When you think about school climate and culture, what comes to mind? For me, I think about the qualities and attributes of a healthy, positive school community. Are students being supported? Are teachers and staff confident and motivated? Do both students and staff feel they are part of a safe learning environment?
CPI helps schools take another step in a positive direction with its eBook: Fostering Positive Educational Climates. This resource helps school leaders and teachers alike to use their knowledge of the foundational CPI curriculum to look within, assessing their own school climate and culture.
CPI also provides educators with strategies to help grow their current realities into thriving academic atmospheres, if they aren’t already as one would hope them to be.
The Integrated Experience in School Climate and Culture
An important theme in the CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® (NCI) course that is also featured in this eBook is the idea of The Integrated Experience. This concept means that our behavior—as staff—can influence the behavior of others. Our students, our classroom, fellow staff members, and our school as an entity itself can each be influenced by my individual behavior. This self-assessment within the book stood out to me because I have traditionally viewed The Integrated Experience as an opportunity to influence the behavior of others directly. However, my behavior around a school—picking up trash in the hallway or the way I greet my students, for example—also can influence the behavior of others.
As a Global Professional Instructor for CPI, I get to experience what schools look like across North America. Schools where bathrooms are pristine, hallways are inviting, student awards are displayed, and artwork (and student work) flourishes on the walls are climates where it appears learning thrives. Somebody—be it teachers, principals, custodians, or others—are providing a brand of The Integrated Experience. Their efforts to keep areas clean and proud definitely influence the positive behaviors of visitors like me, but also are sure to influence the behaviors of the students and other staff in the school, as well. Fostering Positive Educational Climates pushes educators to consider influences like this.
The Integrated Experience and Trauma
Being trauma-aware and providing a trauma-sensitive approach to teaching is another way to include The Integrated Experience into your behavior management goals. I am reminded of one former student who had experienced family trauma in her past. A victim of an abusive father, this student struggled interacting with adult men and some male students. It was important that we—as a school—had strategies to help meet her where she was. We had to respect and empathize with her past in order to provide her with the education she deserved. I believe our school provided a positive educational climate, and we certainly were prepared to include her, even though this required a very careful approach from several members of our staff.
5 Fundamental School Climate and Culture Strategies
Understanding that physical, social, and emotional components are intrinsically linked to behavior management and academic performance, doing your part to support a healthy school climate is vital. I think the school climate strategies CPI calls out in the eBook are an excellent place to start.
- Establish Common Values
Common values centered around courtesy and respect should be a top priority.
- Assess Your Environment
The look and feel of your school tell staff, students, and visitors what to expect.
- Pay Attention to Warning Signs
Watch for cues from students and colleagues that may indicate distress. These warning signs will help you take a supportive attitude that focuses on prevention.
- Develop Policies and Procedures
Established plans and expectations outlined in the form of policies and procedures help ensure an understanding of the expectations in place.
- Create and Execute Staff Development Plans
Staff come to the job with teaching skills but become even more effective as educators when they have the skills and training to prevent and de-escalate challenging behavior.
Combining a positive school climate and culture focus with the many strategies featured in CPI training will undoubtedly reap rewards for your school. Keep the conversation going: how do you define a positive climate and culture for your school?
Kevin Mabie, Ed.D. is a Global Professional Instructor at Crisis Prevention Institute, and an educator with over 20 years of experience as a high school teacher and administrator. Dr. Mabie also facilitates trainings for the National School Reform Faculty.
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