How do we ensure that changes of personnel have a positive impact upon a school culture, evolving the school ever more effectively towards achieving its core values?
A key aspect of answering this question is in the final part phrase of the question itself. Does a school have a clear vision of what its core values are? As Wiggins and McTighe commented in their 2007 book Schooling by Design "the academic leader's job is to ensure that the culture of the school is mission focused." Michael Fullan is also a highly influential writer in this area.
In my experience whilst many schools are actively committed to their mission statements there are still far too many schools in which the mission is simply something that hangs on the wall rather than a driving force of day to day learning.
To coin a phrase is it often something that is laminated rather than lived.
It seems to me that there are number of factors that need to be in place to ensure that school cultures are generative to allow new members of a school's community to add to the school's culture and legacy rather than constantly trying to alter it.
1) An agreed and clearly articulated view of what the school is trying to achieve. What qualities will students be developing in the school for the school to say that it is being successful for that student? In addition to the school's mission in IB schools the Learner Profile is an important central pillar of this discussion (see the Learner Profile Goal setting in the resource section)
2) Clearly articulated and easily accessible curriculum documents which embed the values of the school into the day to day learning
3) A core of shared pedagogy which are part of every teacher's practice.
4) Clear communications systems so that new members of a school community can rapidly understand the values of the school
5) A focus on the collaborative nature of school culture.
6) The importance of extra curricular activities, fun days, links with local charities etc to develop the school's traditions and sense of continuity.
I am interested to know what others would add (or may even subtract) from this list to ensure that everyone coming in new to a school is able to add to its legacy constantly improving student learning whilst avoiding the pit fall of rapid (and in many cases frequent) changes in direction. All to easily these rapid changes can lead to schools being trapped for years in a permanent implementation dip.
By the way if you would like to evolve Nanjing International School, the Head of Primary job is now advertised of the school's website. If you are interested in leadership within a school that embodies the type of education I write about in this blog I would strongly encourage you to apply before 25 September 2013.