Much of my career has been in small, 2-3 teacher schools across North America. About a year and a half ago I took a position here at Upper Columbia Academy. This is the first opportunity I have had to teach in a boarding academy campus. I was excited to be back in a classroom setting, working directly with young people after working in a conference office for the previous 4+ years. UCA is a strong secondary academy but not without it’s challenges. One of UCA’s strength’s that I observed was it’s culture – unique and strong. One of my curiosities was what created this culture? Why was it unique? Why so distinctive? Was it created by the Principal? What is a unique curriculum? Did certain social programming create the culture? Some special marketing program?
I ruled out all of those. Do those things contribute to a strong campus and strong culture? Yes. Do they cause it? No, they are symptoms. The culture of a campus, or any institution for that matter, is created by the staff of that campus. We are blessed here at UCA to have some staff who have been here, 8, 10, 15, and almost 20 years. Each of these staff members, no matter how long they have been here, contribute to the culture of the institution – both the culture the students see, and the interpersonal culture of the staff. Some staff add tremendously to the culture, from the coach who take no gruff from any student – but they all know he loves them, to the cook who loves the kids and does everything possible to have great food the kids will eat.
But we are all human. Each of us also subtracts something from the culture as well. Maybe it’s our intolerance to change, our harshness in the classroom, our oversensitivity to things that annoy us in other staff members, or maybe our expectation of absolute perfection in others. No matter how we justify our position, we all subtract something.
Take a look around at your school, church, or even family. I think you will find this law of culture to hold true. As I look back at the various schools, churches, and institutions with which I’ve worked, I can see this holding true. The leadership is very key in fostering the culture, but often it happens in spite of the leadership, not because of them.
Now to get personal. What do I add to the culture of the the school/church of which I am a part? What do I subtract form the culture? Do I add more than I subtract? Our human nature is to subtract. We want to take from the those around us, but not give. Only Christ can change that for us.