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A manager or a principal's environment is made up of continuously changing aspects, both externally and internally, that affect the process of the organization. All outside aspects, directly and indirectly, influence the school culture. I mean by direct influence when the environment has an immediate impact such as, Ministry of Education's rules and policies, and indirect influence, such as, sociocultural (demographics and values), political, and economical that vary from one school to another because of its nature, whether it is private or public, or whether it is located in wealthy or needy neighborhood. "Public and private schools have different institutional environments, as reflected in their varying sizes, levels of bureaucratization, breaths of curricula, and type of governance." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p.288) Therefore, the achievement of school advance labors depend on the opportunities and relationships that principals develop outside and inside the school, and affects not only the principals' success but also the success of teachers as well as students. "Effective principals often behave differently depending upon the school context in which they are working" (Collard, 2004, p.51). "Because external environments can threaten organizational autonomy and effectiveness, administrators often try to minimize external effects on internal school operations." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p.287) Principals may have same experiences, standards and dreams, but the key point of their essential success as principal vary upon how efficient they are in attaining students needs in a specific school district. Furthermore, the community of the school which includes parents, political and economical factors can also influence what is valued at school. Thus, among many principal's responsibilities, I will stress on the importance of the principal in shaping the influence of the external environment into student's attainment through the management of value within the school, the cultivation of a mutual work environment with teachers, and the nurturing of "reflective practice" process.
Brief Description of the Field Project:
The final field project that was assigned to us was about interviewing a school principal on a specific topic related to what we have learnt during the course. So, I decided to choose a public school located in a sensitive region and discover the influence of the external environment on the school's culture and how the principal deals with it. I took the appointment and I went to the school. The first thing that caught my attention how clean and quiet the school was. In addition, while I was moving up from one floor to another to reach the principal's office, a hanged on quotations sparkled my perceptions of the school's climate. All the quotations were in Arabic, such as,
("Ù„Ø ØªÙ‚Ù… Ø¨Ø¹Ù…Ù„ ØªØ³ØªØ Ù…Ù† ØÙ„Ø¨ÙˆØ Ø¨Ù‡ Ø¹Ù„ØÙ†ÙŠØ©" , "Ù…Ø¯Ø±Ø³ØªÙŠ Ù„Ø ØªØ³ØªÙ‚Ø¨Ù„ ØÙ„Ù…Ø¨ØªØ¯Ø¦ÙŠÙ† Ø¥Ù„ØÙ‘ Ù„ØªØ¬Ø¹Ù„ Ù…Ù†Ù‡Ù… Ù…ØªÙÙˆÙ‚ÙŠÙ†" and "ØÙ„Ø¹Ù„Ù… ÙŠØ±ÙØ¹ Ø¨ÙŠØªØÙ‹ Ù„Ø Ø¹Ù…ØØ¯ Ù„Ù‡ Ùˆ ØÙ„Ø¬Ù‡Ù„ ÙŠÙ‡Ø¯Ù… Ø¨ÙŠØª ØÙ„Ø¹Ø² Ùˆ ØÙ„Ø´Ø±Ù")
Consequently, I thought that principal as well as teachers' first concern is not only the subject matter and the curriculum but also the importance to create and preserve a learning climate that is resistant to the adversities of the external environment. When I reached the third floor in order to find the principal's office, I found the principal in the teachers' room trying to help a substitute teacher by explaining to her the material to be covered. She was very welcoming and always smiling. Her office is very humble, organized and clean, surrounded by two others desks belonging to her assistants. Thus, I felt in a very comfortable and friendly environment.
School: It is a public school located in Furn El Chebback, Beirut; it is a building from three floors, which embrace English and French section. The English section, from where I collected information, is in the third floor. Even though it is a small school, where 184 students are enrolled from grade 1 till grade 9, it is considered the biggest one in that region. In addition to 184 students, there are 24 employees including teachers, assistants and principal.
Principal: The principal used to be a teacher in the same school, and she is a principal for 10 years now.
