Friday, October 16, 2015

Changing the Culture, One Day at a Time

"Culture is defined and created from the top down, but it comes to life from the bottom up." Jon Gordon
("You Win In The Locker Room First)
  By Jon Gordon and Mike Smith.

Creating a positive culture in a school district is the responsibility of the Superintendent.

Creating a positive culture within a school is the responsibility of the building administration .

Creating a positive culture within the classroom is the responsibility of the classroom teacher.

Building and maintainig the positive culture in the district, school and classroom is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders. When everyone embraces the vision and invests in the culture, there is the potential for greatness.

Creating our classroom culture this year has involved a concerted effort to develop an inspired and forward thinking mindset. The goal is for this mindset to be shared by all members of the classroom community.

Over the course of the past summer I came to the realization that I was wasting too much negative energy on Monday. This was a direct result of my own belief that Monday's were supposed to be "lame".  I began to challenge my own convictions and came to the conclusion that embracing this mindset was actually setting a negative tone for the week ahead.  Ultimately it was limiting the amount of progress that I was able to make over the course of a week. 

"Change the mindset change the culture".

Early on this year I made a declaration, or a promise to myself that Monday's would no longer be lame. The first step to making this a reality, was crafting an approach that would first inspire me to embrace it. Once I embraced it, I could then present to my students. Hopefully then they could become invested in the idea as well.  

About a month ago I emphatically shared with my students that Monday's were  no longer going to be lame. Reaction at first was mixed as some students shared their belief that that's the way things were supposed to be, while others were visibly excited that "lame Monday's" were going to be replaced by something new. Lame Monday's no longer existed, from that day forward Lame Monday's were being replaced by Inspirational Monday's" 

Something special was about to unfold. 

At first my co-teacher and I provided Inspirational mini lessons based on specific themes. The first two weeks focused on resilience and self worth. Students would write down their understanding of the themes and connect their personal experiences with them. Large group discussions would follow.  Usually a motivational video, poignant poem or quote was used to reinforce the connection to the theme and then a short closing discussion ensued. The first two weeks were a huge success as students were visibly inspiired; enthusiastically participating in the mini lessons. This has set a positive tone for the meaningful learning that followed. 

The desired results were being attained as lame Mionday's were becoming a thing of the past.  Students were walking in the door looking for inspiration and leaving inspired.

Two weeks ago we took things up a notch. Students were asked to volunteer to provide the Monday inspiration. They were asked to look for a song, a quote, a movie clip or a poem that inspired them. Once found they were asked to bring in the inspirational material and share it with the class. Students have been volunteering and confidently fullfiling these responsibilities quite nicely so far. Quotes and clips that are meaningful to the presenter have led to meaningful connections and discussions with their peers. 

 On any given Monday you can witness students singing, dancing or engaging in inspired meaningful conversation. There is no denying that the inspiration has replaced the traditional lameness that used to accompany the arrival of Monday.  Our culture is changing and our classroom community is reaping the benefits.

When students enter your classroom and utter" TGIM" you know your culture is moving in the right direction. While "inspirational " Monday's cannot guarantee the abscence of troubling events in our individual lives on that day, they can at least attempt to elevate our spirits. (if only for the 53 minutes that we spend together)  

As we continue to change the culture and perception of Monday, we continue to strengthen the overall culture within our classroom community. Students are taking risks and revealing individual viulnarability. This is leading to stronger bonds with their peers. 

Looking back I wasn't sure how putting an end to the "lame Monday" mindset would be received by my students. However I knew it was a change that I needed to make and that the results would benefit my students. What I didn't realize was how quickly the transformation would take hold or how much it would energize our classroom community. 

Sometimes it's the baby steps that lead to the giant steps forward.


  1. WOW, Tom. This is fantastic! May I steal this? Love the idea of changing the mindset. We always cheer on Friday, well by golly, I think we're going to start cheering on Mondays! Why not? It's a new opportunity for learning and the possibilities are endless! Love it! I might just have to write a blog about this very same thing...stay tuned! Once again, thanks for sharing a piece of you with us.

    1. Thank you Heidi, your positivity always inspires me. Of course you can steal the idea. It's funny what you say about Friday because we call our Friday's- Fired Up Fridays. In creating Inspirational Monday's part of what I told the kids was, why should Friday have all the fun. All the best to you and you family.