How does the work of a School Climate Committee help a school improve the school academically and culturally?
Teacher, Fenway High School
BLOG POST #1
By Benadette Manning
Students laughing and will not be quieted down? Students throwing things when you turn your back? Students argumentative? Did not finish your well-crafted lesson plan? Do other teachers look up to you for classroom management solutions and you have none”¦ that work?
This is where I found myself at the end of last year. Sure, I had some classroom management techniques but none of them felt right or did not have lasting efforts. For example: calling the parent of a student and you cannot reach the parent or the parent has the same problems with the child that you have. For a wonderful school like Fenway, we struggled with students talking so much and playing around in the classroom so that we could not really get to the deep learning that it would take for them to succeed.
Even this summer I could not shake the classroom management issues I had at the end of the year. I was determined to discuss them with my colleagues and administrators. At the end of year meetings, I did not get far in talking to people but I knew something, most of the teachers in the school felt the same way. I was not alone.
Then it dawned on me:
Classroom management is not an individual teacher issue, it is a school issue, it is a district issue. I did not have to do this alone.
I started writing the principal, and she invited me to share with the faculty at the beginning of the school year. I got a lot of feedback and agreements, but I did not know where to go. Then someone suggested that we form a School Climate Committee. I thought to myself, “This is more than one conversation. It is going to take some time. OK, let’s try it.”
The School Climate Committee consists of teachers, administrator, staff, and students of the school. We meet twice a month and discuss issues related to school climate. There are at least three people and at most six people present. All of the notes are sent to everyone on the staff. Anyone can join at any time.
It is important that everyone in the school is part of the School Climate process.
Some people do not attend the meeting but mention their school climate concerns to me in passing. I really like that because teachers need an ear and someone who is actively working on these issues.
Projects of the School Climate Committee:
- Student Spotlight: Faculty and students nominate three students who exemplify the positive aspects of a student: Work Hard. Be Yourself. Do the right thing. We wanted to recognize the student who doesn”t always get the honor roll but should always be honored.
- Large schedules posted around the school. We don”t have a bell schedule, so teachers and students did not know exactly when class started. Students would be marked tardy when late when they did not know they were actually late.
- Restorative Justice(*) workshops for teachers, administrators, and students in the building. Did you know that restorative justice is part of the BPS discipline policy? Did you know that there is a grant that pays for restorative justice for any BPS School?
School Climate is an ongoing task for a school. It does not take care of itself. Positive school climate is an expectation and must be learned.
(*) This was a MAJOR SUCCESS in a three-year coalition effort to work with BPS in creating a NEW CODE of CONDUCT voted unanimously by the BPS School Committee on September 4, 2013. And instrumental in securing major federal grant on November 14, 2013 to train BPS personnel on RESTORATIVE JUSTICE provisions in the new code.