The term culture has several meanings, and it’s used a great deal to describe a particular environment that has its own beliefs, practices, and communication. For example, corporations have their own culture, which includes a dress code, shared attitudes, and business terms. The same can be said for schools. A school culture affects everything within a school’s walls, from student-teacher interactions to the posters in the hallways. However, defining a school culture can be difficult due to the number of intangibles (e.g. empowerment). According to Dr. Kent D. Peterson, school culture is defined as “the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school.” There are two types of school cultures: positive and negative. The core aspects of a positive school culture include:

  • Professional development of teachers and staff
  • A caring and safe atmosphere
  • Students taking responsibility to learn
  • Parent involvement
  • Collaboration among teachers and staff 


A negative school culture is where the atmosphere hostile, especially among teachers and staff. Students are blamed for not achieving goals, there is low or no parent involvement, a high teacher turnover rate, and there are unclear or low expectations for students. So, how does a school change from a negative school culture to a positive one? It starts with the principal. As the leader of your school, a principal must first understand the culture of his or her school. This includes extensive knowledge of the school, teachers, students, staff, community, and stakeholders. The strengths and weaknesses of the school as a whole must be identified and the positives must be reinforced. 


A Positive School Culture 

Below are a few ways to create a positive school culture.  


  1. Start communicating with parents. This will prevent any misunderstandings and generate a feeling of trust. This can be done by creating a platform for feedback via a portal or email as well as workshops for parents and teachers to discuss and collaborate on homework and skills.
  2. Create school norms and beliefs. When students understand classroom rules and positive behaviors, learning becomes fun for teachers and students. It’s important to let students know the “why” behind each rule. Also, creating beliefs, such as “every student is amazing: and “I believe in your possibilities”, will generate positive outcomes (e.g. fewer fights).
  3. Build strong relationships. This not only means building strong relationships with your faculty, but it also means teachers building strong relationships with students. When students feel valued, they perform better academically and socially. Teachers should take a few minutes every day to talk with students in and outside of the classroom as well.