What’s the Issue?
Research on school climate states:
“School climate can be a positive influence on the health of the learning environment or a significant barrier to learning” (Freiberg 1998).
As educators, it is our responsibility to provide the very best education we can to our students. Last week I promised to share some of my “secrets” with administrators and teachers, regarding positive school climate.
I have developed a program that enables your staff to create a positive climate in your school! The Generation Text Online Positive School Climate program consists of several simple activities that require no supplies and no preparation.
- 1. To create an atmosphere (for educators and students) within the school that:
- · Allows for academic & social growth
- · Enables people to feel trust and respect
- · Allows for achievement motivation
- · Is fair
- · has order and discipline
- · has positive student interpersonal relationships
- · has positive student-teacher relationships
- · has high morale
- · allows for the opportunity for input
- · Allows for cohesiveness
- · Is caring
- 2. The opportunity to learn specifics about the person, not just a “number” or “student” in a class or school.
- 3. To understand the events that people experience outside of school and how if effects them
- 4. For educators and students to feel physically safe in their environment
- 5. For educators and students to attend work and school free of ridicule, harassment, intimidation and bullying
The first activity, called High/Lows, is an extremely effective method of building a bond within any group of people. If this activity is conducted on a weekly basis, you will be amazed at how quickly this tool works to build a positive climate within a classroom.
How to get it started:
I suggest using this activity with the education staff in your building to kick off a school wide program. By first having the staff participate in this activity, it allows them to understand how simple it is to implement with their students. In my experience, “proving” to your staff that this activity is easy to implement, is the biggest hurdle in motivating and expecting educators to take on additional tasks in their job description. Once educators witness how this activity makes classroom management a whole lot easier, the positive results will be exponential!
Depending on the size of your group, you may need to split into several groups. If this activity is just one activity of many, similar to the format at a retreat, it is best to keep it moving quickly. In order to accomplish that, I would suggest splitting the attendees into groups of 10 – 15 people.
For teachers who are working towards a positive climate for their class, it is important to have all class members participate in one group. Have your group get into a circle. Each group should choose a facilitator or someone to keep the activity moving (in a classroom, the teacher is the facilitator).
How it works:
To begin, the first participant in the circle will share with the rest of the group their “High” of the week, or the best thing that happened to them. The facilitator or others in the group may ask questions or comment. When doing High/Lows with kids, the facilitator role is an important one in order to keep the activity moving. Next the person who is talking will share their “Low” of the week, or the worst thing that happened to them. Going clockwise, each person in the circle should share their High/Lows.
The idea of this activity is to offer an existing group of people the opportunity to learn 2 current things about each person. It is natural for people to be most concerned with self-centered thoughts. This activity allows each participant to focus their thoughts on someone other than themselves, as well as practice their active listening skills. As a result of this activity, classmates begin to understand motives or circumstances of why people may act out or react in various situations. Once this activity is practiced on a consistent basis (I like choosing a particular day of the week and doing it in the beginning of class) you will see that participants begin to “notice“ things about other people. Once people are not focused on self-centered thoughts and needs, they begin to see what they have never seen before. As a result of this new realization, participants are able to see opportunities to help those who may need support and comfort.
Following the high/lows, you may want to emphasize with your staff the purpose of this exercise. I believe that it is always better to ask the participants what it is they learned rather than lecture them; therefore I use a 21st Century strategy. Here is a list of discussion questions that allows for this exercise:
• Why do you think we did this?
• What did you think about the facilitator (you and the person who was running the exercise)?
• Do you think we cared about what you were saying? Why? How could you tell?
- · Shook my head
- · Told a personal story
- · Asked questions
- · Smiled
- · Looked at you
Good Luck and Enjoy!–
Generation Text Online