Five Ways To Create a Healthy School Climate
When children feel cared for by the adults in their school, it creates a sense of belonging and trust. Collaborative and caring interactions boost self-esteem. In turn, self-esteem boosts academic achievement and decreases problem behavior like bullying.
Here are five ways to create a healthy school climate:
- Create a school-wide plan.
- Get everybody on board. All teachers, staff, students and parents need to feel like they have an investment in creating a positive school climate. Why? Positive and safe schools are necessary in order for students to learn and thrive, for teachers to enjoy and continue their work and for parents to feel like they have a connection to their child’s academic world.
- Teach behavior expectations.
- If you don’t let students know what you want them to do, how will they know? Focus on teaching a few general positively stated expectations, such as “be safe,” “be responsible,” and “be respectful.” Invite students to discuss what the expectations look like in different areas of the school. Give positive feedback and reteach the expectations often throughout the school year.
- Create positive relationships.
- Children crave adult attention, both positive and negative. If they aren’t getting positive attention, they will settle for getting negative attention by acting out and disrupting class. That’s why it’s important for teachers to make an effort to create a positive connection with every student — especially with those students who act out. Find out about their families, their friends and their likes and dislikes. Students who receive positive attention are less likely to seek negative attention.
- Notice and reinforce positive behavior.
- When you see students meeting behavior expectations, give them praise specific to their behavior or tangible rewards like “good job” tickets. When you let students know that their behavior is valued and appreciated, they learn and will be more likely to practice positive behavior in the future.
- Respond immediately to problem behavior.
- Responding quickly and appropriately to a problem is more effective than ignoring it, losing your temper or resorting to harsh punishment. Don’t take it personally. Calmly offer the student a choice of cooperating or facing an appropriate consequence. Give the student a moment to respond. This is usually enough to get most students back on track. Follow through by acknowledging the student’s cooperation or following through with the consequence.
By working together as a team, teachers, staff and students can reduce negative behavior and increase positive behavior. This creates a healthier and less punitive school climate for everyone.
These techniques are taken from Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Read about a research study that is currently measuring the effect of school climate on academics. Having trouble implementing PBIS? Get help here.
Laura Strobel is the editor of the IRIS Ed Focus blog, a multi-author blog focusing on K–12 school climate, parenting, behavior, special education, classroom management, school improvement and reform, diversity and equity, investing in education and support for parents of children who have Autism.
She also produces and edits educational videos for teachers, students and parents for IRIS Educational Media.