The Impact On Culture

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In education today principals face many daunting tasks from both the academic and personnel side of the job. When looking at schools, culture is the foundation and building block of the environment. Several authors have theorized that leadership plays an important role in creating an empowering environment, one that is positive and motivating, one that promotes self-determination and self-efficacy" (Davis & Wilson, 2000, p. 340). Although there may be many demands that a principal must meet, how he/she responds to these pressures has direct impact upon the culture (Connor, 2000).

           Different researchers have varying ideas about what defines culture within the school. According to Brown (2008), "School culture is defined differently, but it generally refers to the values, practices, and actions of any particular school community, including the students, teachers, administrators, and related stakeholders, such as parents" (p. 2). The purpose of this research study will focus on the behaviors and practices of the administrators. The principal's role is a compelling influence, whether it is negative or positive in the day-to-day interactions of teachers (Hurren, 2006). Therefore, it is the principal's chief responsibility to create and promote a positive atmosphere (Whitaker, 2003).

           This review of literature will focus on teacher motivation, job satisfaction and problem solving methods that positively impact school culture. The research will also examine the factors that lead to positive principal interactions and communications with staff.

It is not the teachers, or the central office people, or the university people who are really causing schools to be the way they are or changing the way they might be. It is whoever lives in the principal's office (Barth, 1976, p. 10).

Although each principal may view his/her role differently, the impact will directly affect the school's distinctive culture (Gordon and Patterson, 2006).

Literature Review

Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction

           Teacher motivation is the key component to successful job performance.  Some administrators have a true understanding of what truly motivates their teachers (Diamantes,  2004). Motivation inspires one to have a passion and drive for the task that they are performing. When dealing with children's education there is no room for mediocrity. Respect between the teacher and the principal must be a two-way street.  Being treated with respect and dignity allows teachers to build trust in their administrators (Blase & Blase 2004). Teachers need to know and understand that their administrator is someone whom they can confide in both personally and professionally. Developing a relationship at this stage enables teachers to gain a higher level of motivation and satisfaction in educating the students. If a teacher feels valued he/she will be more likely to exceed the minimum required everyday duties. They will have an intrinsic motivation to insure that all students are successful. Educators want to feel valued and needed, but also understood as a human being (Connors, 2000).  They need to be wanted and feel that they are an essential and vital asset to the school.

When looking at individual situations a principal should consider how their decision could empower the teacher and inspire them to take the lead. This gives the teacher a vested interest in all aspects of the school's success.  It allows the educator to have voice in decision making and the process of carrying out those decisions. "The principal gets trust from the staff because of the responsibility he gives the staff to perform leadership" (Presthus, 2006, p. 97). They have the shared authority to determine and analyze challenges that the school may face, as well as offer resolutions to address these issues. Granted there will be times that executive decisions must be made; however allowing teachers to be a part of the decision-making process increases job satisfaction (Reynolds and Warfield, 2010).  The educator to feels that their input was heard, valued, and considered; whether or not the principal agrees with the teacher's decision. It is a matter of allowing the stakeholder to have input and provide professional growth (Davis & Wilson 2000). This process of shared decision making is a more recent idea that has gained popularity throughout education over the past few decades (Zembylas & Papanastasiou, 2005).  It allows for intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and acts as a good example to all members of the staff. Teacher empowerment is described by Davis and Wilson (2000) "…as a major way to make teachers more professional and to improve their performance" (p. 349).

Although navigating challenges within the school can be difficult, nurturing a team building environment allows for the administrator's leadership style to grow and branch into new avenues (Gordon & Patterson, 2006). Including all stakeholders is an essential process that administrators must use to help establish collegiality within the school. This team effort provides intrinsic motivation and increases productivity in the educators that you lead (Gougeon & Hutton 1993). An increase in efficiency will directly correlate to an improvement in student success (Gabriel, 2005). This high level of student achievement will result in a domino effect of positive teacher motivation and job satisfaction.  According to Gordon and Patterson, "Leadership is not quality of particular individual but rather a relational process that takes place over time and in particular settings" (p. 224). These relationships will not be built overnight, but will take time and devotion on the administrator's part. It will require that the principal recognize the importance of team building and the direct parallel it has to affecting the school culture.   

Promoting a positive school environment begins with establishing and planning a vision and translating that into a mission that is shared by all stakeholders (Dunning, 2009). In order to accomplish this you must engage the staff and the community.  Dedication from all participants is imperative when constructing a positive working environment, which relates directly to teacher job satisfaction. To establish this commitment the administrator must understand the educator's viewpoint. The teacher's beliefs and values drive their motivation and give them ownership of the vision (Williamson & Blackburn, 2009).     

Administrators no longer are an entity unto themselves, but yet a partnership among colleagues (Robertson, 2009). The tone that the administrator sets in the climate is directly related to their job satisfaction and willingness to participate with the administrator's goals for the campus. "It is obvious that the administrative climate in the school is key to teacher job satisfaction" (Xiaofu and Qiwen, 2007, p. 74). Promoting a collaborative working environment is a key element that sets the tone for the culture and climate.

Problem Solving to Improve School Culture

    There are many different factors that have an impact on the school culture. These aspects must be addressed by administration in order to maintain an effective and positive working environment.  One example would be the pressure put on teachers by the enormity of state mandated testing. Administrators, school districts, parents, and community members have high, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations of the teachers.  If pressures such as these are not reduced then teacher satisfaction would decrease (Fuming & Jiliang, 2008).  This is just one of the many issues that can arise that the principal must manage. Ignoring such obstacles would directly affect the school culture.

