School Culture Quotes to Help You Build a Welcoming and Successful High School

Credit: Medium

“If a school does not stand for something more profound than raising achievement levels, then it probably does not make a memorable difference to teachers, students, or parents.” ― Terrence E. Deal, “Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises”

School culture is at the core of everything that goes on inside a school; it is not only the base but also the end result of all activities in an educational facility. The culture of a school is so multifaceted that it is impossible to define it without having an underlying feeling that one aspect or another got left out.

Culture can make or break a school as an educational institution — it has an impact on student outcomes and employee retention, as well as the reputation the school enjoys in its immediate community. Developing a strong, healthy culture is one of the main requirements that a school has to meet to be considered successful.

Whether you are a principal looking for the best way to foster a positive school culture or a teacher in need of some inspiration on how to make your instruction more meaningful, we’ve got the tools you need. The school culture quotes below will provide you with an insight into the importance of school culture in a successful establishment and give you some ideas on how to promote a positive atmosphere in your school.

What Is School Culture?

“The heart and soul of school culture is what people believe, the assumptions they make about how school works.” — Thomas J. Sergiovanni

As Sergiovanni succinctly puts it, school culture is all about the beliefs and assumptions that people hold about the school. The associations we make regarding the ideas the school stands for have a powerful impact on how we behave in it, contribute to it, and how willingly we participate in its day-to-day affairs.

For instance, a well-organized and structured school will have more disciplined students and less behavior-related issues, which will inevitably lead to better student outcomes, while one that allows students to be rampant and doesn’t set the norms of conduct will likely achieve fewer learning goals.

“Culture affects all aspects of a school. It influences informal conversations in the faculty lunchroom, the type of instruction valued, how professional development is viewed, and the shared commitment to ensuring all students learn.” ― Terrence E. Deal, “Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises

The importance of a school’s culture is reflected in its faculty members, as well. If the teaching staff works in a pleasant environment, is supported by the school management, and is encouraged to collaborate and connect with other instructors, they will be more successful in their roles.

Collegiality and collaboration go a long way in improving the quality of instruction, which in turn, results in higher student achievement. Teachers who receive help when they need it and are not thwarted in their efforts to ask for it benefit from those support channels and are more invested in teaching. The opportunities the school creates for the professional development of its staff play another vital role in shaping school culture

The Elements of School Culture

“First, a school with a strong, shared sense of mission is more likely to initiate improvement efforts. Second, norms of collegiality are related to collaborative planning and effective decision-making. Third, cultures with a strong dedication to improvement are more likely to implement complex, new instructional strategies. Finally, schools improve best when small successes are recognized and celebrated through shared ceremonies commemorating both individual and group contributions.” ― Terrence E. Deal, “Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises”

There are countless elements of a school’s culture; however, some are more pervasive than others and have been identified as it’s main aspects. The core elements of any successful high school are its:

  1. Vision and mission
  2. Rituals and tradition
  3. Staff
  4. Students
  5. Principal

The School’s Vision and Mission

“One’s vision is not a roadmap but a compass.” — Peter Block

The mission and vision statements are the foundations of any school, but culture relies heavily on the adherence to the values and principles that they embody. All members of a school need to have a shared goal (vision) and an even clearer idea of the milestones they have to reach (mission) in order to achieve that goal.

Rituals and Tradition

“School cultures are complex webs of traditions and rituals that have been built up over time as teachers, students, parents, and administrators work together and deal with crises and accomplishments. Cultural patterns are highly enduring, have a powerful impact on performance, and shape the ways people think, act, and feel.” — Deal, T.E., and Peterson, K.D., “Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership”

Deal and Peterson paint a wonderful picture about the relevance of school culture by accentuating the rituals and traditions that are an inseparable part of it. In order to foster a positive culture, the staff, the students, and their families have to work together in solving the problems that arise and celebrating the accomplishments they make. 

