes, and parents feel that just as much as teachers do, but the education world is changing in ways that parents don’t always see as clearly as teachers or administrators do. It is the job of teachers to make sure that parents understand that everyone is on the same team for the good of the child and keeping up with the ever-changing times. Only when everyone is on board together can students then learn in a positive environment.
Overall, teachers and administrators were able to share how to better create a positive culture of learning among their own staff and students starting with themselves. By being a force for good and a voice speaking over the negativity that may be surrounding you, you can make a change for the better in your own environment and encourage others to raise their voices as well to create a culture for change.
Hannah Turk graduated from Grove City College in 2016 with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. She taught 1st grade in Prince William County in Virginia and now is at home with only one student. She has presented at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference, as well as at Kappa Delta Pi Convention 2017. She is an avid attendee of Edcamps, including Edcamp Pittsburgh and Edcamp Department of Education, as well as one of the founding members of Edcamp Grove City College. She is also a co-moderator and team member of the international Twitter chat #NT2t (New Teachers to Twitter)