National Bullying Prevention Month - A Call to Action: 5 Things You Can Do to Improve School Climate

October 8 2013


When I reflect back on my experiences at school, I immediately envision 2 things. First is my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. McKinnon, who made me feel special and valuable as a student in her class. And second, how many times kids said and did mean things to me when I was on the playground or in the cafeteria, and nobody said or did anything to stop it. These images describe my personal experience, both positive and negative, and they are also indicators of the positive and negative aspects of my school’s climate. 

What is school climate, you may ask?  In my experience, it was the impact that my relationships had on me and my school experience.  And according to the National School Climate Council, school climate refers to “the quality and character of school life. School climate is based on patterns of students', parents' and school personnel's experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures”.

Improving the school climate may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is each of us can and do impact climate, whether we intend to or not. We can all do that, in a more intentional way, by making a commitment to initiate positive interactions with each other. It is these small acts, when done consistently over time, and with a focus on relationships, that we begin the change process. 

In honor of Bullying Prevention Month, we at Community Matters have identified 5 things every person can do to reduce incidents of bullying and improve their school climate. Doing these 5 things doesn’t take money, or a mandate or even much time. But, they do create social norms change, “each one reaching one”. So let’s be agents of change and take action on the following:

  1. Greet people and be “hall friendly”.  Say hello and let the people you interact with in your school and community know that they are valued and they matter.  A smile and a greeting can be a difference maker for many of us.
  2. Notice and reach out to students you don’t know, or know well. Take the risk and be friendly, particularly to those who are too often alone, isolated or even deliberately excluded. Your actions might be the best experience in their day.
  3. Speak up when you encounter “meanness”. Don’t be a bystander. It takes courage to say or do something when you witness someone saying or doing something mean. Start with people you know and tell them when there actions are not ok with you.
  4. Recognize and acknowledge the actions taken by students, staff, community and parents that positively impact the school climate. A thank you says a lot.
  5. Get involved. Use social media; tweet, facebook or write a blog. Consider also writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Volunteer and be a role model whenever you can.

Remember that the journey of 1,000 miles is accomplished by taking single steps. Each time we say or do something to help someone else, our individual actions are linked to other individual actions, and together those actions stir hope, promote peace and create safer schools and communities for everyone.

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