Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The student’s perception of the school's climate and culture is essential for leaders to analyse as it effects the engagement of students. Smyth and Hattam (2002) explored the perceptions of early school leavers in reference to how they perceived administrative power within the schools they resided. The study identified three different themes that emerged as students voiced their opinions; the aggressive, passive or active school culture (Smyth & Hattam, 2002). The aggressive school culture emphasised a “culture of fear”, which brought many school leavers into conflict with the authoritarian style of leadership (Smyth and Hattam, 2002: 383). Students defined the passive school culture as “nice on the outside” but had no idea how to engage the youth of today. The curriculum was boring and was not relevant to youth and their interests (Smyth & Hattam, 2002). The active school culture created environments that worked with their students. Students approached school personnel to discuss issues, curriculum was flexible and pertained to current youth issues, and those students who were experiencing difficulty needed more engaging through effective curriculum (Smyth & Hattam, 2002).

This research is not about identifying school cultures as victimizing students because students also play a role in establishing their own outcomes socially, academically and in the sustainability of a functional community. The insight of early school leavers can prompt new methods to address the needs of all students within the school community. Smyth and Hattam (2002) conclude schools still predominately try to control students and their movements with the emphasis on social order. The difficulty lies when students then create their own “subscripts” to engage in this particular type of culture which may not lead to the most positive educational outcomes (Smyth and Hattam, 2002: 392).

Administrative leadership and the identification of school culture are vital to scrutinize but teacher leadership has serious repercussion if the teacher is lacking in these particular skills. Printy and Marks (2006) has identified that schools that have high quality teaching the teachers interact with their colleagues, teaching team, grade level team, and administrative staff on a regular basis. The teachers develop a vision and a purpose and together as a team develop clarity for what the intended future goals of the school and outcomes for all students (Printy & Marks, 2006). Teachers are responsible for learning and providing opportunities to tackle difficult problems together. Shared leadership encourages all participants within the school environment to be innovative and creative in developing strategies to engage children within their classrooms.

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