A positive school culture and climate is no different than clean air and water. It is the basis for sustainable learning and preparation for the tasks and tests of life. Conversely, in a toxic school culture and climate, learning by all will not take place effectively, and what is learned may be sustainably negative and harmful. When a school is a positive place to be, people are happy to be there, do their best, and make their best better.- Maurice J. Elias

What would you hear if you did an audible audit of your school’s culture today?

I’ve been in my new school for roughly one month.  The climate here is electric.  As a digital literacy coach, I’m lucky to fill my daily calendar with conversations about wellness, innovation, creativity, goals, possibilities, and experiments. Occasionally, in schools, when we talk about new approaches or changing habits, the tone can feel tense.  That’s not how it feels here.  So what’s happening to shift the tone?

Alan Hudson Follow Shift

Alan Hudson Follow


A focus on learning.

That sounds too simple, right?

But a stubborn spotlight on learning reminds us that the journey is intensely personal, and the applications are remarkably public.  For more on that, read Jo Boaler’s account  of


If we want students to know we believe in them, it makes sense to rehearse that intrinsic trust with one another, our colleagues.

Boaler’s work prompted me to account for the single sentences that do the most to keep the spotlight in place, to honor learning beyond all else.

ONE: ‘Wanna borrow….?’

At our first coaches’ dinner,  we spent time guessing one another’s key strengths (see here for more).  First of all–what a lovely framing for a group chat, and a kind exchange of assumptions to have.  But the magic is, it didn’t end when the bill for the meal came.  A healthy school climate will be one where the inquiry is groomed and paid close attention to. Keep having conversations about one another, and about how we can best work together.

Two: ‘Just because we haven’t yet doesn’t mean we can’t’

The number of times I’ve heard this in a few weeks is perhaps my favorite thing about my new place of employment.  People are not weighed down by a misguided sense of ‘tradition.’  I have yet to hear anyone utter the incendiary ‘that’s the way things have always been done here.’   Your traditions are just that: yours, not that of the student body.  Education is not about sitting still. Great schools don’t fear change, rather, they are intentional about what needs to go, when, how, and why. There is no better way to enable an adaptive mindset than by cultivating it ourselves together as a collective institute.

Three: ‘I was talking to….’

And the same thing is true for leadership. Find something worth doing, find others to join in.

Merely begin.-Seth Godin (full post here)

Ideas love being shared. I constantly hear people exchanging them, passing them forward, giving credit to their sources. Teaching can either be an isolating profession, or it can be phenomenally social.  Great school leaders ensure it is the latter.  If teachers are excited about ideas, chances are students will be too.  Idea traffic is indicative of staff well-being.  When you sit around any group of teachers at your school do you hear horns blaring out of frustration, or do you hear the purring of multiple engines fully fueled?

Oleg Zaytsev Follow Semitransparente

Oleg Zaytsev Follow

Thanks to Flickr’s bank of CC Images for making this post a little bit better looking!


Oleg Zaytsev


Thomas Hawk

Sunday Driver