Improving student behavior and academic performance often requires changing the school climate and culture. This process takes time to accomplish. And if changes are to be sustained, these changes must occur on the district level as well.
Who Should Lead the Change?
Everyone with ties to the school must be involved in climate change, including the students.
Superintendents and principals should lead the charge! Their decisions on hiring, training, budget allocations, and mission building will have the greatest initial impact. Within each building the principal plays the greatest role in providing leadership, articulating goals and expectations of teachers, and supporting the staff in a variety of ways.
Teachers should consider themselves part of a larger learning community. They should participate in decision-making where they can. When teachers are actively involved in mapping change, the results are overwhelmingly positive!
Some Suggestions for Approaching Change
- Maintain buildings in good physical condition.
- Reward students for appropriate behavior.
- Enforce consequences for inappropriate behavior.
- Create “social contracts” within each class to reinforce behavioral expectations.
- Post behavioral policies on bulletin boards and periodically announce them over the PA system
- Initiate conflict resolution, anti-bullying, and peer mediation programs.
- Engage students, teachers, staff and parents in school safety activities.
- Increase the number and accessibility of counselors, social workers and mentors.
- Create anonymous tip lines or suggestion boxes for reporting potentially dangerous situations or providing ideas to improve school climate.
- Provide more in-school options to “blow off steam.”
- Create a sanctuary room where students can reflect and quiet themselves when they are agitated or upset.
- Develop strategies to ensure physical, social, emotional, and moral safety during lunch periods and recess.
- Provide structured activities during these “down times.”
- Use team teaching.
- Divide large classes into smaller sub-groups.
- Provide for small group activities.
- Provide multiple opportunities for participation in extra-curricular activities.
- Promote cooperation rather than competition. Avoid winners and losers.
- Assure that each student has a positive connection to at least one adult in the school.
- Provide professional development on such issues as class and cultural differences, emotional needs of other children, empathy, parental involvement, and bullying.