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 children’s academic world. Schools that are positive and safe are said to have a healthy school climate.
What are the conditions that create a healthy school climate?
Social and emotional health
When children feel cared for by the adults in their school, it creates a sense of belonging and trust. Caring interactions boost self-esteem. In turn, self-esteem boosts academic achievement and decreases problem behavior like bullying.
Caring interactions mean that people are communicating in a collaborative way. Students are given rewards and praise for positive behavior and academic effort. People use respectful language and cultivate partnerships. There is conflict mediation training. These caring interactions happen between teachers and students, between students, between the adults at the school and with others in the community.
The physical environment
Our health is affected by the quality of our physical environment, the food we eat, and the buildings we live and work in. Poorly maintained buildings with overcrowded, noisy and disorganized classrooms don’t add to the well-being of the school climate. Comfortable, open and well-organized schools help students learn and help the staff do their jobs.
A healthy school climate includes a willingness to grow and learn cross-culturally. Schools must value and respect differences in ethnicity, race, family economics, mobility, gender and disability. There need to be high expectations for all students. Common language may have to be shifted in order to avoid labels like ‘those Tier II kids,’ ‘bad behavior,’ etc.
Research shows that a healthy school climate has a direct relationship with better student academic achievement. After all, students can’t focus on their schoolwork if they’re being bullied or discriminated against. They can’t feel confident and cared for if they have punishing teachers. And teachers can’t perform the difficult task of teaching without support from administrators and school districts. For these reasons and more, there are currently federal and state-wide efforts to create a healthy school climate in every school.
Please think about what it means to have a healthy school climate and how to bring it about. What are ways that you promote a healthy school climate? What are some methods that schools can use to become healthier? Please add your comments below.