Community Matters Blog
Read our blog posts below by Rick Phillips, Executive Director, staff members and guest bloggers, as they discuss the issues of bullying, cyberbullying and school climate.
There’s no way around it… whether you’re conversant and comfortable with the “ins and outs” of data collection and measurement - or not - at the end of the day, data drives decisions. That’s why it’s important to understand what the data is illustrating about climate and then to select measures that are easy to collect and simple to explain.
One thing for sure is that there is no shortage of plans, lists of to do’s or action steps to be taken when it comes to improving our schools. However, too often those plans don’t ever reach their intended or desired end results. Somewhere between the plan and execution, things break down.
Why? In the 15 plus years we have been assisting schools in school safety and school climate change, we’ve identified some critical missteps...
Like most changes in life, even policy changes that have the potential to positively affect school climate will likely be met with at least some level of resistance. It just seems to be human nature to fear and resist change, so effective leaders need to learn to work with the resistance.
A school climate assessment is a step-by-step process that assists school leaders in determining what’s working, what’s not and what’s missing in their current climate efforts. Using a thorough analysis process provides the foundational information necessary for effective planning and implementation of the many climate mandates and initiatives that schools are expected to manage.
Once thought of as a second tier focus not on par with academics, school climate is now understood as a fundamental driver for effective learning to occur. Ensuring that a school is committed to having a positive climate starts with the leaders in charge valuing relationships and connectedness as the essential building blocks for developing a safe, positive and high performing school.
The good news is that there is increased recognition of the value, benefits and effectiveness of implementing school climate improvement plans.
The not so good news is that many administrators and line staff are experiencing overwhelm, frustration and confusion when dealing with the many requirements, mandates and top-down directives that they’re expected to address, all of which can lead to resistance and a significant diminishment in their likelihood of success.
To address both the opportunities and the challenges, we are presenting a five-part series of blogs to provide a clear and compelling climate roadmap for schools to use.
As we recognize National Bullying Prevention Month, we can take heart in knowing that shifts are taking place and that many schools are committed to school climate transformation. While there is still much work to be done, more and more schools are taking positive actions to ensure that their students feel welcome, safe and connected.
We know we can’t legislate civility nor can we punish children into being more tolerant. The only viable solution to the spread of the bullying virus on school campuses today is to change the social norms that allow it to occur.
From the coming and going of the Title IV Safe & Drug-Free Schools funding to President Obama’s latest Now Is the Time initiative that’s partially directed towards school climate improvements, administrators have had to be creatively adept with their budgeting, cutting back in lean times, and cautiously expanding when external funding has become more available and fluid.
Whether you’ve been waiting expectantly for the first day of school to begin - or you’re shaking your head thinking "Is it that time again?” - one of the first priorities that needs our attention as teachers and administrators is remembering how important it is for our students to feel that school is a kind, inclusive and safe place to learn and grow.
Community as a determinant of school climate is one of the more indirect influences, but it is no less important. It is reflected in the emphasis that the community places on education, and on nurturing the educational and social-emotional well-being of its youth.
With the widespread adoption of social media and smartphones by teens and even younger children, bullies have a new playground in which to inflict meanness on their targets: cyberspace.
Students are 90% of a school population, yet they are often underutilized. Adults often see students as consumers rather than contributors. If students are part of the problem, we also know that they must be a part of the solution. At Community Matters we believe that if we can harness their power and potential, we can begin to shift the climate from the inside out.
Columbine shattered our long held belief that our schools are safe havens for our children. To re-establish our schools as places where all children can feel safe, welcome and included requires courage, leadership and the commitment of each one of us.
How can we engage more parents in school climate efforts? Research shows that students from schools with positive climates demonstrate increased academic achievement and participation. And some of the greatest influencers of the school climate may not be coming through the doors everyday, in particular the students’ families.
We now have enough evidence to know that when schools make climate a priority and the staff see themselves as educators and role models who make hall-friendly behavior their practice, schools can be safer places where effective teaching and learning take place.
As we wrote about in Part 1, Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices stand as both a philosophy of discipline and an approach whose time has come.
Despite the best efforts of our nation’s schools, bullying, harassment, hazing, and cyber-bullying are persistent and pervasive issues that impact far too many students. These issues compromise both teaching and learning, negatively affect children’s social and emotional development, take excessive staff and administrative time, and cause many school districts to fall short of achieving the educational outcomes they are charged to reach.
School climate is a key pillar to achieving a safer and higher performing school. This is not news to educators who know that a nurturing, positive and safe environment is a requirement for students to learn and thrive in. The question that needs to be answered now is: How do we get there?
I am writing this blog on the 13th anniversary of the first ever Safe School Ambassadors program ever launched. On December 13 and 14, 2000, three of our local high schools attended a two-day training conducted by Rick Phillips and Chris Pack for a brand new program they called Safe School Ambassadors (SSA).