One of my intentions from the interview was to talk about positive and negative influences that the school environment offer to the school, but unfortunately, according to the principal, no positive aspects were present. With a mocking tone she said that The Furn-El-Cheback Municipality for example, did not offer to them any financial support since two years even though many letters were sent asking for help and that because the school's physical location is considered between both, Furn-El-Cheback and El_Chiyah Municipality. So, neither them are taking the school under its support. In addition, she continued and with the same ironic accent that the Ministry of Education who supposedly nourishes public schools, is not even nurturing the school's needs at a certain point they could not afford to assign a French teacher this year. "What is the intention of the Ministry, is it to diminish the public schools?", "Is it because of the endowments of Saudi Arabia to the public schools that parents and The Ministry of Education are becoming dependent?" The principal asked. Saudi Arabia is donating 100,000 LBP every year for each student in the public school including books. According to the principal, the major problem arose here, because parents' financial participation decreased from 50,000 LBP to 45,000 LBP, and as Saudi Arabia promised to give new books, no one wanted a second hand book; therefore, they waited till Christmas to have the books, because due to the load, the print press could not finish on time. After all, as the principal said our single obstacle is financial and it is related to external outcomes, but we as one of the essentially important facets of school climate, we nurture relational in order to develop positive feelings to one another in school and to community.
Indoors Duties and Missions
School's Climate and Culture
"Despite financial obstacles, our school is considered the best in this region" The principal arrogantly said. When the parents seek Ministry of Education's advice to enroll their children in a public school in Chiyah-Furn El Chebak region, the recommendations flood to them. For instance, even though many students with a low passing entrance grade enter the school, their passing rates in the official exams are always above average, and this is caused by the efforts given by the teachers and the principal. In addition, even though the school is located in a sensitive region and it embraces multiple religious convictions (Christians, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze), teachers and principal are continuously guiding and directing students to adapt a respectful and brotherhood attitudes among each others. What it is surprisingly, students protect each other's mistakes, and feel as one division. Nonetheless, the only hard obstacle faced us was in 2007 during the strike period in Beirut Down Town, but with teachers' companion perseverance, we defeated the unwanted barriers. Finally, she ended by saying "If you would enjoy the fruit, cultivate the flower"
Principal's Role and Vision
Being supportive, cooperative and professional, are the principal's trigger behaviors toward a successful school. In contrast, authoritarian principal is far away from her ethics, she discourages overwhelming power and having her own cliques. Her golden rule is to build genuine relationships based on trust, respect and affirmation. Furthermore, she considered that creating successful learning environment despite any obstacles and teaching facilities, would be by learning new teaching practices, in attending pedagogical sessions that demonstrate how teachers can promote an atmosphere that is conducive to dialog and questioning. As well as keeping on supporting the development of social and civic knowledge. For example, a student's father once came to show gratitude to the principal with jubilant face, he was very happy when his sun changed from being rude and disrespectfully to polite. That what the principal considered to be a unique school, unique by not only finishing the curriculum and achieving students' learning success but also by building respectful and ethical ones. At the end, the principal released an exhilaration appreciation because it was an occasion to express her inner thoughts and feelings.
No organization can survive in segregation; any interaction is influenced by its environment. Schools for example, for decades they have been internally affected by the external environment in various, diverse and complex ways." Because school organizations are conceptualized as part of a large universe or environment...anything that happens in the larger environment may affect schools." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p. 256) Therefore, the more the school environment is encouraging, the better its performance will be, and vice versa. For example, attitudes and beliefs, the positive or the negative, of the persons are reflected both inside the school and in the external environment. Attitudes and beliefs are not falling from the sky, but rather from teachers and students' social class background." The larger social, cultural, economic, demographic, political, and technological trends all influence the internal operations of schools and districts." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p. 256) Therefore, in the interview, my intention was on how political and economic forces or any social changes can influence positively or negatively what is valued at school, but rather the interview mainly took the negative aspects of the external environment and how it is viewed from the principal' eyes.
