First Impressions on Building an Effective Campus Culture
First impressions set the stage for many different factors that influence the direction of personal and professional interactions. Campus culture is built the moment parents, students, faculty, staff, and any other stakeholders step foot on campus.
During a recent campus visit to an elementary campus in west Austin, Texas, I had the opportunity to form some first impressions of my own.
Walking into the school through the main doors of the campus, my ears were greeted with kids singing, laughter and clapping as there were many parents there for the Kinder graduation assembly in the cafeteria. The students were performing songs for the parents and were confident and participating in the program.
Once inside the main office, a smiling parent volunteer was at a podium set-up to receive parents and family coming to the school grounds for different events during the day. This allowed the three administrative secretaries to continue to complete their office duties. At first glance, what might have seemed to an outsider as chaos, was actually a very well-organized working environment. At the foundation of this working environment was an explicit document establishing the roles and responsibilities for the clerical team, including individual and shared roles.
There are many approaches to creating a new mission and vision statement when coming to a new campus and the approach used by the principal was one that established his leadership style and the direction he wanted to take the campus. One thing I noted was the addition of the C. Crew Expectations. These were staff guidelines that served as the guiding mission and vision statements expressly for faculty and staff.
The expectations were listed as:
C. Crew Expectations:
- To be professional in our conduct.
- To be purposeful in our actions.
- To be thoughtful in our responses.
- To be genuine in our intentions.
“Above all things, love what you do, and have fun while you are doing it! If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
While many campuses have student expectations and embedded staff expectations in their Campus Staff/Student Handbooks, this principal created a specific set of expectations that were visible and alive. These guidelines were posted in the internal school newsletter and served as a mantra to staff to maintain positive attitudes, environments, and communications. I believe this created a sense of value and purpose for the campus staff that leads to teacher empowerment and strong support for campus leadership.
This visit was a fantastic example of how well thought out a principal can be at shaping the campus culture towards a positive vision of learning that is shared and supported by the entire school community.