Learning Landscapes


School Culture

During our Strategic Planning process last school year, we had deep conversations about our school culture. We are a warm and happy school with many special relationships among students, parents, faculty and staff. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see faculty chatting together over lunch, children holding hands as they walk through the school, teenagers playing soccer, parents exchanging ideas, or staff members enjoying a laugh together. We are definitely a school where people care about each other and take pleasure in being together. However, as it turns out, our strategic planning process identified that our community aspires to more. What we have today isn’t fully satisfying to us. We want an even richer school culture. I think this is cool – we aspire to something beyond what we have today!

What is school culture? This is a topic that has been written about in the professional literature for a long time, and various research studies about it. The National School Climate Center explains that “School climate refers to the quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures. School climate sets the tone for all the learning and teaching done in the school environment and, as research proves, it is predictive of students’ ability to learn and develop in healthy ways.”

Did you read that last part? Read it again: school climate and culture is predictive of student’s ability to learn and develop in healthy ways. That statement gives us a lot to think about. How well does our current school climate impact our students’ ability to learn?

We all know what a negative environment feels like, places that are unpleasant. Perhaps public spaces like bus terminals or government offices or poorer areas of town or older shopping centers. In these places, we don’t feel safe or comfortable; the surroundings aren’t attractive or clean; we don’t feel cared for and our needs aren’t adequately met; people seem unhappy, cynical, and distrustful. They aren’t places where we want to linger and enjoy ourselves.

As a school, we want the best possible school climate and culture for our community. More than just a “nice place to be”, our strategic plan nudges us to become a school climate and culture where all members of our community feel healthy, safe, respected, engaged, supported, and challenged. In addition, we specify becoming a culture that is inclusive, respectful and responsive to all. This is a tall order, but one that we care about deeply and are willing to work towards.

Here is my question for you: What would it look like for YOU if our school had this kind of climate and culture? I encourage  you to share your ideas about this in the comment section below so others can read your thoughts.

One last thing: don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community tomorrow. Our Parent Teacher Organization has organized a Family Fun Run, Walk, and Breakfast for Saturday October 25th. I can’t wait to see you all, please come and show your school spirit! Click here to see the Video-cast from the Director  that we made to advertise the event! Hope to see you there!


A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Have you seen the posters all over our campus with our brand new mission and core values on them? Every classroom has its own poster and several larger ones are hung up throughout our campus. We recently translated these into Spanish and you will soon see the Spanish version in posters too. Why post our mission and core values everywhere?

Our mission and core values are the foundational documents that guide everything we do at our school, everything that we are about. I like to think of them as the promise that we hold up for our community, statements that represent our most sincere intentions, earnest goals for which we will continually strive. And because they are so important, we want everyone to know about them – that is why they are posted everywhere.

As many of you know, last school year we involved the community in a strategic planning process, which began by soliciting feedback about our strengths and areas for growth, looking at possible opportunities and potential risks within our setting and engaging in many discussions about goals for our future. This information was collected and analyzed, and then a group of parents, Board members, teachers, support staff, and administrators came together to ponder this information and then craft a new mission statement that would guide our way forward for the next chapter in the life of this school. We struggled together to write new core value statements that would hold us to a higher standard, as individuals, as members of a community and as global citizens. Far more than individual words can, our core value statements capture complex concepts and philosophical beliefs about what we value most.

Have a look at our mission:

We are an English language-based international learning community that values diversity, embraces a culture of collaboration, innovation, and excellence, and inspires empathetic and ethical student leaders. 

I believe that words can be powerful! See this video link that illustrates the power of the right words.

The words in our mission statement capture multifaceted, valuable, extraordinary concepts! And because they describe a state that we have not yet achieved as a school, our mission is inspiring, powerful, and ambitious!

Now, we all know that a mission written on a poster is not going to come alive unless it is truly embraced by our community. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of “The Little Prince” wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  Yes, we do have a plan to transform our school over the next five years, a plan to live our mission and be driven by our mission. Every member of our community – students, teachers, parents, office staff, guards, cafeteria workers, maintenance men, assistants, administrators – everyone has a role to play in making this mission come true. We need your help.

So: I have two questions for you:

1. What aspect of this mission appeals to you and why?

2. What can you do to make this mission come alive for our community? 

Please write me back in this blog – I am eager to hear from you!

Warm regards,