Culture and Climate at School

There are quite a variety of classroom and school-wide “stop bullying” programs and materials. These programs are useful for raising awareness and providing new skills for students, yet many ignore deeper, necessary improvements to actually prevent antisocial behaviors at ایران آموزشگاه بانک اطلاعات مراکز آموزشی.

The goal of this article is to go a little deeper and look at some fine tuning of school climate and culture as a means to lasting change. School culture is a model or a mindset by which actions are taken in the district, building or classroom.

This model of action is based on the past experiences within the district. Thus, new employees or new students become indoctrinated into the culture, learning “how we do things around here.” This is the nature of any culture and explains why it is so pervasive, yet hard to see. It just seems like the right way to do things.

Any school’s culture can be observed in at least three contexts 1) the design and maintenance of physical spaces, 2) the values expressed (either intentionally or unintentionally) by the adults at school and 3) the beliefs that are taken for granted about human nature.

It is difficult to say any part of the school’s culture is good or bad but some elements can contribute to or reinforce antisocial behavior. For example, cramped physical spaces with too many students are ideally designed for bullying behavior. The target can’t escape and the bullier can go unnoticed.

Teachers who turn their back on antisocial behavior or simply stay in their rooms while trouble is outside the door express – probably unintentionally – a value about how students should be treated in this school.

Although there is not a consensus on the meaning of school climate many definitions focus on the “feel” of school and the human/social atmosphere. There are four components commonly discussed in regard to climate: 1) physical environment, 2) social environment, 3) affective environment and 4) academic environment.

Leadership from administrators and site based management teams. Culture and climate changes are the work of the collective body of adults in school. Change is most likely to occur when there is a coordinated effort aimed at particular improvements.

Regain control of student-run areas of school. Schools buses, playgrounds, lunch lines, lunch tables and hallways are just a few spots where kids set the rules. Who goes first, who sits at this table, who gets to play and so on. This is the breeding ground for hierarchy and control. Improvement requires more training and supervision by adults, less standing around and waiting by students and a better appreciation of kid’s time and personal space.

Support student feedback and reporting. Subtle elements in the school culture discourage reporting. Concepts like tattling teach youth that grown-ups don’t want to be bothered. Repeated surveys of students show that most kids believe adults won’t help with bullying. And over 65% of bullying happens when adults can’t see it. Reporting is critical.

Work to build a community. A community of people is united pulling toward common goals. Too often schools are cliques and subgroups – both adults and kids – vying to move up a hierarchical ladder. People need to see and experience the commonality of the school community. We see this coming together at times around tragedy or sports teams but it needs a more uniform presence.

School districts and buildings are really complex societies where bullying is one in a set of potential antisocial behaviors. Bullying is about hierarchy and when kids (or adults) assemble hierarchies form. Sometimes these hierarchies are benign or occasionally positive. Unfortunately, too often, the hierarchies within groups of students are negative and damaging to some.

To effect change in these societies we need to operate at a deeper level, at the level of culture and climate. Understanding how bullying operates with concepts like victim, bullying and bystander or helping students be more assertive in the face of this aggression is important but not sufficient. These strategies place the burden of change on the children, when really it is only the adults that have the power to make significant improvements.

Since the Columbine tragedy in 1999 there has been more attention paid to bullying. This attention has heightened awareness but sadly has not reduced the incidence of bullying in schools nor relieved the pain for many US school children.

What can be frustrating about school climate or school culture for any one teacher or parent is they seem too big to influence. Nevertheless, change can happen with your best efforts. Here are some suggestions:
Do some research, asking students, where bullying usually occurs. The results are always compelling and clearly show that “place” is the key ingredient. Make these places safer.

Organize other concerned adults to speak with either the principal, site based management team or the school board. Help them understand the role of the climate and culture.

Make a practice of listening but not necessarily reacting, to all student complaints or concerns. School staff unintentionally creates buffers around themselves because they are often too busy to attend to students’ issues. Instead of pushing them away, develop a repertoire of simple responses to minor issues so that the major issues reach your ears.

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