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What kind of a school culture should teachers aim to build? What is needed for this to happen?

Teachers are creators, authors and holders of a culture at school. Yer, is it possible to keep this culture alive and co-held by students as well as the new teachers who come in?
If schools and teachers want an atmosphere of open, active learning and create a space for questioning, thinking together and growing together, what would be needed to build this?
Is is not necessary for teachers of a school as a community to have a common understanding, a common sense of the spirit of school and education?
How can teachers make this happen? That is, if school is to be a place free of fear, a place of leisure and a place for active growth and learning.....?

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    Jun 6 2013: This idea of creating learning communities gets a great deal of attention in the research literature on education and in programs that train teachers and school administrators. How well "best practices" are implemented varies greatly, though. Some teachers have a gift for creating a positive culture in the classroom, and some administrators do this well at the school level, but other schools and classrooms are unsuccessful in this respect.

    The two resources that come to mind immediately if you want to pursue this subject in depth are Bransford's How People Learn, which summarizes the research on what works to promote student learning, and Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, which is a compilation of papers on the same subject, including case studies. Search terms might include "building learning communities."

    It is indeed useful for teachers and administrators to have a common understanding, but any teacher can improve her students' dispositions to engage with material and learn by creating such a culture in her own classroom, even if the teacher next door teaches differently. Fortunately learning does not depend on everyone in the building being of a like mind, as people tend not to have consistent beliefs and preferences from one to the next. Further, different students learn better in different environments, so if everything were delivered in a uniform way, some students might fall through the cracks.

    A simple example is that many students learn best when engaging with others as they work, so a classroom organized around this sort of pedagogy has an almost constant buzz. Others prefer to work independently in a room that is absolutely quiet.
    • Jun 7 2013: Thank you for your detailed response and the two resources... I am not really looking at research... This is a real question. When I say 'culture' I am refering to student culture, to the way we hold each other as colleagues; of course it does include the classroom (how can it not). You are right wehn you say that learning does not depend on everyone being of a like mind... But consistency, for instance, is needed isn't it... or at least acknowledged and negotiated inconsistency!

      In most schools the roles of teachers and administrators is separated.... I wonder what if it weren't? What if teachers ran schools as if it were theirs and .......?
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        Jun 7 2013: Here we often have things called "building leadership teams" that consist almost entirely of teachers as well as procedures in which certain kinds of proposals must be ratified by teachers.
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        Jun 10 2013: I think this is one of the reasons that schools have gone downhill. For some reason people started modeling schools like businesses or governments. Why? Effective learning is all about each and every day-to-day learning opportunity and is not some kind of industrial system where we try to get things down the assembly line as fast and as uniform as possible.
        Yes, there are certain skills that need to be taught in a way that is repetitive and sometimes mindless. Like, take for example learning to write and do other kinesthetic tasks. Learning how to communicate ideas to the people around you and how to ask questions and learn from the people and the environment around you, however, is something that requires a much different approach then what many schools are doing now.
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    Jun 10 2013: Everybody has a natural curiosity and hunger to learn new things. Students are told that they need to learn in order to get the things that they want in life and so they get the idea that learning is some sort of "task" that you have to check off your to-do list in life in order to get to where you want to be instead of a lifelong journey that can be enjoyed and built upon.
    With the structure of school where you have to go to school for a certain number of years and where you have to pass certain benchmarks, this to-do list sequencing of the learning process is reinforced even further.
    I don't want to say that school should not exist. If school was changed into more voluntary club-type organizations that students could be a part of and actually enjoy, then it would be a lot more beneficial.
    Obviously, people do enjoy learning. I mean look at all of the TED enthusiasts there are.
    Some people have the wrong idea about learning. It is NOT work, it is play. Yes, it is a challenge, but isn't play all about challenges?
  • Jun 5 2013: If people can think about this question, then schools can be places that really bring out responsible, thinking and free individuals.
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      Jun 5 2013: Akhila, at least here in the United States, there are limits to what teachers can do inside the schools.
      You might want to Search the Conversations on TED and read some of the information many of the educators have shared regarding schools, not only here, but worldwide.
      • Jun 7 2013: Here too, in India, most school teachers have no say in the culture, the curriculum and even methodology and testing.... But, if you wre to dream, Mary, what would you like to see? Thanks for your response.
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          Jun 7 2013: If I were to dream, I would have a classroom that was in close proximity to nature, with alot of windows all around.
          I would involve my students in plenty of hands on science inquiry and experimentation.
          We would take field trips every month to discover something wonderful within our community that related to something we had studied in class.
          We would take leisurely strolls after our lunch break.
          We (teacher + students) would clean up our own classroom.
          I would visit each child in their home, and be on a first name basis with their parents, and each student would also know where I lived and visit me at will.

          Learning would be enjoyable, and we would dig deep into one subject at a time.....never in a rush to cover material in a certain allotment of time.

          School would be a true delight............You asked me to dream didn't you??