School Culture matters

3 Oct

Moi wrote in Study: Kindness helps students become more popular and improves school culture: Researchers are studying social interactions among students and how these interactions affect the climate of a school.
Mathew Tabor writes in the Education News article, Research: For Students, Kindness to Others Boosts Popularity, which describes a study about kindness behavior among adolescents.

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, social interactions between students is gaining more attention, with some experts saying that the way students treat each other can be a determining factor in a school’s overall well-being. And now research from Kristin Layous, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside may show that students who are kind to their peers experience an individual benefit — a boost in popularity.
In an observational study of students in Vancouver, British Columbia, researchers had students aged 9-11 perform three acts of kindness per week over the course of a month, while others visited three places. Results showed that:
“Students in both conditions improved in well-being, but students who performed kind acts experienced significantly bigger increases in peer acceptance (or sociometric popularity) than students who visited places.”In short, students demonstrating kindness reaped benefits of their own as their peers recognized their efforts and rewarded them socially.
There appears to be a reciprocal link between student happiness and positive behavior. Happier students tend to be kinder to others, and extending kindness to peers results in happier students.
http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/research-for-students-kindness-to-others-boosts-popularity/

Creating a culture of kindness in schools has to be an intentional act.

Maryland’s Learning Links posted “Orchestrating School Culture”by Linda Inlay:

A school’s culture lives in its shared beliefs, its values, its rituals and traditions and in how the members of the school community interact with one another. It is different from the school vision. Some schools have a vision; others do not. You can choose whether or not to have a school vision. You cannot choose whether or not to have a school culture. As Linda Inlay writes above, the school culture manifests itself in everything the people in the school do each and every day. As a school leader, you and your team can either try to shape that culture in a positive way, or you can just let it be. It’s a bit like a garden. Things will probably grow in a garden, no matter what you do. But you can make it a whole lot nicer by planting particular flowers and vegetables in particular arrangements and, of course, by pulling out some of the weeds! Bringing mindfulness and intent to your school’s culture can enable you and your team to make your school a better and more productive environment for your students and for everyone else in your school community. http://marylandlearninglinks.org/1035

Some schools are trying to foster kinder school cultures and others innovation.

The Arizona Daily Sun reports in the article, ‘Kindness Revolution’ at Killip leaves little room for bullying:

But as we reported earlier this month, even grade-schoolers are jumping on the anti-bullying bandwagon — even if they don’t know it. Killip Elementary School has started a “Kindness Revolution” that gives students tips on how they can make a positive contribution every day — a smile, a word of encouragement, a polite “thank you.” They’ve even learned a word — “empathy” — that most students a generation ago would not have encountered until about seventh grade.
But at Killip, it’s hard for bullies to get much traction when an entire school has signed a contract that binds them to treating each other with respect and compassion so that they feel “happy, safe and loved….”
Schools, of course, cannot entirely replace the life lessons that young people might be missing from parents, siblings, churches and other adult mentors. But as the place where a young person spends about half his waking hours through the age of 18, a school and its culture can’t help but be a major influence in much more than formal academic learning. We applaud Killip and its entire school community for taking a positive and creative approach to a problem — bullying — that has been identified as a major contributor to the behavioral problems of young males later in life. A little kindness indeed can go a long way.
Killip Kindness Revolution Contract
We as the Killip Community
Agree to treat others with kindness
In our words and in our actions
We will treat all people
With respect and as equals
So they feel happy, safe, and loved
We will show compassion
And we will help others in need
As a Killip Cougar
I will show kindness and respect
To all members of my community
.http://azdailysun.com/news/opinion/editorial/kindness-revolution-at-killip-leaves-little-room-for-bullying/article_4077e426-f7f0-5859-8ee1-7310a66afecf.html

https://drwilda.com/2012/12/30/study-kindness-helps-students-become-more-popular-and-improves-school-culture/

Educators are trying to create school cultures which further their education agendas.

