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  • Writer's pictureKaty Sperry

A Middle-School Teacher's Perspective on Torrey Project's "Culture Trumps Everything" Session

"When you change the way you see the world, the world you see changes."

This is the message that speaker and psychologist Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky shares to business men and women all over the country. Dr. Gustavo, as he prefers to be called, came to speak to Torrey Project’s incubator class last Saturday and discussed the importance of trust, community, and culture in creating a socially responsible business.

I was happy to attend this talk, not as a participant of the Torrey Project, but as a guest of my entrepreneurial significant other. After attending, I believe this particular talk can give value to any person who has ever worked for, or along side, any other company or business that values the importance of culture in the workplace.

As a middle-school science teacher, I have worked in schools large and small, private and public, within urban and suburban districts. All of these schools have the same goal in common; to educate students and prepare them for their adult lives.

As I listened to Dr. Gustavo’s talk about the importance of healthy culture in the workplace, one school stood out in my mind. I spent the majority of my teaching career at this particular institution it is near and dear to my heart. I always wondered why exactly that was? I was not in my hometown, I did not attend the school as a student myself, so why was I so drawn to work there? As I listened to Dr. Gustavo explaining “...praise and social recognition drives performance and that sales...”-- it hit me! It was the culture that was so impactful on me, my colleagues, and the students enrolled.

At this school, I saw students exhibit true confidence. Sure, they would obtain good grades but that almost seemed like a byproduct. They did not just work hard, they sought out personal challenges. They not only worked together but also empowered one another to do better. They did not just answer questions but they too asked hard questions and sought out their own answers if they could.

While at the school, I was ECO club leader and frequently, students would come to my classroom on non-meeting days exclaiming, “Ms. Green, we can better utilize food waste for compost in the school garden! Let’s find alternatives to single-use plastics in the lunchroom! We can totally limit our water use in the student bathrooms, too!” Even students who were not enrolled in ECO club would jump into a particular student-led project. This hunger to improve was not only coming from the kids. Teachers, parents, administrators, older students, and younger students alike, as a community we wanted more. The behaviors they saw in their community members gave them the confidence to be their best, encourage others to be their best, and work to leave the school better than they found it. The culture of “let’s do better together” was an intentional piece of the school’s culture that was implemented by the principal and board members. It was not long before it became the body and soul of the institution.

If a business could put culture first, value its employees while growing and upholding its mission, I can imagine the impact that business could make. Dr. Gustavo’s presentation was primarily tailored to the attention of founders and CEO’s of social enterprise companies because they are the first to set the tone for the company. He ended with the quote, “When you change the way you see the world, the world you see changes.”

This post was contributed by guest blogger Audrey Green, author of the Eat With Green vegan food blog.

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