Saturday, September 3, 2016

May the Forces Be With You

Ron Ritchhart CREATING culture OF thinking—The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools

I have been thinking a lot about culture in the mist of our school improvement journey. If you investigate the meaning of culture, Merriam-Webster’s simple dictionary definition indicates it is “a way of thinking, behaving, or working in a place or organization.” Applying this description to a to school setting, the way we think, behave, or work in our schools defines our culture.

School improvement is tricky. There are systems to establish and routines to be developed and changes everywhere. Learning is at the core of improvement for students, teachers, staff, and the principal. At the core of this school principal’s learning is the importance and value of our school culture. It isn’t that I was unaware of the value of school culture, it just was not on initial “list” of my never-ending to do’s during the beginning stages of our work.

Ron Ritchhart’s book Creating cultures of thinking was recommended to me by a wise friend. He clearly defines culture as the key to transformation in our schools. The way we think, behave, and work together defines us. Ritchhart identifies “eight forces we must master to truly transform our schools” and provide the optimal learning environment for our students and their future.  These forces that allow the often hidden curriculum of culture to become visible include:

         the expectations we have for our students,
the language we use,
the time we spend focused on learning,
how we model ourselves as thinkers and learners,
the opportunities we give our students to do the same,
how we establish learning routines,
the listening and questions interactions we create for collaboration, and
the environmental learning space we create for students.

All of these foundational practices of culture are imperative to school improvement work. Although another trusted colleague warned me not to do too much too fast. Collectively we are heeding that advise and I would encourage others schools do the same. Each learning community must collectively determine where they are at and where to begin.

I haven’t thrown away my to-do list. I understand the school improvement journey will always require a list that will never be complete no matter how much I organize or fine tune it in Trello. Although the list in now embedded with purposeful opportunities to collectively build strong changes in our cultures of thinking.

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