If we assume the ideas that we have outlined so far; that the nature of the communities in which our young people live and learn has enormous impact, how do we intentionally lead our communities to be authentic and effective?
What are some of the intentional cultural “norms” that we must develop in our schools?
I recently watched a promotional video for a Christian school which finished with this statement: “Come and visit our school so that you can feel the difference.”
What we “feel” when we visit a community is the culture of that community. If it’s a school, can we sense its purpose, what it values, how people are regarded?
Culture generally happens in three ways:
1. By default; in which case everyone just does their own thing and there is little, or no, coherence. Any cohesion happens almost by accident.
2. Or it happens by way of imitation; we’re a school so we do schooling like our neighbours; we adopt the proven practices of others.
3. Or it happens thoughtfully and intentionally; this is what we set out to be, therefore this is how we live and relate.
One of the major tasks of a school leader is to be an intentional culture shaper. Leaders create, develop, enhance, shape and reinforce culture. A community’s ability to shape its culture is determined by:
1. The strength of its belief and purpose and
2. its degree of intentionality.
So, the leader must be continually leading the community to understand WHY it exists, WHERE it is going and how people are loved and valued. There needs to be a clarity that students are being equipped to engage redemptively, with grace, in all aspects of life.
Leaders should have a positive and profound impact on the beliefs of the school community, as well as its convictions and culture, its vision and values.
Leaders in Christian learning communities must be keen students of the Scriptures. They must be helping the community to understand the Triune God and what He is like; to understand the innate dignity of every person as an image-bearer of the Creator. The leaders must help the community to have a clear vision of our world and what it is like and what it is meant to be.
The way the Leader articulates these truths shapes the way the school community thinks about God, humanity and the world. Intentional leaders who communicate with clarity, consistency, and courage in order to shape the culture are fulfilling a critical aspect of their responsibility.
Intentionally shaping the culture according to our Biblical Christian understanding will determine HOW things are done. Policies, pedagogy and practices will all be informed by the culture that we see as important. These practices, in turn, will reinforce the culture.