School and Culture
The author states that in Canada and the United States, the organizational structures and of contemporary secondary schools is in the form of a small society made up of the entire school together with its stakeholders who include the community at large (Brady 2009). The common practices performed by this school society have influences on the individuals within it. These people have a unique culture based on some assumptions that determine the outcome of the school. The economic and social demands of the democratic world makes it necessary for the secondary schools to produce students that will be able to prosper in a democratic society carrying along with them the values of democracy. Since most high school students are teenagers they expect to continue being seen as young people but the schools tend to set for them standards and a culture that they need to follow based on some basic assumptions. The students only become successful it they consider the formal education important in their later lives and feel the value of the schools they attend. The cultures of the school are determined by the type of practices the school society entertains. This includes the kind of organizational structure present, the school traditions and ways of doing things, the way they choose to deliver their programs among other aspects that influence the activities that take place in the school. All the members of the school society have to adhere to the rules set out by the school stakeholders and this puts them into one category with everyone striving to achieve the objectives and mission of the school. The daily routine of activities that take place in a secondary school environment constitutes its culture. These are things like the curriculum documents, the codes of conduct allowed for students and staff alike, the timetabling of the subjects and co curricula activities among several other administrative duties. These activities are routinely done every day within the school compound and it contains some aspects of the communal life lived in the society.
There are also some basic assumptions that dictate the kind of behavior that a school community is allowed to engage in. These beliefs include the way that students are grouped together for different purposes and projects, the techniques that the students prefer in their instructions, and how the status quo within the school is managed and sorted. These habits once formed are very resistant to change and it can take so much effort to actually change them (Allan and Tomlinson 2000). In the secondary schools in Canada and America, the students have a habit of only doing something when the bell rings. They also like forming small congregations in front of their lockers and the classrooms will always be arranged according to the subjects being taught. The degree of success a student manages to achieve when in high school pretty much determines her future. This is because most high school students are in their adolescence and are constantly moving from one social domain to the next. At home they have their families, at school they meet their peers and then they are put into different classrooms. These are the people they interact with and they need to have successful relationships with them in order to successfully pass the level of formal education.
Whatever form the school culture takes depends on the collective thinking of the stakeholders of the secondary school in question including the administration, the staff, the students and the community members.
Most secondary school institutional structures are concrete and can be out rightly observed. They are guided by the mission and long standing traditions performed in the school as well as the way the school is organized internally. These factors among others determine the parameters of the schools. The experiences that students go through in high school give them a sense of commonness which ends up forming strong bonds between them as well as with the other members of the school community. The adolescents in high school find a common experience that form a vital stage in their entire lives and gives them some sort of rite of passage. These practices also enhance social cohesion within the school environment among the members of the school community. Examples of such practices are the extra curricula activities like sports, the pep and spirit rallies, the social events they are allowed to hold in school like school dances and Prom nights, and also the final ritual ceremony of graduation. These events are not only registered in the memories of high school for the students but are also considered stages in their lives.
Other cultural values are determined by symbols which unify and give a sense of direction to the members of the school society (Thousand 2005). These are like the schools missions as well as the symbols that mark the achievements of the school like trophies won during several occasions and activities that the students engage in.
The kind of the organizational structure a school develops depends heavily on the size of enrolment that the school allows. Large sized schools can enjoy the economies of scale and provide their students with a wide range of specialization but this has an impact of bringing about social stratification as a result of differentiation in curriculum delivery. Departmentalization is one of the most predominant characteristics of such schools and this affects the cohesion of the school as a community (Rothstein 1995). It even distracts the school members from the overall mission of the school. The structuring of instruction also affects the overall culture of the schools. The schools in Canada and the United States group their students according to the students’ choices and their perceived abilities.
The school administration is mandated with the responsibility of coordinating school activities, setting and enforcing rules within the school as well as allocating resources to various departments and ensuring that the school program runs smoothly. These administrators are supposed to protect the interests of the school from outside forces that might hinder the attainment of the mission and objectives. They are therefore a member of the school society that greatly affects the culture that the school engages in since they regulate all the activities that take place within the school. They dictate how the students are allowed to behave and formulate ways of dealing with those who do not comply with the set rules and regulations.
The teachers also greatly influence the culture within a school especially depending on the relationships they have with their students within and without the classroom setting. The way they organize teaching and learning activities and also the relationships they have among themselves also determines the kind of culture that develops within the school environment. The contemporary secondary schools divide their subjects into subject departments, an act that greatly affects the relationship students have with their teachers. This defines the kind of teaching activities the teachers can engage in like learner centered practices as opposed to teacher centered ones. It also affects how teachers perceive each other within and outside their respective departments. An example is how the teachers in the special education department are viewed by their colleagues from the other subject departments. Normally they are viewed as the department of anomalies and this is the same way that the students view them as well.
Students on the other hand tend to group themselves according to the social or economic status of their families, the sporting activities they choose to engage in the subjects they are interested in among other criteria. The group that one falls in determines how their peers perceive them and changing this status can be very difficult and might take a very long time. Sometimes students can group themselves according to who they think is good looking or who is most popular and they segregate themselves in this way. In the cafeteria, the students will always sit according to their various groups that they formed following their different criteria. These groups formed by the students determine the social relations among and between individuals and groups formed. These adolescents are not entirely to credit for the formation of these groups as all the other stakeholders in the school community always have something to do with the status hierarchies formed. The way the application of social controls on groups is done unevenly and how the academic ability of students is perceived by teachers also influence how the students view and group themselves. If the students do not develop a sense of belonging to the institution they attend, their academic performance can also be greatly affected. The capability of these adolescents to make it through the social arrangements that are somehow complex at their level affects their overall success in formal education.
Generally, this is how organizational structures, rituals and myths within the school environment affect the overall culture of the schools in Canada and the United States. All these aspects influence the lives of all the individuals who are present in the school communities.
Finally, if the structure of schools is to be changed, then all the stakeholders must be consulted to attain the best results. All the people involved in the running of the school are important determinants of the success of the schools. These include the teachers, the students, the administrative staff as well as the community at large. All these people need to converge their ideas and come up with a comprehensive model structure that can best benefit the students and the society they live in.
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