Your Road Map to Improved Climate and Culture at Your School
Who’s behind the wheel? A committed administrator? A dedicated activities director? These two will take turns driving. Both of these folks need to have a vision about where you are going and an understanding of how to get there. This road map will help, however it is essential to have the right people in the driver’s seat(s).
Starting line…or baseline: What does your climate and culture look like now? How will you know that it has improved? How are you going to measure your success? You need to have a baseline in order to determine whether you’ve met your goal(s) down the road. So gather some information and record where you are now. You might include multiple measures for this: The Road Show survey we sent you, Safe Schools Survey information, GPA’s and attendance data, suspension and expulsion information, test scores. You might also try the baseline activity numbered B-1. This activity also falls under the category below of “providing your students a voice.”
A) Train your student leaders (but first, train the leader of these leaders).
Your student leaders can be found across your campus doing a variety of things and wearing many different hats. Find these leaders and train them.
B) Provide your leaders a voice in their school
This will create a connection, sense of ownership, commitment and investment. Your students will feel a part of your team; it will foster a feeling of US with no THEM.
C) Unite your campus by providing common experiences -
that will give your students a universal language whether it is a homecoming rally, motivational speaker or a program like Teen Truth— an all-school activity will help build community and improve your school’s climate.
D) Create pride and spirit -
on your campus by providing activities for your students that are rich in tradition (even if they require a new, improved twist).
E) Promote achievement -
(of all kinds) through your focus on the behaviors you want to have more of. Tangible rewards need to be part of your focus.
F) Offer positive social opportunities -
like dances and rallies and noontime activities. The idea of programs like Friday Night Live is to offer a replacement to partying, and in addition to safe, healthy alternatives, positive social activities will help you provide an opportunity for your students to grow and develop socially and emotionally. Education beyond the classroom creates well-rounded students who are connected to their school.
G) Encourage a culture of service
There is nothing better for self-esteem than doing something for someone else. And it could be argued that a student body with high self-esteem will be a student body with good attendance, behavior and grades. Besides that we want our students to leave high school and continue to give to others—our communities are counting on us
H) Concentrate on Character Education.
School qualities that build character include such things as: connectedness, opportunities for students to reflect, debate, and collaborate, social skills training, the opportunity to engage in moral behavior (community service). All of these components are naturally embedded in a strong activities program. However Character Education itself is an important piece of the puzzle and it warrants mentioning as component part of addressing climate and culture.
I) Communicate Clearly
It is imperative that the administration provide a venue for activities directors to report to the staff—time at the staff meeting, bulletin space, all-school email capability…all work. Student leaders need to understand the importance of communication—both in the form of advertising as well as the unspoken messages they are giving their peers.
J) Honor Diversity -
on your campus. It is our differences that make us more interesting and more powerful. Help your students to appreciate one another’s cultures, abilities (and disabilities) hobbies and interests. Diversity goes well beyond cultural diversity.
K) Create Connection
Students who are connected to their school have higher grades, test scores, attendance and fewer discipline problems. Connectedness is a protective factor for limiting high risk behaviors. Find a way to connect every student in your school and watch what happens to your climate and culture (and achievement and attendance).