Review: School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess and Transform It

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School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess and Transform It by Steve Gruenert (@stevegruenert)and Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) was recommended as reading by my Board.

I was under no impression that the topic of “rewiring school culture” is easily solved nor did I think that reading this book would provide a fast and easy solution to creating the school culture that I want to work, learn and thrive in or the school culture I want our students to learn and thrive in. Gruenert and Whittaker clearly identified the issues that hold back true transformation and provided clear examples and resources to support those tasked with leadership in their district or school. Looking for an easy and foolproof, step by step as to how to re-culture your school? This isn’t it. Why? Because transforming the culture of a school is neither quick or easy.  If you are on a journey (it’s a marathon, not a sprint!) to change the culture of your school or organization, this book will point you in the right direction. It can’t provide you with a recipe but it will equip you with strategies to start and support the transformation process. A “Culture Rewired” can occur but it will take commitment, perseverance, grit and will be messy. Change is always messy, but our schools and our students and staff are worth the mess!

This book focuses on “culture”-how its defined, how it’s identified, how it’s created, and, most importantly, the power that is ingrained in the culture of each of our schools.

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culture

Are you a manager or are you leader?”

If leadership was easy everyone would do it. If leadership was easy books such as this wouldn’t need to be written, but leadership is hard. It takes risk. It challenges our thinking, our patience and our courage. Strong, effective leadership is key to providing the best learning environments for our students.

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This book provides readers with examples and resources to begin the journey on shifting a school’s culture. From identifying what type of culture(s) exist in your schools, to data gathering to strategies on engaging staff, this book will support you on re-culturing journey. This book doesn’t have all the answers because it can’t. Each school is unique and faces its own set of challenges, but what the book does message is that the challenges are not insurmountable and that true leadership can transform.Otherwise you are simply managing the school and letting the culture dictate for our students.

As Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1) presents in his book, The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, Fullan states that the role of the instructional leader must change in order for substantive, meaningful change that directly improving student learning will occur. It can no longer rest in the hands of one hierarchical individual. Fullan states that “That individuals do not change cultures very easily. In addition, you have to use the power of the group to change the group.” (Fullan,The Principal:Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, 29.) It is overwhelming and ineffective to think you can change the culture of a school all on your own. You need to gather the evidence, analyse the evidence (indirectly supporting student learning) and work with teams of teacher to move forward as a whole. Principals must support teacher capacity in the most effective ways to create the most spread of the focus he/she is trying to make with student learning/achievement within this culture of change.

The journey is long. The journey will be threatened with other obligations, and the school cultured previously entrenched, but the “School Culture Rewired” can happen with the resources that are provided. Grunert and Whittaker can’t give you specific textbook answers because the culture that dominates at each school is different, but the resources provided can assist you making the journey with the tools necessary.

I am optimistic that the an organization can change, if not tame, the powerful beast that is Culture and this book will serve as a guide for you as you undertake this worthwhile journey.

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