Improving School Climate (page 2)
Three key aspects of school climate are sense of community, warmth and civility, and feelings of safety and security. It is not difficult to address them in teaching and learning settings.
Sense of Community
Ms. Akadeio, an elementary school principal, is careful when speaking with parents, students, and staff, to use the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” Although the school draws students from different communities, she stresses how they collectively represent one community at the school. Her attitude fosters intrinsic motivation among children and adults to work together on school projects.
Ms. Precota learned in her teacher education program ways to design activities so that all children can learn. When she met her third-grade class she noticed that children tended to stay in the same groups and ignore others. Ms. Precota used activities in which children from different cliques were grouped. After a few weeks she noticed that some of her children now were asking to be grouped with other children who were not originally part of their clique.
Warmth and Civility
When Dr. Lawson became principal at the L. Douglas Fairbrook High School he noticed that the teachers in one department seemed to feel superior to other teachers and had little interaction with them. When they did interact with others these teachers seemed arrogant. After a few weeks he met with this group of teachers, relayed what he had observed, and told them that their behaviors were antithetical to his goal of improving warmth and civility in the school. He further explained that he expected them to work with other teachers across disciplines to lead the effort to foster more interdisciplinary teaching. One teacher asked for a transfer and there were some rough moments, but by midyear these teachers had taken it upon themselves to develop an interdisciplinary focus by meeting with other teachers and developing ways to integrate topics across disciplines.
Ms. McConnagha observed Brendan, a student in her fourth-grade class, tell another student Megan, “You’re stupid and you’ll always be stupid.” Ms. McConnagha took Brendan aside and told him that language like that had no place in the school, that he never was to talk that way again, and that he was to apologize to Megan. Brendan then apologized to Megan, and since then Ms. McConnagha has noticed that the two of them work very well together.
Feelings of Safety and Security
Dana, a junior in the university’s nursing program, met with a counselor at the Student Health Service. Dana explained that she feels threatened by her dormitory roommate and believes her roommate also has taken some of her things. The counselor notified the Student Life Director, who met with the residence hall advisor. After consultation it was decided to provide both students with alternative living arrangements for the remainder of the school year.
Keenan is an elementary student from a single-parent home and has shown little interest in school. His father does not live in the home, but occasionally comes to the home drunk, yells at Keenan and his mother, and is violent. Keenan’s mother works two different jobs and is not home much. Keenan’s principal, teacher, and counselor notified the school system’s social services department and went to the home to meet with his mother. They worked out a plan whereby the teacher would pick Keenan up at home in the morning on her way to work, and then after school Keenan could work in the media center until his mother could pick him up after she got off work at 4 p.m. Keenan’s attitude toward school changed quickly and now he enjoys being there.
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