Why is school culture top of mind for teachers around the country?

July 13, 2018  

The 100Kin10 Teacher Forum is the vehicle that enables 100Kin10 to infuse the priorities and work of the network with what STEM teachers are experiencing “on the ground” in their schools across the country. Members of the Teacher Forum hold listening session with their local STEM teaching communities and share back with us what STEM teachers are hearing, seeing, and experiencing in the field.

We used multiple criteria when we selected the school culture catalysts as the issue area that we are committed to driving attention and progress against, and one of the biggest factors was what we had heard from our Teacher Forum members. The school culture catalysts are: (1) professional growth during the school day, (2) opportunities for teacher collaboration during the school day, and (3) school leader responsibility for creating positive work environments. The need for a school culture that nurtures positive teaching and learning conditions for adults and children crosses school walls and state lines and exists in the most urban and most rural of settings - and it is a critical component to student achievement.

(Catalysts are the highest-leverage challenges across the Grand Challenges system, and thus the most strategic places to intervene. Read more about them and the selection of the school culture catalysts as a focus area here.)

Our decision to focus on the school culture catalysts was further endorsed during our most recent virtual session with Teacher Forum members. During “Share-Out Calls” members report back to the group what they heard from their fellow teachers during local listening sessions. Here are four snapshots from the conversation that shed further light on how teachers are experiencing these issues.

1. A sign of a strong school culture is continuous learning and experimenting, for both students and teachers. School leaders play a critical role in creating these environments, especially through their investment in teachers’ professional growth.

“If [teachers at my school] had a magic wand … mindsets would be changed from fixed to growth for teachers, students, parents and administrators.”

2. Not all professional development is created equal. Professional development needs to be relevant to a teachers’ growth goals and needs and infused into their daily professional duties; it also needs to help them stay current on what’s happening in the STEM fields. To achieve this, teachers need a seat at the table to help make decisions about their professional development and learning.

“A lot of teachers have tried to voice what meaningful PD is to them … but the same stuff keeps getting scheduled over and over again. They’re not getting what they need and so there’s no advancement, in their opinion, in delivery and outcome in their courses.”

3. Teachers are quick to point out that, in addition to more structured professional development, they need time to practice what they are learning and reflect, both individually and with their colleagues. Activities like grappling with student work and data as a team of teachers is key to improving instructional practices.

“We need time to reflect on the learning and see how to adapt it to students’ needs.”

4. Time is one of the biggest challenges all teachers face, leaving little opportunity for collaboration with other teachers and meaningful reflection on their practice and ultimately taking away from the kind of school culture that nurtures strong instructional practices and quality student learning.

“The biggest challenge for everyone across the board was time. Nothing compared to time as a challenge.”

Teachers that are empowered as professionals to experiment with their practice and continue to grow through meaningful professional development and teacher-driven collaboration have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to stay in the classroom. As a key lever for change, 100Kin10 is focused on mobilizing our network to catalyze progress around school culture. Learn more about how we’re collaboratively working to make lasting change here.

How are you taking action on school culture? Let us know by tweeting to us at @100Kin10.