Developing an influential culture is one of the most effective ways education leaders can positively impact their schools. However, choosing core values for the culture can be tricky. How can one pick between integrity, respect, and excellence? The key is by creating a blanket positive culture, one that incorporates all of these elements in two simple words: be positive.

Why Create a Culture of Positivity

In a piece for Edutopia, education consultant Kyle Wagner said, “As a school leader, your top commitment is to improve student learning.” This job is a complex one, especially since principals and superintendents cannot be in every classroom every day. 

Studies have shown that schools focused on building and encouraging positive cultures see improvements in productivity and success for students and teachers. If school leaders want the school community to reach its full potential, establishing a culture of positivity and achievement is critical. 

How to Build and Sustain a Culture of Positivity

Every administrator takes a different approach to building such a culture. Some start on the individual level, emphasizing the value of each student in the broader academic network. Others work with the school itself by rephrasing negative signage and implementing positive affirmations. 

When looking at positive culture in your school district’s context, think of that district as its own entity. It has distinct wants and needs, which can translate into the wants and needs of students. Respond to and fulfill those needs, and you will have made a difference.

How can school leaders ensure that the culture stays once it is put in place? Just like a well-oiled machine, school culture requires fine-tuning and routine maintenance to operate smoothly and effectively. Building strong relationships with students, teachers, and parents is the first step to creating a culture of positivity. Maintaining those relationships is what keeps the culture alive. These relationships expand leaders’ views of the school community and its needs, as conversations expose leaders to classroom concerns, community ideas, and creative problem-solving. 

Leaders must make psychological safety a priority in the engagement of employees. In every organization, fear can develop about negative consequences for sharing concerns or challenging norms. Leaders must not only encourage employees to “speak their truths” but create the safety net for people feeling comfortable to do so.

Creating and maintaining a school culture takes time and effort. However, success in this area leads to success in so many others. Positive school cultures allow safety, support, and prosperity to become inherent to the school, ingrained in each interaction between students, teachers, and their community. 

This article was originally published to