Our Core Values: Compassion | Fortitude | Honour | Mastery | Adventure | Leadership
Our Core Values: Compassion | Fortitude | Honour | Mastery | Adventure | Leadership
Head Teacher’s Word of the Week

Building and Maintaining a Robust Organisational Culture in a highly dynamic 21st Century School Environment.

I have found it in my leadership journey that the school culture has a profound influence on the achievement of the various goals and objectives that the school pursues. Every school will have a certain culture, whether this is developed deliberately or grows organically as the members of the school community continue to interact with one another in the course of their activities. This culture, if based on certain key principles and values, will exhibit characteristics that are aligned to a certain core. At Rusinga Schools, we are very keen to cultivate and maintain an environment of care, support and trust around our students and all adults who work with them. As a school that prides itself in being a stickler to its values, we are very keen to deliberately teach learners how to interact in a manner that promotes respect for their peers as well as staff, and demonstrates their commitment to the school’s values. These values form the foundation for the school culture and the school must promote continuous engagement through discussions on the same. Most international schools are founded on certain key pillars that guide the development of core values. I have found certain key building blocks critical to building a strong school culture as explained below:

School Guiding Statements and Termly Themes.

At Rusinga, we have found the practice of themed terms very useful for ensuring the school community engages actively in discussing and promoting the guiding statements and core values of the school. We will, for example, have a term dedicated to “Compassion”, which is one of our core values, or “Discovering our Purpose”, which is derived from the school motto. It is important for everyone to understand how the school’s guiding statements help to maintain a robust culture within the school and keep this culture aligned to the school’s vision. We have achieved this through various engagements, such as lessons, talks, assembly presentations, mentorship sessions and many other pastoral programmes.

Behaviour Management Policy.

It is very important for a school community to take an approach of cultivating the whole-school culture by ensuring that there are deliberate programmes and tools that ensure the same. The behaviour management policy is such a tool for us. The policy outlines such simple but critical aspects of school life such as the code of conduct and routines. The development and review of the policy must bring every individual along and give opportunities for feedback, while recognising that the school community is dynamic and putting great premium on the student’s voice.

We have found that regular school routines such as lining up while going back to class after recess or standing at quiet attention whenever prayers are being said in the hall or the national anthem is being played make everything very predictable even for the youngest in the community. These routines guide behaviour around the school and promote order and discipline wherever the students are.

We also recognise that language is a critical element of our school culture and our students and staff are always keen to use language that promotes our values. It is not uncommon to see a 5-year-old point out that somebody used unkind language, and this forms the basis for lifelong learning and formation of character.

Leadership-The 3Ps.

One other tool that has contributed greatly to our development of a strong school culture is our approach to leadership. One of my personal favourite ingredients of a leadership that helps strengthen the culture of the school is one I call the three Ps: Presence, Participation and Perspective. As the Head Teacher, I take my responsibility to model good behaviour seriously and I deliberately ensure I visit play areas, the car park, the bus park and lunch hall where I engage actively with students and staff with a keen intention to model desired behaviour. This approach of “Presence” is taken up by middle leaders and student leaders wherever they go and we encourage the children to challenge us whenever we do something outside our expected routines. I have been respectfully stopped by students for walking on the wrong side of the corridor or kicking balls while not dressed in the correct sports attire.

I enjoy actively participating in school activities but I am keen to not only enjoy the activities but be available and engage directly with students and staff as much as possible. This, I have found, promotes trust and a culture of openness within the community. I recently greatly enjoyed being part of the cast of an Easter play which gave me an opportunity to be directed on stage by my students and struggle with my lines just like everybody else. One bonus of this approach of engagement and participation is that it helps all of us empathise with one another as we are able to see things from the perspective of other people and “walk in their shoes”, so-to-speak!

A school culture is a living, dynamic being, but must be guided by certain laid down principles and policies that the school community has collectively committed itself to. It must give room for participation of all segments of the school in reviewing and developing policies that form the foundation for routines, that in turn ensure every member of the school community is confident and certain of what is expected of them wherever they go within the school. A robust school culture is critical to enable every member of the community to find a suitable space to meet their desires in line with the school’s guiding statements.