FOSTERING CONNECTEDNESS IN A SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
To understand the benefits of fostering caring environments, it’s helpful to take an ecological view. Dan Reist of CARBC uses a simple analogy of frogs in a pond to help us understand a whole school approach. As he says, “If some of the frogs in the pond started behaving strangely, our first reaction would not be to intervene by providing a fix or treatment for the frogs. Instead, we’d wonder what was going on in the pond environment.”
Just like the frogs in the pond, students are more likely to thrive when they feel safe in their environment. Making our classrooms and schools safe and accepting places can support students to stretch in their learning – to try new things and risk failing – because they know you, their classmates, and other school staff are there to support them. For children and youth who have challenges outside of school, a supportive school environment can be a safe haven. This isn`t news though. Educators and others who work with children and youth have known and acted on this for a long time.
As the school year winds down, it`s the perfect time to reflect on the great work that you have done to make your classroom and school environment a welcoming and caring for place for all. There are many ways to foster caring environments at school. Pat yourself on the back as you check off some of the many approaches below that you and your colleagues have used to foster your students’ sense of emotional and physical safety this year:
- School staff know students’ names and greet them each day.
- There is open, frequent and positive communication among students and school staff.
- School staff teach, model and reinforce respectful behaviour towards students and their families and each other.
- The classroom is an inviting space with regular opportunities for dialogue among students, family members and community members.
Learning activities are designed to draw on students’ learning styles or preferences.
At-risk students have a staff member assigned to them who will take additional initiative and make a positive connection.
Behavioural expectations are reviewed with students and are clear.
There are opportunities for all students to participate in academic and non-academic activities.
Classroom discussions are organized to encourage students to share and convey respect for diverse perspectives.
Reports of harassment, name-calling, bullying and cyber-bullying are responded to in a timely fashion.
Emergency procedures are posted in hallways and reviewed on a regular basis with students.
All staff and students have a clear understanding regarding behaviour expectations in the classroom, halls, lunch area and during special events.
Educational staff are assigned positions to monitor student movement at doors and hallways during times of arrival, departure and class transitions.
School meeting areas are well maintained, free from litter and clutter, and facilitate movement and interactions among students and school staff.
Spaces are designed for use by individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and characteristics.
Processes are in place to address accommodation requests by individuals for whom the design of the space does not automatically provide access.
School rules and policies are fair and equitable.
Students and teachers collaboratively develop classroom rules and expectations.
The school identifies practices for ensuring welcoming, accessible and inclusive experiences for everyone using the space.
- Opportunities are available to learn about, appreciate and celebrate differences among people; to develop social skills like sharing, cooperating, communicating and resolving conflict constructively; and for students to participate fully in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that will enhance their overall development.
Source: Healthy Schools BC Newsletter June 2016