If a visitor walked through your school’s doors right now, what kind of atmosphere would they find? Would they notice positive interactions between staff and students? Would they hear announcements over the PA system encouraging members of the school community? Would they see signs and artwork in the hallways celebrating student accomplishments? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you probably have a pretty awesome school culture.
“Awesome” is a popular word in today’s society. It gets tossed around like confetti, describing both the spectacular and the mundane. But in its truest sense, “awesome” describes a feeling of awe and admiration. That’s certainly a word you’d want to describe your school community. But how do you go about creating an awesome school culture?
A great deal of the discussion around academic achievement fails to mention a decidedly non-academic form of learning: social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL helps students to develop key traits – problem-solving, teamwork, character, and grit – that will serve them well in the long-term. Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making give students a firm foundation.
Reinforcement of Behaviors
Teaching positive and appropriate behavior, instead of punishing misbehavior, is the goal of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. An existing multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) will go a long way toward addressing the needs of your entire school, thus providing a better learning environment.
A typical day in the classroom can involve many activities, but among the most important is building positive student-teacher relationships. A teacher who takes the time to engage with students reaps the benefits of increased cooperation in the classroom. Once a school has clear, schoolwide classroom rules and consequences, teachers should focus interactions on praise, encouragement, and recognizing both small and large successes.
Rewarding teachers and staff by acknowledging their efforts often results in happier, more effective team members and contributes to better workplace morale. Happier teachers and staff lead to happier students and increased learning. Rewarding teachers and support staff while also rewarding students is a win-win-win situation for all.
Fidelity in PBIS
Applying the same rules and principles across the board for all students is key to a successful PBIS initiative. Being consistent with praise and recognition, providing accessible school store items, and using collected data to fine-tune your efforts are all part of fidelity in PBIS.
Praise at All Levels
Behavior-specific praise for both students and staff can create a positive atmosphere in the classroom and beyond. Positive reinforcement of behaviors will help to cement these behaviors as the norm in your school. Teachers who receive praise or a positive referral will often communicate from a position of positivity, as well. And don’t overlook the role of parents in positive behavior – making a positive phone call home extends those good vibes even further.
Awesome School Culture is a Team Effort
It may be tempting to place the responsibility of creating an awesome school culture on just a handful of people. However, the truth is that it involves everyone. Positivity should flow from administrators to staff to students and parents and back again, much like waves on a shore. Everyone participates, and everyone benefits. For schools with a PBIS initiative in place, awesome school culture is one of the byproducts of a consistent focus on positivity.
When your school community is where your staff and students want to be, that’s the result of creating an awesome school culture!