Problem-solving and communal effort create history that is an important part of the school culture, but celebratory rituals are those that foster the feeling of togetherness and success. For instance, yearbooks, high school proms, and even regular newsletters about the students’ progress add to the students’ positive perception of school culture.

The Teaching Staff

Credit: We Are Teachers

“Education can change culture but only insofar as educators are transformed.” — Parent School Board USA (in Dena R. Samuels, “The Culturally Inclusive Educator: Preparing for a Multicultural World”)

In terms of promoting a positive school culture, teachers can either act as a barrier or a driving force. Instructors who work from payment to payment and have resigned to teaching the same material in the same way one academic year to another can never be the promoters of a strong culture. Members of such weak cultures have to be encouraged to make an effort and rewarded for it to be pushed out of their state of complacency. 

A successful school’s staff is driven, ever-learning, and always acquiring new skills and finding new tools and methods to improve the way they deliver their lessons. Their students are motivated high-achievers who are open to exploring all aspects of their education both inside the school and outside of it.

The High Schoolers

“It is our dream that students will … experience their classrooms as invigorating, even inspiring environments — places they look forward to going to and places they hate to leave. It is our dream that they will come to know themselves as masters of various crafts … It is our dreams that … they will come to love the process of learning itself … by making it their own.” — Paideia Schools

The ultimate goal of an educational facility is student achievement. A high school can only be deemed successful if it has results to show. It goes without saying that the said results can never be reached if the students don’t feel at home in their classrooms and the school on the whole and if their efforts aren’t valued.

Culture plays a vital role in the students’ perception of their school, and it needs to keep up with the students that occupy its halls. The instruction needs to be fresh and relevant for the world the students will be stepping into upon graduation. The school schedule has to be accommodated to the students’ needs, and so does the school calendar — if the students have enough time for learning and the extracurricular activities, they will do better in school.

Quotes About School Culture and Effective Leadership

“It is not who you attend school with but who controls the school you attend.” — Nicki Giovanni

“Leaders … will be explorers, adventurers, trailblazers … leaders of leaders … They will gather around them people who have the future in their bones.” — Rowan Gibson “Rethinking the Future

“Company leaders know that success flourishes only when people are committed, believe in the organization, and take pride in their work.” ― Terrence E. Deal, “Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises”

“The key to leadership is having people willing to follow you if only out of curiosity to see what’s going to happen.” — Marc Anderson

The quotes above hit the essence of what effective school leadership is. The principal is possibly the central element of school culture as they play a key role in it — they initiate change, model core values, provide guidance, and facilitate progress and innovation. Principals have been dubbed the agents of change that serve as role models of other stakeholders in the school to look up to.

“Shared leadership … is less like an orchestra, where the conductor is always in charge, and more like a jazz band, where leadership is passed around … depending on what the music demands at the moment and who feels most moved by the spirit to express the music.” — Philip C. Schlechty

All change is said to start at the top, but it has to be implemented on all organizational levels. Headmasters mustn’t and cannot be lone wolves but pack leaders, and they need to initiate and facilitate the steps others are to take in order to reach the common goal and strengthen the school culture.

How to Improve School Culture

Credit: Student Futures

“As teachers, we have the opportunity to foster positive changes to the everyday experience in our schools. Investing time in improving school culture is worth the effort.” — Brad Kuntz

Improving school culture requires both time and effort. Successful leaders are able to pinpoint the crucial areas for improvement in their respective schools, but no matter what those weak spots are, every culture benefits from:

  1. New approaches to teaching
  2. Changing the way students are disciplined
  3. Updating the curriculum
  4. Involving the community
  5. Constant improvement

Novel Approaches

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” — George Santayana

High school students nowadays aren’t getting ready for the jobs of tomorrow. Theory taught in the classroom just won’t cut it in the competitive and rapidly changing technological world they will step into. What our youth needs is an expanded classroom, one that includes their immediate surroundings. They need practical knowledge and benefit from a hands-on approach that they can only receive through internships, workshops, and apprenticeships — and their school has to provide them with those opportunities.


