Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division, Anthony Muhammad
Book Review – Spike C. Cook, Millville, NJ
Are you looking for a leadership book on school culture that integrates data, practical advice, and strategies tailored to your school’s unique needs? Honestly, anyone who is an administrator in a school is looking for such a book! In Transforming School Culture (2nd Edition) Anthony Muhammad provides a road map for aspiring and current school leaders who are interested in addressing the daunting task of improving school culture. For this new edition, Dr. Muhammad has updated the research, added a frequently asked questions section, and added further guidance to equip leaders to take their school’s culture to the next level.
Throughout the first section of the book, Dr. Muhammad provides an overview of the current reform movement as well as a detailed analysis on the four types of educators he found in schools while doing his research. The four types of educators and their goals:
- The Believers are focused on the core values of healthy school culture, feel that all students can learn and that they have a direct impact on student success.
- The Tweeners are new to the culture and still experiencing the honeymoon phase.
- The Survivors are a small group of educators who are burned out, overwhelmed and struggle to survive.
- The Fundamentalists are vehemently opposed to change and through political power become a major obstacle in reform. They are usually against the Believers.
As you read the brief overview of the four types of educators, did these descriptions make you think about your faculty? If you had to group your faculty into the four groups, how long do you think it would take? According to Dr. Muhammad, identifying these four groups is essential in understanding the real culture of the school. The next step, and perhaps more difficult, is to take action so that you can transform your school culture. Through this work, you will learn how (and why) to transform the culture by developing the following:
- Systemic focus on learning
- Celebrating the success of all stakeholders
- Creating system of support for Tweeners
- Removing the walls of isolation
- Providing intensive professional development
- Implementing skillful leadership and focus
These six steps may appear more difficult to implement because of the overwhelming tasks required to operate a school with the demands of the 21st century. Have no fear because Dr. Muhammad provides practical, easy to implement exercises to support you on your journey. All you will need to do is put the framework provided into practice!
In the final chapter, Dr. Muhammad includes the questions he has encountered from the emails, messages as well as the in-person discussions since the release of the first edition in 2009. These questions will resonate with you as you may have already penciled them into margins as you read the book. For instance, one of the questions could spark a much needed conversation on the four types of educators such as what if a Fundamentalist believes that he or she is a Believer? I can honestly say I thought the same thing!
In conclusion, Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division 2nd Edition will be worth the read. Dr. Muhammad understands school culture not only as a researcher and author, but also as a former teacher, vice principal, and principal. He led a staff transformational process in a high poverty, high minority school with a toxic, low expectation school into a nationally recognized school and earned a Principal of the Year in Michigan for his efforts.
Spike C. Cook, Ed.D. is Principal of Lakeside Middle School in Millville, NJ. Connect with him via twitter @drspikecook or check out his personal blog drspikecook.com.