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Campus Culture Hacking: Part 1

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

The culture and environment of a school can positively or negatively impact students and teachers' success and overall well-being. The Texas Teachers Poll by the Charles Butt Foundation found that 77% of teachers seriously considered leaving the profession in 2022. Consider if almost three-fourths of our teachers left the field of education. Who would replace them? The data is alarming and should move us to act.

Have you heard the quote by the legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”? He is not saying strategy is unimportant – instead, a powerful and empowering culture is a clear route to organizational success. Think about how this relates to education. While academics are crucial and should be a top priority, the culture within a school deserves to be atop the list as well. When Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, he pointed out the importance of the human factor: you, your teachers, and your students. To improve student success, we first reflect on our mindset and beliefs about the power of our impact.

Ask yourself: Do I have the ability to affect or improve my campus culture? Hopefully, you answered yes. You have power and can shape the beliefs and behaviors of the people on your team. YOU are the culture, and YOU can make it better.

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”

- Edgar Schein, Model of Organizational Culture

Culture happens; whether you work on it or not, it is living and breathing like you and me. As educators strive to create meaningful and impactful educational experiences, there is a growing need for transformation. More schools are recognizing their immense responsibility and need to work towards feeding and reshaping their culture actively. The Texas Teacher Poll also revealed that 97% of teachers found that a positive work environment would encourage them to remain in their jobs. As leaders, we know the challenge and the solution: improve your campus culture by addressing the teacher and student experience. This is where the concept of Campus Culture Hacking comes into play. In this blog series, we will explore what culture hacking is and different ways to HACK your campus culture.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

- Confucius

What is Campus Culturing Hacking?

Culture hacking is a powerful approach with a BIG impact through small and intentional moves. Culture hacking will improve how your team problem-solves, responds to challenges, and treats each other, increasing student success. The good news is, you already have your secret weapon: it’s your staff! Growing and empowering your talent is the key to creating a more robust campus culture. Culture hacking is not a snack cart, big comfy chairs, or a jeans pass. These things are nice, but hacking is much more significant and impactful.

HACK #1: Hone in on Purpose

Reflect on these questions:

  • Do you know your school's vision and mission?

    • Your vision is why your school exists and its purpose.

    • Your mission is what your school does every day to achieve its vision.

  • Does your staff know the vision and mission?

  • How often is your school’s vision and mission communicated or referenced?

  • And the big question: Does your school’s work align with your school’s vision and mission?

The last question is where the purpose is front and center. Connecting your campus purpose to everyday work adds meaning and alignment to every task. As purpose takes root, it begins to influence thinking and creative problem-solving while culture moves from compliance to intentional work with your campus purpose in mind.

How do you Hone in on your Purpose to HACK your campus culture?

  1. Identify the status of your school’s vision and mission.

  2. Create systems to communicate your school’s vision and mission regularly.

  3. Connect purpose (vision/mission) with the work. See the example Campus Organizer below.

  4. When reflecting on new or old practices, ask, “How does this work align with our vision and mission?”

Example Campus Organizer

Remember that not much happens in isolation; positive impact happens when many things align successfully. Progress is achieved through small and intentional moves (hacks). In the next blog, we will explore more HACKS leaders can make to improve their campus culture.


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