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School Culture and Climate

Chelsea Force

EDC 250 M5A1

July 3, 2018

School culture and school climate are sometimes confused for being interchangeable.

These two terms are similar, but they are different concepts that affect one another. Identifying

the similarities and differences is crucial to addressing issues such as low morale and overall

happiness. By comparing culture and climate, educators will discover that “school culture…can

only by altered by addressing the climate” (Gruenert, 2008, p. 57).

School climate, as defined by Gruenert (2008), is the attitude of the organization, the

collective morale of the group. In Lynch’s (2014) The call to teach: An introduction to teaching,

school climate is defined as “the ways students experience the school and culture [and] the ways

teachers and administrators interact and collaborate” (p. 361). Based on these definitions, climate

directly impacts a person’s happiness. The climate is important because “a happy teacher is

considered a better teacher, and this attitude influences the quality of instruction” (Gruenert, p.

57). In a school, it is crucial for leaders to create a climate where happiness thrives. However,

when selecting strategies to improve school climate, one must take into account the investment,

the amount of time it will take to make a difference, the amount of people affected, whether the

rewards used are intrinsic or extrinsic, and how the existing school culture will interpret the

strategy and changes. The existing school culture must be considered because the culture will

determine the climate.

School culture is the set of expectations that a group of people develop over time

(Gruenert, 2008). In other words, a school’s culture is “the values, traditions, safety practices,

and organizational structures within a school that cause it to function and react in particular

ways” (Lynch, 2014, p.361). These expectations, values, and traditions are the unwritten rules

that people will abide to remain in good standing and assimilate with the group. New members

of a group are vulnerable to a school’s culture because if an existing culture does not embrace

new ideas and practices, then new members will adopt the established school culture to fit in and

come across as more experienced. Since school culture is developed and adopted by a wide range

of individuals, it is harder to change the culture of a school than it is to change the climate. It is

harder because culture is based on values and beliefs, while climate is based on perceptions.

Despite these differences, culture influences climate, and climate is the main leverage point for


When a school wants to change the culture, leaders must start with the climate. Changes

to the climate that are consistent will eventually be ingrained into the culture, and the reactions to

different climate changes are influenced by a school’s culture. To create and maintain a positive

culture and climate in a classroom “the teacher is caring and supportive. The lessons are well

organized, progress smoothly, and are free from interruptions. The content is challenging without

being frustrating, and activities are relevant and interest students. Open, warm relationships

among students are encouraged, and cooperation and respect are expected” (Lynch, 2014, p.276).

In my 6th grade classroom, my first plan of action will be the arrangement of the classroom.

Desks should obviously be placed so that every student can see the board and the teacher, but to

encourage collaboration and positive peer relationships I will have the desks arranged in groups.

Each of the students within the group will have tasks, which will assist with group focus and

taking responsibility for their own learning. The next concern is ground rules. The rules I

implement will be clear and easy to understand, as well as fair and agreed upon. I believe

students who are included in rule making will feel included and respected and are more likely to

follow rules that they had a hand in making. My lessons will be well prepared, and the delivery

will be as smooth as possible to eliminate dead time. To engage students, I will strive to align

content to students’ interests and backgrounds, being sure that all students are fairly represented

and recognized. Aligning the content to the students will hopefully show students care and

support. Not only inclusive, I hope to assess my students early so the lessons can be challenging,

but not impossible.

As a teacher, I hope to remain enthusiastic and model a positive attitude. The teacher’s

demeanor is contagious, and remaining positive and respectful will affect the mood, or climate,

of the classroom. If all changes are consistent, the positivity will become part of the culture,

which can create and maintain a positive climate and culture in my 6th grade classroom.


Gruenert, S. (2008). School culture, school climate: They are not the same thing. Principal, 56-

Lynch, M. (2014). The call to teach: An introduction to teaching. Upper Saddle River: NJ: