School Climate and Culture Work Together Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

Build and maintain a safe, caring and healthy school environment that meets the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of each student.

IN our quest for a outstanding school environment, we need look no farther than a Reese’s Cup for inspiration and clarity.


Ahh, the Reese’s cup.  Creamy peanut butter embraced by delicious chocolate.  They come together to form a treat for the tastebuds; a banquet for the senses; a championship combination.

When school leaders think about school climate and culture, they might think about that sort of relationship.  They are different, but intertwined.  Compatible, and supportive of the other.  You don’t work on one without the other.  The effective school leader works on both to reach success in the middle.

Climate, in the school context,  can be described as the atmosphere in which we’re breathing; the feel of the school.  Culture, in brief, consists of beliefs and priorities that drive the thoughts and actions of the people in the school.

One of the standards (number five to be exact) of school leadership (PSEL, see below) suggests that effective school leaders develop a community of care and support for students.  To do so, leaders build and maintain an environment that supports students.  We create the conditions in which success can be discovered by our teachers and students.

What school leaders, particularly those who are new, at a new school, or working to revise the mindset of a faculty want is the starting point for climate and culture.  Most typically you work on both at the same time.  You work on how people feel about school (climate) and what motivates them to do well (culture).  You leverage the momentary (climate) to build the sustainable (culture).

What I’ve learned in a career as a teacher and administrator and as a supporter of principals across the country the past five years is that you can use climate to develop culture, but you can also count on the culture to influence what climate you have.  It’s a Catch-22 situation.  A paradox.  A dual-flow environment.

When we can increase the positivity of our faculty and staff, we can leverage that feeling into deeper thoughts and understanding and a growth mindset.  When we have a growth-minded culture, we can impact the way people feel on a daily basis because of the strength of the school’s beliefs.

In this blogspace coming up in the next episodes, we will examine climate and culture more deeply and consider how you can effectively invest time to improve them both.  Please stay tuned!



You can see the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders here:  (

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