First, an essential facet of the external environment has always been the relationship with the school and government. Generally, public schools are governmentally dependent through the Ministry of Education, where financial resources and policies are created and within which schools must operate. "Because greater percentages of their budgets are supplied by the state, the dependence of school districts on state governments grows dramatically." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p.261) Moreover, because of this dependency, schools cannot achieve their goals without the acceptance and the resources that are controlled by the government. For example, the principal that I interviewed said that the Ministry of Education who supposedly nourishes public schools, is not even nurturing the school's needs at a certain point they could not afford to assign a French teacher this year. Above all, the principal added, because the Ministry of Education and the Municipality are relying on the Saudi Arabia's endowments, they are totally ignoring their needs. "With this power, supplying organizations have two general means of control - deciding whether the schools get the resources they need and determining whether the schools can use the resources the way they want." (Froosman, in, Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p. 261) Therefore, even though the principal's attitude toward the government's behavior was very sarcastic, it did not reflect on the internal relationships, in contrary, principal, teachers and students were cooperative, helpful and working as one hand. And that's what I felt from the first impression I had while I was at school. "As organizations become increasingly dependent on their environment for securing resources, they require and tend to exhibit more flexible and adaptive structures that are more informal, less standardized, and decentralized."(Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p. 261) Finally, as Katzenbach & Smith said "Overcoming barriers to performance is how groups become teams."
Second, School culture exists not only inside the school, but also outside the school's walls. Every action taken externally as internally sends a message. Teachers and students' social class background plays a major role in influencing the school success because of the aggregated effects of how students connect or communicate to each other as a group despite their religious diversity. "Many student of color and some Euro-American students perceive schools to be racist and prejudiced; from the staff to the curriculumâ€¦Students have an intense interest in knowing about one another's culture." (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 2002, p.317) For instance, the principal's school is located in a sensitive region and it embraces multiple religious convictions (Christians, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze), the only hard obstacle faced them was in 2007 during the strike period in Beirut Down Town, yet through norms and standards that teachers and principal are continuously transmitting, students adapt a respectful and brotherhood attitudes among each others, besides protecting each other's mistakes, and feeling as one division. "Norms and standards can be identified by examining what behaviors get rewarded and what behaviors get punished in the school." (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 2002, p.321) Accordingly, outside factors play an essential role as equal as to the internal requirements of the learning environment that focus on student and staff relationships. In that, the principal's role is considered as the trigger in balancing between both internal and external elements into a rational and adapted environment.
Finally, the principle role and vision in managing the environment depends on nurturing a productive staff work environment. But managing the environment indicates that principals should possess a strong personality and should be a strong external leaders. Because, "One must understand those who lead are necessarily powerful people because power is the basic energy for initiating and sustaining action that translates intention into reality when people try to work collaboratively." (Owens, 1998, p.200) They need to operate as the link to those outside the school and advocate the school's interests. However, the principal of the public schools is managing using "the power of those who command" Because "who occupy official positions in the hierarchy of an organization exercise vested authority, which is the legitimate right to command." (Owens, 1998, p.200) Therefore, she did not have a full power to achieve or to expand her vision. She is playing a role of a bit of everything. She is not an authoritarian principal such as giving orders without questioning, or building ingratiating spirits, rather she supports the system of ideology, which "is the set of informal agreements among teachers about the school and its relationships to other groups that emerge as the organization develops its culture." (Hoy & Miskel, 2008, p.230) Her golden rule is to build genuine relationships based on trust, respect and affirmation. In addition, she encourages teachers to keep on progressing by attending additional courses in order to satisfy their needs, and to keep on the good spirit. "Transformational leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower." (Owens, 1998, p.210) Finally, what the principal considered being a unique school is not only by finishing the curriculum and achieving students' learning success but also by building respectful and ethical ones. That's why her extremely success was when a student's father once came to show gratitude to the principal with jubilant face, he was very happy when his sun changed from being rude and disrespectfully to polite. Ultimately, as John Maxwell said "A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position."
To sum up, managing the external environment of the school is mainly blended with the interrelationships work inside the school. Schools that can develop a supportive and nurturing work environment have a better position to manage it than the other schools. In addition, the role of the principal should be able to assist improvement while at the same time displaying on how changes can influence staff and students. To succeed on a broad range, school-based progress schema has to be supplemented by a joint effort to create more promising economic, social, and political conditions that will provide all schools a better chance to manage the external environment. Otherwise, the principal can make a difference only by putting people first. "Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them." John Maxwell.