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A Teacher’s View on the Importance of School Culture

At culturEDleadership, we recognize the role of our teachers and staff in setting and maintaining a positive school culture. It is often said that it’s “the people, not the programs” who determine the success of a school. We are so proud of what our teachers do each and everyday for our students, and they deserve all the credit for our high achieving students. Because our teachers are the ones who interact with our students the most, we asked one of our all-stars to write a blog about our school’s culture.

Every year we have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of over 500 freshmen. As educators our primary goal is to ensure that our students have access to a quality education that will enable them to reach success in their futures. However, before teenagers are ready to learn and grow as students, they have other needs that must be met. They must feel safe, and they must feel supported. For many students these needs are not met at home, which is why school culture is so important.

While helping to meet some of these basic needs, a positive school culture can provide students with a sense of community. One way this community can be built is when teachers strive to have positive relationships with their students. If teachers take the time to get to know their students and to show they care about them, students, in turn, will be more willing to ask their teachers for help and to complete their assignments. Many students aren’t particularly interested in completing school work, but most of them will put forth effort for a teacher who has taken the time to build a relationship with him or her.

In addition, students desire to feel a sense of belonging with their peer group. If a school can foster those kinds of relationships by giving students opportunities to join in community and by keeping them safe from violence and bullying, school is a place where students will want to be. Anything we as educators can do to encourage students to come to school and to complete their assignments will help us to accomplish our goals for students to learn, earn credits, and graduate. This is crucial in the freshman year when many students decide whether or not they want to complete high school. If we can keep them coming to school at this stage, they are much more likely to stay in school and graduate.

School culture is also incredibly important for the faculty and staff. Just as students need a sense of love and belonging, faculty and staff must also feel supported and respected. It is hard to teach ninth grade students. Some struggle to learn, and some don’t want to learn.

There is great pressure from state mandates involving standardized testing as well as endless papers to grade and lessons to plan. The job of a teacher would be nearly impossible if he/she were not able to work effectively with a team of fellow educators.

The positive culture of the Habersham Ninth Grade Academy makes our school such a special place, which is very important to me personally. A colleague once told me that our students just want to be known, and I have found this to be true. Every day I try to say hello to every student, which is so simple, but I believe it makes a difference. This positive culture is found in all facets of HNGA. It is seen in teachers who care enough about their students to not accept a student’s refusal to complete an assignment and who will do whatever needs to be done to help students to find success. It is also found through an administrative team who seeks to bring students together through our House System, allowing them to have fun while also teaching them lessons that are important to life. The faculty and staff of HNGA are a family, which enables us to impact the lives of our students in a positive way each day.

This blog was guest-written by Ms. Carrie Zeigler (pictured centered). Ms. Zeigler is been teaching in Habersham County Schools (GA) since 2000. She is often a student’s favorite teacher, a valuable mentor to new teachers, the head of our English department, and the 2017 Teacher of the Year.

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