           One of the chief complaints made by teachers today is their high level of stress in the workplace. Their expectation is for principals to respond to their stress rather than react negatively to it (Connors, 2000).  They desire an administrator to be thoughtful in their decisions and address their needs professionally. Sometimes, however, teachers desire a human touch when their stress is personal not professional. One way to relieve stress is to implore humor in the workplace. Laughter is a medically proven to be healthy by increasing oxygen to the lungs and adrenaline to the body. This in turn can help teachers reduce your stress level and also feel that their principal is a human being, not just the boss. This is especially important since administration is considered the main source of teacher anxiety and tension. The only thing one must t be aware of when using humor, is that it can cause unnecessary distraction if used in excess (Hurron, 2006).

           The administrator should also focus on what type of leadership is successful with the staff that he or she employs. It must be considered whether or not an administrator should change their style of leadership to "fit" the campus (Gordon & Patterson, 2006). Sometimes it is necessary to transition from an instructional leader to a learning leader to build collegiality.  A leadership style change can be the most effective benefactor to a positive culture (Hall, Rutherford, Hord & Huling, 2002).  Administrators should not go into a school with a preset agenda not knowing the needs of the students and staff. This attitude leads to resentment and is not conducive to building a positive school environment. Educators desire leadership not dictatorship (Gordon & Patterson, 2006). According to Gabriel (2005), "...the overall climate needs an injection of professionalism grounded in sympathy and compassion" (p. 103).  Studies have found that leaders who are willing to step out and support staff in their personal situations have found staff to be more supportive of their leadership (Day, Harris & Hadfield, 2001). This includes taking on additional responsibilities as a compensation of the support (Connors, 2000). Other staff members view this action as a positive influence on the school and a benefit to the students.  

           Another dynamic that must be addressed is workplace aggression due to inflexible and unsupportive administrators or other staff members. There are many factors that can lead to hostility among staff, such as, bullying, petty tyranny, emotional abuse, negative culture, and low staff morale (Base & Blase, 2004). Teachers are daily overburdened with daunting task that include, grading, instructing, lesson planning, communication with parents, meetings, and many other jobs that are associated with being an educator. Sometimes principals do not realize that they are adding to teacher's stress level by using negative motivations, praising them when it is meaningless and unspecific, not improving their working conditions such as resources and materials, and not addressing staffing issues like staff turnover (Gougen & Hutton, 1993).  An effective instructional leader could be viewed as resources, someone who can be sought for advice and one that is eager to share ideas with others (Gabriel, 2005). All of the aspects contribute and foster anxiety, stress and tension on a teacher's already heavy workload.

  Another area of concern for principals' is low staff morale. There are many contributing factors that can lead to this happening on a campus. There is evidence showing culture can change and that transformation can result in a reduction of staff turnover and increase staff satisfaction (Brown, 2008)."People with low morale tend to see obstacles as potential opportunities for failure, while people with high morale see obstacles as challenges that need to be solved" (Mackenzie, 2004, p. 93). Understanding the implications of morale allows administration to properly address the situations to limit the impact on the students and staff (Mackenzie, 2004).

Factors that Lead to Positive Interactions and Communications with Staff

Communication and interaction between staff members and administrators are vital to the success of the school (Brown, 2008). . Although there are many forms of communicating, administrators must be aware of what works best at their school and what is well received by their staff. One study discuss how a principal used a ten to fifteen minute meeting every morning to communicate current information that he/she need to share (Presthus, 2006). This exchange and interaction is necessary to keep staff member abreast on anything new and pertinent to their job. When there is a lack of collaboration the system of communication breaks down (Brown, 2008). Teachers rely on their leaders for guidance and the rapport that they build with their principal is the foundation for a good working relationship.

Principals sometimes assume that teachers know what they expect and that is not the case. There can even be a difference in reception of expectations based on the gender of the staff member. Everyone interprets communication differently and that must be considered by the administrator (Gougeon & Hutton, 1993). It is the responsibility of the administrator to correspond with the teachers and directly outline what they anticipate.

It is important for leaders to communicate clearly on their vision and their expectations and, at the same time, stimulate and value teacher initiative, and provide support and feedback.  This requires flexibility and efforts to gain commitment and participation from teachers in order to shape a culture in which they are committed to the mission of the school and prepared to work to achieve the shared goals (Engels, Hotton, Devos, Bouckenooghe & Aelterman, 2008).

To have share goals the leader must gather feedback from the stakeholders if they are to buy-in to the objectives to be reached. The decisions of school goals cannot be made by one individual; it must be a group effort (Robertson, 2009). When principals are making decisions they must be cognitive of not only short-term but long-term effects (Whitaker, 2003).

Along with decision making and collaboration comes reflection. Principals must have a reflective nature. "A truly successful leader is a reflective leader" (Connors, 2000). Fostering a systematic reflection on both positive and negative interactions allows the principal to be reflective in their decision-making (Blase & Blase, 2004). An administrator's decisions should be made with care, commitment and in connection with what is best interest of those involved (Davis and Wilson, 2000).

negatvie communication

feedback/presence in school postively

"Thus, principals should conduct both frequent classroom walk-throughs and lengthier classroom observations to gather information on inputs" (Dufour & Marzano, 2009).

"Stong instructional leaders always have there  doors open, but in reality they are seldom sitting behind their desks" (McEwan-Adkins, 2009, p. 6).