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Schools benefit from a defined culture, says principal

Written on September 21st, 2007

John Calvin invites parents to vision night 

Principal Bob Moore says a lesson he’s learned at John Calvin Christian School in Guelph is the benefits of having a defined culture and theme throughout the school.

As a member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), Moore says though his school’s culture is specific to a Christian worldview the importance of defining a school’s culture applies to all schools. The established culture found in OACS schools is one lesson they could teach to other schools, he says.

“I think any school should try to work on the basis of trying to have a culture for their school and trying then to build a culture, to reinforce a culture, to try to pass that culture on,” says Moore.

Beliefs, values and practices are the core of culture and are the building blocks of a school’s culture, he says. Some schools create their culture around a moral law or golden rule, he says, which can contribute to the school’s success. Principals who take strides to help schools in disadvantaged areas and have success stories have identified and addressed the culture at the school, says Moore.

“It starts with things we put up on the walls, so when somebody comes into our school they’re going to see up in the hallway playground rules, for example, and the last thing they’ll see on the list of playground rules is that big people take care of little people,” he says.

At John Calvin Christian School, which has students from kindergarten to Grade 8, this year’s school theme is “from head to heart to hands and feet.”

“We take that to mean we’re taught one thing intellectually, but we want it to move down to our hearts to change our attitudes and into our hands and feet so it actually changes our living,” says Moore.

Staff members often discuss the theme during meetings, and it becomes part of their common language, says Moore. With staff members on board to communicate this theme to the students, Moore says this theme illustrates the kind of school they vision. When misunderstandings occur at the school, teachers can refer to this theme.

The theme is reinforced in the classroom as teachers use grade appropriate ways to communicate the shared message. The school also has regular chapels – similar to assemblies – where the theme is the focus. When the school meets together for the chapel teachers will share stories of students who have embraced the theme.

This week teachers at the school invited parents to a Vision Night – a new name for a Meet the Teacher event. This is a chance for teachers to explain to parents how they run their classroom and how the theme is communicated, says Moore.

Parents are the primary educators and they work in partnership with the school, says Moore.

“It’s all about creating the kind of world you want,” he says.