Kate Ash reported in the Education Week article, Building a District Culture to Foster Innovation:

For her part, Superintendent Pamela R. Moran reaches out to partners in the business community to determine what initiatives can help drive innovation in the district, which encompasses the area outside the city of Charlottesville.
“The factory school model of the 20th century [was] designed to mimic what factories needed in their workers,” Ms. Moran said. “Now, [the workforce] wants kids who can really work through issues to generate solutions that work without being dependent on someone at the top to solve it for them….
Observers say that Albemarle County stands out as a district that thrives on change and innovation, with a willingness to challenge the status quo to build a new type of learning environment for students.
In most school districts around the country, they say, innovation is happening at a painfully slow pace and often only in pockets such as individual classrooms, rarely if ever making the jump to a real, systemwide shift.
The good news is that lessons can be learned from districts that are, indeed, making such a shift.
What is the “secret sauce” in a district’s culture of operation that allows innovation to flourish? And how can those attitudes and approaches be replicated and scaled up in other places?
Those are not easy questions to answer, but education experts agree that there are some similarities across innovative districts that could shed light on how to establish such an education ecosystem. Those factors include strong leadership, empowered teachers and students, an infusion of technology districtwide, the creation of an organization with continuous learning at its core, and the freedom to experiment.
“This is not work that happens overnight,” said Ms. Moran, the Albemarle County superintendent.
‘Embrace Continuous Learning’
In 2002, the district’s leadership came together to draft a new vision of the lifelong-learning competencies that students need, which included such skills as being able to plan and conduct research and think critically about problems. That vision has guided the district in a new direction that has opened the door to experimentation and new ways of learning, said Ms. Moran, who has led the district since 2006. Prior to that promotion, she served as an assistant superintendent in the district.
But while she may have a vision for what innovation looks like, it’s important to keep in mind that what works in one school may not work in another, she emphasized….
Building a Culture of Innovation
School leadership experts outline several ways districts should work to create an atmosphere in which good ideas can flourish, including:
• Develop strong leaders who encourage informed risk-taking and experimentation rather than protection of the status quo.
• Establish an expectation of continuous learning and improvement from every person at every level of the organization.
• Craft a clearly defined and articulated vision for the district, and make sure everyone understands it and adheres to it.
• Foster an environment in which people have the power to change course quickly if a project or initiative isn’t working.
• Empower everyone in the district, from students to teachers and administrators, to take on leadership roles.
• Ensure a seamless infusion of technology throughout every sector of the district to produce efficiencies and collect meaningful data.
SOURCE: Education Week
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/02/06el-culture.h33.html?tkn=RVCCDf2WA86z0jshtr6iFv7fE0Y1IKUdJy3W&cmp=clp-sb-ascd

Jan Lukes wrote in Why School Leaders Should Build An Intentional School Culture:

High-performing school leaders are effective in messaging that school is a place with specific standards that enable both staff and students to thrive. I often share the following example with school leaders and find that it resonates – unlike an elevator or a place of worship, where there are unspoken norms for behavior, new schools and existing schools that aim to rebuild their culture need expectations to be stated explicitly.
These values are upheld through established cultural elements that are consistent and visible from classroom to classroom. Such elements often include instituting a Student Code of Conduct, identifying one positive behaviors or mega-cognitive skill per month to highlight across the school, drafting guidelines on issuing rewards and consequences for student behavior and establishing school routines (e.g. arrival, dismissal, hallway transitions) and rituals (weekly celebrations, achievement-oriented field trips, class cheers).
http://fluency21.com/blog/2013/06/11/why-school-leaders-should-build-an-intentional-school-culture/

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu. Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Resources:

Creating a Culture of Respect and Kindness
http://www.growingseeds.net/respect.php

Prevent Bullying, Promote Kindness: 20 Things All Schools Can Do
http://www2.cortland.edu/dotAsset/340b8b7f-e067-4231-9dd8-1eaed2a8962e.pdf

Related:

Study: Kindness helps students become more popular and improves school culture
https://drwilda.com/2012/12/30/study-kindness-helps-students-become-more-popular-and-improves-school-culture/

College readiness: What are ‘soft skills’
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/college-readiness-what-are-soft-skills/

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