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Building a School on the Power of Culture

A discussion with Katharine Birbalsingh, editor of the new book, Michaela: The Power of Culture

In this interview with Katharine Birbalsingh, founder and headmistress of Michaela Community School and editor of the new book, Michaela: The Power of Culture (John Catt Educational), you’ll hear why a focus on the culture of school above all is the ultimate driver of student success. Birbalsingh describes powerful tactics used in the school that help students develop their discipline while also strengthening deep engagement with learning. 

While many schools expect high standards of behavior, the Michaela approach melds school culture into the teaching methods. Students are taught in an environment that instills a strong sense of values, gratitude, and discipline that aligns with the school’s ethos. Results have indicated the approach is working, academically and otherwise, especially for children who might otherwise have become lost in the education system. Clear instruction from teachers that removes the guesswork for students and instills confidence transforms students’ beliefs about themselves and their ability.

As you listen to the interview, think through the following questions, and consider keeping an open mind to concepts that challenge modern approaches:

• Are there areas in your curriculum and daily schedule that allow for increased opportunity to teach the concept of gratitude?

• Leadership is about consistency and clarity of delivery. Is there a transparent approach to school culture and values delivered from leadership to teachers in your school?

• In your teacher training program, where you taught certain strategies that you later found ineffective? How might professional development programs train teachers on more beneficial practices to counteract gaps in preservice learning?

• Although not all modern teaching methods are ineffective, we can’t assume “modern” automatically equals “good.” Are there approaches you’ve come across that are popular but not useful?

Learn more about Katharine Birbalsingh’s book, Michaela: The Power of Culture, and more great John Catt Educational publications, by visiting us.johncattbookshop.com

About Katharine Birbalsingh

Katharine Birbalsingh is the founder and headmistress of Michaela Community School. She is the author of Singleholic (2009), To Miss with Love (2011), and editor of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way (2016). She is also the editor of a new book Michaela: The Power of Culture available at John Catt Educational publications.

Birbalsingh is the host of a blog, To Miss with Love, where she writes about the education system. In 2017 she was included by Anthony Seldon in his list of the 20 most influential figures in British education, and in 2019 she was awarded the Contrarian Prize.

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