Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of culture and how it influences what we do. Recently, I’ve been inspired by Seth Godin’s podcast – Akimbo – in which he makes observations about our current culture and how we can choose to change it.
What is culture? It’s a story shared among a group of people. It’s the common values we hold and the goals we hope to achieve. In the words of Seth Godin, culture is saying, “This is what people like us do.” For too long, the story of school has been testing and ranking – because this is what schools traditionally do. And we’ve told ourselves that this is how it should be. This is the school that we knew as students. It’s how most educators were trained. We feel comfortable and confident doing what we’ve always done.
What if you want to change the culture? What if you aren’t happy with the current story of school? It isn’t easy to break away from what’s always been done, and to do something different – especially since it might not work! But, this work is already being done by many. Start by surrounding yourself with innovative educators who are changing the culture of school. Share a new story so that we can say, “This is what people like us are doing now.” Tell the story of what happens when we give students a voice – or when we abandon grades and test scores – or when we empower teachers as professionals. These stories must be shared and heard in order for the culture of school to change.
But, I can’t help but wonder…is it enough to change the culture of school? What if we could extend our influence beyond the school walls..and begin to shift the culture of the society around us? As I look through Twitter, I see many amazing stories of students and educators who are truly making a positive impact and trying to change the world for the better. Our economy and our society, however, is obsessed with more, rather than better. What are we preparing our students for? When teachers feel pressure to cover more content and assign more homework, and when students see perfect grades and a good college and a high-paying job as their end goal – we are contributing to the current culture of more. However, when teachers pose interesting problems and guide students to design meaningful solutions that will actually benefit others, and when students are willing to take risks and pursue difficult problems – then we are building a culture of better.