I’ve been working hard lately to finish writing and shooting the content for A Culture of Civility, a three-part video seminar series for schools aimed at understanding and preventing identity-based bullying.
Whenever I talk to students about this project, they immediately get it. They are excited about a new approach to understanding bullying in schools, and they recognize the need for building a culture and climate of inclusiveness.
When I talk to most administrators and many teachers, though, there’s a disconnect, a skepticism. And I don’t blame them. For those tasked with educating our young people, there are about 25 chainsaws they are expected to juggle flawlessly: state standards, graduation rates, student behavior, state-mandated tests, district-mandated tests, college entrance rates, support for extra-curriculars, parent engagement, and on and on…
Above all, I hear the word “achievement.” And in many ways, I should. To quote a famous Bushism, we must ask, “Is our children learning?” We must ensure that students are prepared for the world after high school, and as such, we need a lazer-like focus on standards and achievement.
But to focus on achievement doesn’t simply have to mean that we focus on tests, standards, and innovative reading, writing, and math instruction. We need to ensure that students have an environment where they are safe to learn so that our academic work is not in vain.
In their article “School Climate as a Factor in Student Adjustment and Achievement,” (Journal of Education and Psychological Consultation, 9:3, 321-329) Yale University’s Child Study Center researchers Norris M. Haynes, Christine Emmons, and Michael Ben-Avie define school climate as “the quality and consistence of interpersonal interactions within the school community that influence children’s cognitive, social, and psychological development.” School climate is essentially the sum total of interactions “among staff, between staff and students, among students, and between home and school.”