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Culture of the school

Phrases such as school ethos, school culture, school vision and school mission are now being used; there is a recognition that the school is much more than a set of rules and regulations and that the overall environment of the school has a major impact on teachers and pupils alike.

Pupil Misbehaviour
In the previous topic you considered the influence of school rules, both unwritten and unwritten.   This topic looks at the broader issue of school culture

You'll be looking at two  main areas:

  • rules and ethos
  • positive school ethos

Rules and ethos
One of the issues raised in debates on education in Ireland is that of school ethos - particularly in relation to control of schools by church bodies.  We're not going to enter in that debate here, but you are going to look at what ethos means in a school.

What is the difference between school rules and school ethos?

Ethos may sound rather vague - you can’t measure it statistically or pour it into a beaker - but it certainly exists in every school, whether positive or negative. Typically visitors to schools even on a short visit can often detect a distinctive school ethos - for example in relation to appearance of the school, pupils’ relations with staff, school attitudes to visitor, the school as a community etc.

How would you find out about the ethos of your Teaching Practice school?

A positive school ethos
A Department of Education circular (M33/91, 1) describes what is meant by a positive school ethos: "based on the quality of relationships, both the professional relationships between teachers and the ways in which pupils and teachers treat each other. This positive ethos permeates the school and helps in forming a strong sense of social cohesion within the school".

The emphasis here is on school as a community and research has shown that 10 aspects are evident in schools that are communities:

  • shared vision
  • shared sense of purpose
  • shared values
  • incorporation of diversity
  • communication
  • participation
  • caring
  • trust
  • teamwork
  • respect and recognition.
(Rossi & Springfield, 1995 cited in Martin 1997, 19)
In your experience, do schools have this sense of community?
  • Think of what you remember from your own school.
  • Then look at OUR COMMENT

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You will find that the culture of the school and the way in which it impacts on you as a teacher are major issues in your life as a teacher.
At this stage as a second year student teacher, you need to be aware of it, though you will not be expected to be able to analyse the complexities.

In Year 4 you will be studying the culture of the school as part of Module EN4008 - Teacher as Professional.

Let’s get back to your classroom - to the issues where you can have an input - to pupil misbehaviour and what you should do.

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