Nine Steps to Solve the School Culture Puzzle
Reviewed by Laura Von Staden
School culture is that underlying structure that charts the course of the school in many ways, but how do you build the culture that you want, or change the one you have? In this straightforward book, Hege and Dovico give us all the ingredients and ways to implement them to use culture to make our schools “Limitless.”
They use the metaphor of a Rubik’s cube to help us understand that there are many interconnected sides to school culture we must work with to strategically and deliberately solve the puzzle and drive our school in the direction we want.
Nine pillars of strong school culture
Throughout the book the authors use several acronyms and stories to help us internalize their information. They also break down the topics into smaller pieces and subtopics, thus making this complex material easily accessible and implementable.
They start with the nine pillars of a strong school culture, using the acronym LIMITLESS, then give us a chapter on each of the pillars, with specific steps to follow.
L = Leadership. We must teach our students leadership and give them opportunities.
I = Impressions. First impressions matter, whether you are a student or adult. Make them SPECIAL (shake hands, posture, eye contact, charm, introduce yourself, ask a question, lean in and listen).
M = Marriage. Yes, school culture is a lot like a marriage.
I = Integrity. Ho do we teach this in school?
T = Time.
L = Limelight. If the community doesn’t know about your good works, why will they support you?
E = Educate Yourself. Especially about your implicit bias.
S = SUCCESS. Not all measures are the best measures.
S = Set goals. They offer 20 goals as an ode to the 20 steps needed to solve the Rubik’s cube.
The authors focus on the importance of all stakeholders, highlight the reasons each of the pillars is vital to a successful school culture, and offer specific things that can be done to implement each pillar. They continually stress the importance of giving our students opportunities and practice in fulfilling our identity as a school.
Building a culture to be proud of
Educators do not enjoy the same recognition as athletes or public personalities. In fact, we are currently facing a time of societal devaluation at best. Even most of our parents only look at standardized test scores and state “grades” to determine the merit of a school.
Those of us in the education business know how inaccurate these ratings can be at times. We must build the schools that students and parents want to be a part of, that the community values and supports, and that all stakeholders are as proud of and as likely to associate with as their local sports teams,
Hege and Dovico give us a great handbook to do just that. As we grow a stronger school culture, families will want to move to/send their children to our school because there are usually fewer behavioral issues, teacher turnover problems, and yes, better test scores (because school becomes a desirable place to work and a community where we learn and participate).
All school administrators, district personnel and school board members need to read this book and support their schools in building a culture that will make them “Limitless.”
Dr. Laura Von Staden is currently a Middle School Gifted Math and Science teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees in her school district, works closely with the local university, and writes curriculum. She is also a professional development consultant, and previously served as an Exceptional Student Education Specialist and as a mentor.