How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom

How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom

How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom

How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom


What does it feel like to walk into your school? Is it a welcoming place, where everyone feels valued? Most school improvement efforts focus on academic goals, instructional models, curriculum, and assessments. But sometimes what can make or break your learning community are the intangibles--the relationships, identity, and connections that make up its culture. Authors Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian believe that no school improvement effort will be effective unless school culture is addressed. They identify five pillars that are critical to building a culture of achievement:

1. Welcome: Imagine if all staff members in your school considered it their job to make every student, parent, and visitor feel noticed, welcomed, and valued.

2. Do no harm: Your school rules should be tools for teaching students to become the moral and ethical citizens you expect them to be.

3. Choice words: When the language students hear helps them tell a story about themselves that is one of possibility and potential, students perform in ways that are consistent with that belief.

4. It's never too late to learn: Can you push students to go beyond the minimum needed to get by, to discover what they are capable of achieving?

5. Best school in the universe: Is your school the best place to teach and learn? The best place to work?

Drawing on their years of experience in the classroom, the authors explain how these pillars support good teaching and learning. In addition, they provide 19 action research tools that will help you create a culture of achievement, so that your school or classroom is the best it can be. After reading this book, you'll see why culture makes the difference between a school that enables success for all students and a school that merely houses those students during the school day.


The part of a tree that we can readily see is above the surface. But because we understand that this living organism needs to sustain itself, we realize that there is just as much happening below. And we know that damaging its roots or poisoning its soil can result in the death of the tree.

A school’s culture works in much the same way. There are things we can readily see; these are the procedures of the school. But we know that there are other elements below the surface, which serve to nurture the whole. These are our ways of work, and they speak to the relationships between and among people, as well as the ways we choose to inform ourselves. Margaret Wheatley (1998) describes the three elements that lie above the surface of an organization as its processes, structures, and patterns. We add tools to this list, as these are the ways an organization measures itself. All of these are easily seen and typically what people will first invoke when discussing a school’s culture. But the underlying elements, those that are not readily observed, are equally essential, and include the relationships, identity, and connections (Wheatley, 1998). We add data to this list. These factors exist whether we choose to examine them or not. And as with any living organism, what happens both above the ground and below it needs to be cared for to sustain the school’s culture.

The mission of the school should capture all of these elements, surface them, and integrate them. The mission is the starting point, not the ending . . .

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