When I read or watch the news these days, I learn about climate change. And how it affects me. And what I can do to affect it. This is a little overwhelming, really to think of just one person having an effect on, oh I don’t know, the entire atmosphere, but it has made me think of climate in terms of my school. What is our climate? Is it changing? If so, is it improving or deteriorating? Does it matter? What role do I play?
Just what is school climate? According to the National School Climate Center, it is the quality and character of school life. School climate is based on patterns of students’, parents’ and school personnel’s experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures. Research shows a correlation between positive school climate and student achievement. Furthermore, just like in our physical environment, people want to stay in a pleasant climate. Teacher turn-over is lower in schools that report a positive climate.
These are high stakes, but what do we do? How much is left up to us, the educators? Isn’t it enough that we plan relevant, rigorous lessons based on national standards? Isn’t it enough that we incorporate Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy into the very fiber of our beings? We have to be relational too?
I want my school to be a favorable place, conducive to accomplished teaching and authentic learning, and that cannot happen in a harsh climate. A first step toward this favorable school environment is building positive collegial relationships. And this is why I will participate in our staff back-to-school picnic. Not just attend. Participate. I’m not talking about getting my teammates off to a table to begin unit planning. No, I will not even take a notebook or pen. I want to welcome and get to know new staff members. I want to listen to my colleagues. And on Thursday, that means hearing about the new houses, the vacations, the gardens, the aged parents and the new babies’ accomplishments. Later, like Friday, I want to hear, really hear, their ideas about students, discipline, essential questions and assessments, but first, over a hamburger, I want to know them as people. This, I believe is a vital first step in creating a positive school climate.
So, to what have you been invited? Will you participate? What does your staff do to promote collegiality on your campus?
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