“In traditional schools, you’re penalized for making a mistake. But that won’t work in the new information culture, in the digital world we live in today.” — Daniel Greenberg

If there’s something that inhibits learning, it is punishment. There’s no room for reprimands and penalization in schools. Instead, educators must learn to lead by example of proper behavior and reward those who deserve it, inspiring others to take suit.

Relevant Curriculum

“If the curriculum we use to teach our children does not connect in positive ways to the culture young people bring to school, it is doomed to failure.” — Lisa Delpit

The curriculum has to be adapted to the needs of the students in the same way that the learning space does. They need to gain fresh, relevant skills that will help them position themselves more successfully in the job market. The students of today are leaders of tomorrow, so schools have to foster capable, confident individuals ready for college, career, and life beyond high school.

Communal Effort

“The vision is, first, that the school will be a community, a place full of adults and youngsters who care about, look after, and root for one another and who work together for the good of the whole in times of need and times of celebration. Every member of a community holds some responsibility for the welfare of every other and for the welfare of the community as a whole.” — Barth, R., The Culture Builder 

Schools need substantial support from all stakeholders, without exception — the school personnel, the students, and their family members are equally responsible for making the school a better place for those pupils to thrive in.

Never-Ending Improvement

“When we come to believe that our schools should be providing a school culture that creates and sustains a community of student and adult learning — that this is the trellis of our profession — then we will organize our schools, classrooms, and learning experiences differently. Show me a school where instructional leaders constantly examine the school’s culture and work to transform it into one hospitable to sustained human learning, and I’ll show you students who do just fine on those standardized tests.” — Barth, R., The Culture Builder 

The hard work is hardly finished once a strong and healthy culture is achieved. All those invested in the school have to continue to nourish its progress, bring innovation to the table, and celebrate achievements. Achievements are closely linked to innovation, and it is crucial that the school remains open to improvements and new methodologies. 

The school leader needs to monitor the culture at all times and address potential issues in a timely manner in order to maintain a positive school culture and improve student outcomes.

The Importance of Positive School Culture Quotes

There’s no denying that a positive school culture is instrumental for every educational facility. Here are more school culture quotes that accentuate just how relevant it is.

“A school’s culture has more influence on life and learning in the schoolhouse than the president of the country, the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, or even the principal, teachers, and parents can ever have.” — Barth, R., The Culture Builder

“School cultures in which students submit to learning and to the threats of punishment for not learning generate students who want to be finished with learning when they graduate.” — Barth, R., The Culture Builder

“If you attempt to implement reforms but fail to engage the culture of a school, nothing will change.” — Seymour Sarason

“Numerous studies of school change have identified the organizational culture as critical to the successful improvement of teaching and learning. In study after study, where the culture did not support and encourage reform, the improvement did not occur.” — Deal, T.E., and Peterson, K.D., “Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership

“The culture of an enterprise plays the dominant role in exemplary performance.” — Deal, T.E., and Peterson, K.D., “Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership”

“The secret weapon of effective reform: build confidence as a basis for committed effort and learning. Normal children operating in environments pervaded by belief, discipline, and structured effort experience achievement, and with it the profound satisfactions of high-level learning. This is intrinsic motivation, the basis of personal commitments to development.” — Howard, J., The Need for A New Logic in Education Reform

School Culture Quotes to Inspire You to Rethink High Schools

School culture revolves around the beliefs and values that are at its core and that go beyond classrooms and syllabuses. Yet those beliefs and values mean nothing without the people who roam the school halls, and it is those people — the stakeholders, you — that we need to set our vision in motion.

We want efficient education for our youth. We want skills and practical knowledge. We fight for equity and liberation from constraints. We look into the future and what our youngsters need to grapple with it.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” — Malcolm S. Forbes

“Effective education is not adding a program or a set of programs to a school. Rather, it is a transformation of the culture and life of the school.” — David Berkowitz

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Do you have an urge for a change?

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