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SAIS Div Heads Summer Institute 2019

Healthy vs. Unhealthy School Culture

SAIS Div Heads Summer Institute 2019Talented, Energized, Engaged Educators Change the World!

Last week in our professional development workshop at the SAIS Summer Institute for School Division Heads, we explored the difference between a healthy school culture that builds engagement and an unhealthy environment that limits growth.

This is a very valuable conversation for your school leadership team to work on together.

Engaged educators are the key to growing a school. They transform the lives of students, bring joy to school leaders, and just make the world a better place!

Engagement is reflected in the professional and personal commitment school employees have toward the school, its leadership and its goals. It's working for the mission rather than just the paycheck, with the willingness to expend discretionary effort (going the extra mile) for the benefit of the whole.

During this training experience in Clearwater Beach, we asked the participating administrators to make a list of characteristics they have found are common to a Healthy School Culture versus an Unhealthy School Culture.

Below is an abbreviated list of the numerous adjectives they developed:

Unhealthy Healthy
Cold & Guarded Warm & Open
Unhappy Joyful
Stagnant Alive
Fearful Safe
Suspicious Transparent 
Inconsistent Reliably Consistent
Selfish Generous
Impatient Helpful & Supportive
Frenzied Focused
Combative Collaborative


It's not hard to see how faculty and students would thrive in a healthy school culture, but what steps can you take to build that type of environment.

The culture of a school is the result of both personal and organizational habits.

Some habits are more important than others because they are a catalyst for stronger relationships. Here are three simple daily habits that will spark a healthier school culture.

The habit of smiling makes a huge impact on relationships. This simple act leads people to feel more joyful. Smiling on purpose changes brain chemistry and sets a tone for trust. "Most smiles are started by another smile"--Frank A. Clark

Arrive Early
Consistently being early is a professional habit that builds on core values of respect and preparation. It's also a great model for students to follow. "If you're not 5 minutes early, you're 10 minutes late."--Vince Lombardi

Write a thank you note
The habit of gratitude is extremely impactful because we want the faculty and families to know we value their contributions to the mission. Saying Thank You is more than just a social nicety--it reassures others and encourages positive behaviors. “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” —Maya Angelou

The impact of genuine servant leadership is clear:

  • Engagement of faculty and families is critical for your school's success
  • Engagement is maximized through a culture of servant leadership
  • Consistent Servant Leadership is the result of personal habits and organizational habits

Spend some time with your leadership team (e.g., on a Leadership Retreat) to identify the habits that you want to consistently cultivate throughout your campus. Then create a plan for training, accountability and measurement. Let us know if you need some guidance on this.

The Feedback on our professional development program for the
SAIS Division Heads was quite enthusiastic!

"You gave me a lot to think about and discuss with my other division heads that will be critical to where we go from here. These sessions were invaluable and provided relevant information that I can go back and turn into actionable plans."

"The School Growth team has practical experience and research-based ideas! I gained tangible takeaways that I could implement upon returning to school."

"I appreciated the relevant information and strategies that I could immediately put into practice with my leadership team."

"You helped me think about the direction our leadership is currently heading and provided tools to examine where we need to go."

"This training was PRICELESS!"

Listen to the School Growth podcast

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