Culture First

A theme that comes up in every school I work with, and again today:

Change at schools does not start with a shift in the daily schedule, the individuals in the room, the classrooms in which we teach, or a curriculum scaffold.  Those will come in time.  But first, change is about culture.  It is about an organization that has largely been focused for decades on the transfer of knowledge from teachers to students, shifting to an organization that is focused on learning how and what to be in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, and opportunity.

We have to learn that culture. We have to build both the comfort to exist in that culture and the capacity to make it work.  This happens through the processes of great learning that educators know better than anyone, including Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.  We have to get our hands dirty in the processes of innovative change.  This takes a bit of time and some bandwidth, and a minority of the folks in your school will not want to spend either.  Most will.  But if you don’t have the nutrients of culture, all of the seeds you plant are going to die, not matter how right they are in theory.

Don’t jump to solve the big problems you see until you know you have built some capacity for the seeds to actually grow.  Remember the logic model!! Culture starts with building backwards from the impact we want our school to have on students and the world, not arguing about minutes in the daily schedule.

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2 thoughts on “Culture First

  1. Mark Crotty

    As you know from our many interactions, I think you are right on target, Grant. I would add what I think is a key notion to your post–one that perhaps is obvious to anyone reading your work but still probably should be added. The nature of the right nutrients has changed dramatically, particularly since we should be cultivating different plants than we did just a short while ago. (Actually, I’m not sure that’s really changed. Maybe it’s just more urgent now, and we were able to get away with the easier work of just feeding those seeds information and calling it education.)

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    1. Grant Post author

      Thanks, Mark. I was just using that same terminology in a video chat with a group of teachers yesterday who were asking how they could accelerate change at their school. They were thinking about taking a state-wide mini EdJourney to see what other schools were doing. I suggested to them that they could bring back all of the wonderful seeds in the world, but if they did not have fertile ground and good nutrients back at their own school, the seeds would not grow as quickly or well as they might hope.

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