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At Our Best: Creating a Positive School Culture

Friday, Aug. 15, 2014
Creating a school climate that is conducive to learning, safety, and community was the focus of a presentation by Dotty McCrea, principal of Mercy High School, at the Center’s Ethics Camp for Catholic School Educators, held August 12-15, at Santa Clara University.  The four-day workshop provided an orientation for new teachers in the diocese. 
McCrea explained that the school’s culture is formed by its core values and beliefs, which drive actions and influence behaviors.  It’s the “subtle spirit” visitors sense when they walk through the door, reflected in the way they are greeted by the office staff, the vitality of the staff, and the engagement of students. 
McCrea took teachers through a series of exercises to flesh out ways to create a supportive culture in their schools and classrooms.  She talked about rituals and traditions that set up a positive environment, including moments of prayer and reflection.  High expectations were also cited as key to a strong school culture.
She and the participants brainstormed ways to acknowledge students, parents, and school personnel as heroes for being positive role models of kindness and respect.  They also discussed ways to celebrate and to inject humor into the classroom.

McCrea urged the teachers to tap into the gifts of all their students for curiosity, imagination, sensitivity, wonder, and joy.