In a successful school, the culture of the school focuses on establishing a climate where the alignment of values and beliefs are embedded. The idea of developing this type of community allows all involved to develop a sense of group purpose. A recurring theme throughout the literature on instructional leadership is that a leader must have a clear vision. Stephen Covey reminds us that good leadership comes from shared vision and principles. Good leaders must have a sense of what he or she values, something to be committed to, a compass to guide their true north principles. Honesty and integrity, according to Covey, are examples of a leader's true north principle which are not taught, but are laws of the universe. (Covey, 1990) For the most part, a school's shared vision can be found in its mission statement. The central goal of the mission statement is to improve student learning and achievement. Yet, there is an underlining goal as well, which is to align the beliefs and values of a school. McEwan (2003) states, a vision will incorporate the collective ideas of everyone and will be a consensus statement of where you want to go together. Mission statements are also important because they are a statement of the school's purpose. It is vital to remember that the mission statement must be a collective generated statement and not a directive that is forced upon its staff. Therefore, the job of the supervisor is to continually explain, teach, share, demonstrate, and model those practices which can move teachers forward (McEwan, 2003).
To encourage a school culture and climate that promotes individuals who are bonded together by natural will, and who are together bound to a set of shared ideas, and ideals then principals must strengthen their efforts towards improving connections, coherence, capacity, commitment, and collaboration among their members (Sergiovanni, 2001).
The attributes of a supportive climate promoted in successful schools include:
- Continual sharing of ideas- Teachers share ideas daily regarding vital issues of instruction, curriculum, testing, school organization, and the value of specific knowledge.
- Collaboration-Teachers become involved in team teaching and other collaborative efforts in program development, writing, and research.
- Egalitarianism- Teachers dispense with formalities and anyone who takes an interest in a department meeting can vote. The notion that the quality of ideas is more important than the source.
- Practical application-Teachers ask themselves, How does what we are doing help students, teachers, and schools? What did we do this week to help?
Principals who desire to improve a school's culture, must foster an atmosphere that helps teachers, students, and parents know where they fit in and how they can work as a community to support teaching and learning. Creating a school culture requires instructional leaders to develop a shared vision that is clearly communicated to faculty and staff. Additionally, principals must create a climate that encourages shared authority and responsibility if they are to build a positive school culture.