School Culture

A Feelings Walking Tour: Surveying Your School Culture and Climate

March 24, 2014
Photo credit: Thinkstock

Take a walk through your building or workplace and attend to the feelings you have. No, not an actual walk -- a symbolic one. By so doing, you will learn a lot about the culture and climate of your school and some areas where action may be needed.

Close your eyes and picture yourself arriving at school, walking in, and moving from place to place over the course of a typical day. Pay attention to the entrance ways, what you see on the walls, the furniture and how it's arranged, and the main office. How welcoming it is?

Look in on classes, lunch and recess times, hallways and staircases, trailers and far-off wings of the building, meetings, extracurricular activities, after-school and evening events -- the entire gamut of what occurs on regular school days. Finally, imagine yourself preparing to leave and departing, and then open your eyes.

Now ask yourself some questions about what you experienced:

  • Where and when do you experience "positive" emotions such as pride, joy, and excitement?
  • Where and when do you experience "negative" emotions such as anxiety, frustration, and anger? Where do you experience both types of emotions?
  • Where do you detect harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying going on?
  • Where do you see the most student peer-to-peer, adult-to-student, and adult-to adult support?
  • What is happening in these places to cause these emotions?

Based on an activity from Building Learning Communities with Character: How to Integrate Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, this process can be done individually or with a team, grade level, department, or entire faculty, and can give you great insight about your school as a learning environment. It will tell you about places that need to be changed, as well as those whose good qualities need to be preserved and expanded.

Yet we know the path from insight to action is neither obvious nor easy. So there a couple of questions to ask yourself: What feelings are most likely to serve as catalysts for action in your setting and who are your allies in taking systematic and sustained action?

As a teacher, principal or staff member, how might you envision using this activity at your school? Please share in the comments section below.

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