High School Rituals

Routine, Ritual, and School Community

Educator Eric Schaps believes that creating a strong feeling of community in schools is both vital and feasible. In addition, as Thomas Sergiovanni argues in Building Community in Schools, “In communities, we become connected as a result of our commitment rather than our compliance with rules” (p.58). Sergiovanni argues that our fundamental human need “for a sense of belonging, for a sense of being linked to others” is what drives our want to be connected.

Okay, that’s great. To achieve this buy-in and dedication to building a strong sense of community within our district, school, or classroom, educational leaders must first gain their support. This post will explain the relationship between culture, climate, and community, as well as present examples of ways that school and classroom leaders have fostered a sense of community via the use of routines in their respective settings.

Personality + Attitude are created by combining culture and climate.
According to Steve Gruenert, culture is defined as an organization’s personality, and climate is defined as its attitude (PDF). Those who wish to follow the existing leadership will not be able to choose the culture of the institution in which they will enrol. Despite this, they continue to strive to be a part of it. “Being a part of a community is something you choose,” said columnist Barbara McKee. To become a member of your school, new followers must first grasp the way things are done at your institution; this includes the culture, as well as how they are accomplished, and the climate. One approach for a leader to assist in the transmission of a school’s values and norms is to include them in daily activities.

Schools have routines and rituals, according to Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker’s book School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It. Routines are defined as the things that leaders do to ensure that the school runs efficiently, while rituals are defined as “stylized expressions of our values and beliefs.” Routines become the norm over time when they are guided by the mission of the school or the classroom in question. Routines become rituals, and followers begin to expect what they are doing.

The following video from Edutopia displays community development in action through the use of a morning meeting routine, as demonstrated in the video below. Students’ learning, greater attendance, and the development of a sense of community are all cited as advantages by leaders:

Pledges, low-cost entertainment, and celebrations are all possibilities.

A school-wide practice that promoted a sense of belonging among the entire student body and faculty is illustrated in this case study. A commitment of some sort is made at the start of every day at Adams School in Castine, Maine. The pledges ranged from the solemn (such as the Pledge of Allegiance) to the ridiculous (such as the Star-Spangled Banner) (a Jerry Spinelli ode to bats). According to then-principal Todd R. Nelson, the goal was to establish a “meaningful morning routine” for the entire school community.

Here’s how I used a routine promise to foster a feeling of community among students in a particular classroom. The Scholarly Pledge was created after a lengthy conversation with my first-grade students about the differences between being a student and being a scholar. We said it each morning to set the tone for who we were and how we wanted to act that day. Following frequent recitation and reference to the pledge throughout the day, the pledge evolved into a ritualized practice. If we missed to say it, the students would call out to me. It was as if the athlete were putting on his or her athletic gear in the same order and style before every competition. Students were emotionally prepared to participate as a result of the ceremony. As Sergiovanni put it, it provided them with a sense of belonging and a sense of belonging to the community.

An ex-principal of mine opened each faculty meeting with what he referred to as “cheap entertainment and celebrations,” but with a group of adults instead of students or teachers. Occasionally, he would provide us with inexpensive amusement in the form of reading self-written, amusing poetry about our school, asking us to share the worst movie we had ever watched with one another or playing a game of trivia about our district, rewarding successful answers with candy bars. After that, he would tell a storey about something unique that happened to an individual, a class, or the school as a whole. The purpose of the sharing was to recognise and appreciate all of the good work that had been accomplished by the students and faculty of our school.

By January, this practice had established itself as an expectation, a standard, and a ritual that we all looked forward to each morning. The “cheap entrainment” was being practised by other professors beside him. People were nominating other people to participate in celebrations. We, teachers, began seeking favorable characteristics in our colleagues. We felt more connected as we exchanged goofy personal preferences and serious professional successes through a pattern that had become ritualised, allowing us to feel more linked to one another.

Students and adults alike desire to feel a sense of belonging to their school’s culture. Leaders have provided followers with methods of belonging through the use of morning meetings, an individual vow, and ritualised festivals, all of which you have seen or read about so far in this post. Examine the personality of your classroom or institution — the culture — to see what you can learn. Analyze the environment in which everyone works, learns, and builds in collaboration. Consider practices that will help your followers feel more at home in their skin. Then, create and implement routines that allow your followers to become a member of your unique community — routines that, over time, will become ritualised norms of the school’s culture — routines that will become ritualised norms of the school’s culture.