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Longtime Maine Educator, Malcolm Gauld, Shares Insights on School Culture on Maine 207, an affiliate of NBC
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Sep 19, 2023, 10:55 AM ET
Malcolm Gauld, executive director of the Hyde Institute, argues that the time has come for America's schools to make school culture a top priorityPORTLAND, ME, UNITED STATES, September 19, 2023/EINPresswire.com/ -- Every school has a culture. In his book, Culture by Design - The Discovery Process as a New Way for Schools, author and longtime educator Malcolm Gauld poses a pointed qualifying question: "Is yours by design or default?" In a discussion with Rob Caldwell, host of Maine 207 -- Portland NBC affiliate news program -- Malcolm discusses the characteristics of quality cultures, as well as the barriers to attaining them, offering some specific examples and some paths to consider for educators seeking to enhance the cultures in their own schools.
Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker (1909-2005) famously said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Although he was focused on the business world, the wisdom applies to our schools. And even though most educators may profess to agree with the sentiment expressed by Drucker, the daily pressures faced by all schools make it very easy for school leaders to fall into the trap of prioritizing plans, schedules, and strategies over the quality of our cultures. The problem, to quote former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is that "the urgent keeps pushing aside the important." In his discussion with Caldwell, Gauld argues that it's time for educators to switch their focus from what he calls "test mania" to a commitment to moral development.
Gauld explores this topic in detail in his latest book, Culture by Design - The Discovery Process as a New Way for Schools. The book begins with an in-depth analysis of school cultures, posing the premise that three critical components are consistently found in nearly any school, business, organization, or community possessing a strong and inspiring culture:
1. A shared reason for being;
2. A common language reflecting, supporting, and promoting that reason for being; and
3. A set of practices and traditions reflecting, supporting, and promoting both the common language and reason for being.
After offering examples of schools and organizations with inspiring cultures, Culture by Design presents a program—The Discovery Process—as one approach to translating these three components into a reality for any school. After exploring the philosophy, principles, and practices
of the program, he delves into its nuts and bolts, including a detailed FAQ section.
Early in the Maine 207 interview, Caldwell inquires about Gauld's candid assessment of why our schools are having so much trouble today concerning student anxiety: "We care more about what they can do than about who they are. And they know it."
Gauld explains, "Too many kids in too many schools share a pact of indifference when it comes to school. They think, I have to be here. That's just the way it is."
When Caldwell inquires as to why this mindset has come to exist in today's schools, Gauld responds with his belief that among the number of reasons is the simple fact that schools of today enjoy far less local control than was true in the past. (In his book, he also states his belief that schools have come to serve the agendas of college admissions offices more than the desires of parents and lofty objectives like moral development.) They end up being overly preoccupied with state and federal mandates involving testing, required daily teaching hours or number of school days.
In any case, says Gauld, "Everyone seems to agree that far too many kids today in schools are bummed out."
The solution, says Gauld, is to set aside time each day for students to take a leading role in their own mental health and social and emotional learning.
Specifically, the Discovery Process program -- one currently operating in a dozen schools across six states -- guides students and teachers through a "Daily Check-In" each morning and also teaches the habit of "The Debrief" where they assess what they might have learned in a given activity --a class, a club, an assembly, etc. -- and how they may have conducted themselves behaviorally and/or attitudinally.
When Caldwell observes that many teachers might well roll their eyes, dismiss some of these ideas as "pie-in-the-sky," and dread the idea that this program will merely pile on yet another task and obligation in their already very busy lives, Gauld counters with two observations:
"First, teachers at Discovery Process schools will tell you that one of the greatest things about this program is the fact that it makes their jobs easier because of the improved collective learning attitudes of the students. These schools are pleasant places in which to study and teach. Second, social and emotional learning is a big buzz word these days. Well, social and emotional learning demands social and emotional teaching."
Finally, describing himself as "a 45-year traveler in the character ed lane," Gauld stresses his belief that it's time for our schools to value attitude over aptitude, effort over ability, and character over talent. Therein in lies the path to enriched students and teachers as well as inspiring schools and communities.
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