There are differences between school climate, which is the immediate condition, and school culture, the ongoing beliefs and traditions developed over time in the school community, writes longtime educator David Jakes, coordinator of instructional technology at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill.

The culture of a school is represented by its shared beliefs, its ceremonies, its nuances, the traditions and the things that make the school unique. School culture takes a great deal of time to create. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over years.

The climate of the school is represented by the immediate and current conditions that exist in the school. Many things can impact that, such as contract negotiations, a death of a faculty member, a state championship, perhaps a change in leadership.

Everyone associated with the school has the responsibility to contribute to the creation of a school’s culture, from the custodian to the community member. Everyone has the responsibility to contribute to the fundamental foundation of what the school is, how it functions, how it sustains itself and how it grows. Creating a school culture is always active, always ongoing and always a conscious consideration of leadership in everything it does. It’s a choice.

If you are interested in improving your school, add to the culture. Build the culture by adding things that create a uniqueness, that help kids grow as human beings, and that establishes and maintains the school as an essential and contributory member of its community.

You do that by first changing the climate of the school.

Because over time, the climate of the school informs the culture of the school. Over time, elements of a school’s climate can become part of its culture. Truly successful schools create the conditions that enable this to occur.

Of course, understanding this can help address how to build a school culture or how to add depth to an existing one in a positive way.

Here’s an example. Consider a 1:1 computer implementation. By adding computers, the learning climate of the school changes. Immediately. Students now have access to the information resources of the World Wide Web and can connect together as learners at any time and any place. These are two immediate impacts to the learning climate of the school, not to its culture.

The trick is to make the affordances of 1:1 technology part of what the school is and does — part of its culture.

Continue reading how to change school climate to improve school culture.

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