teacher reading to students

Endpoints and midpoints during any year are often good times to pause and reflect on what has been successful and what can be improved. With schools letting out in the United States and many educators around the world taking a mid-year break, it’s worth spending some time assessing the current state, celebrating accomplishments and identifying opportunities to strengthen the culture and climate.

Whether you’re a school leader, teacher or superintendent, I invite you to reflect on five core components noted below. In each area, ask yourself:

  • Where have we excelled this year?
  • What actions or activities contributed to our success that we want to keep doing?
  • Where have we not been able to meet our targets or expectations?
  • What could we do to improve this element?

#1 – Well-being

For a community to thrive, it’s essential to prioritize the holistic wellness of its members. Youth with strong social, emotional and mental health tend to do better in school and have more positive social behaviors. In comparison, kids who experience greater stress often have lower academic performance. Similarly, when educators are anxious, it impacts their energy levels and effects productivity through poor decision-making and absenteeism. Research has also shown that teacher and student wellness are linked, with educator burnout being predictive of kids’ academic performance and stress levels. While it’s impossible to avoid everything that causes tension, finding ways to improve the social, emotional and mental health of stakeholders will strengthen school culture and climate.

#2 – Trust

Supportive relationships between classmates, peers, students and teachers as well as teachers and administrators are vital to a healthy, productive atmosphere. When the members of a school have positive connections with one another, it can enhance academic performance and strengthen the professional communities that staff are part of. Building trusting relationships requires a focus on promoting mutual respect, an openness to engage and help others as well as capacity and accountability, meaning that youth and adults can and will do what they say they will do. When educators and students feel this sense of confidence in each other, it contributes to positive outcomes and a more supportive environment.

#3 – Voice

Having an opportunity to influence circumstances contributes to greater engagement for kids and adults alike. Just think about how you might react if, over and over again, you had no control over what you were doing on a day-to-day basis. It would be hard to stay motivated! When students have some choice in their work, it has been shown to increase their engagement. Similarly, when employees feel their voices are heard, they are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform at their best. Where possible, create avenues in the classroom, school and district that allow for youth and staff to express their opinions and interests. In the process, be mindful to make connections between their feedback and the actions that are taken or the policies that are implemented.

#4 – Communication

The way stakeholders communicate literally sets the tone for the climate of the community. Teachers who communicate clearly are better able to manage their classrooms, enhance learning and create respectful relationships with their students. Youth who effectively express their needs are better able to advocate for themselves and create connections with peers and teachers. When leaders regularly, effectively and positively convey information, it demonstrates respect for their stakeholders and improves understanding of decisions that are made. This skill set is especially valuable when the community can share their input and ideas. After all, not every decision will be popular. Being able to address the why, how, who and what if is instrumental in paving the way forward and getting buy-in from kids and adults.

#5 – Appreciation

Celebrating the achievements of youth and educators promotes a more positive, productive school culture. Everyone likes to feel recognized and valued, although they may have different ways that they want to receive that recognition. Honoring students helps them to feel more motivated and promotes self-esteem. When praise is centered on the learning process rather than outcomes, it can also cultivate a growth mindset. In many ways, recognition does similar things for adults. 83.6% of employees feel that acknowledgement affects their motivation to succeed, and employees who are celebrated and appreciated as part of the team tend to feel a greater sense of belonging. Finding ways to show appreciation for kids and adults, and ensuring that they know their contributions are valued, will stimulate a more positive environment.

Prioritizing climate and culture will help school leaders cultivate an engaged, productive atmosphere, where everyone feels more welcomed, valued and empowered to succeed. In every school, I imagine there are many bright spots to build on and potential avenues to further the five essential components of an exceptional climate and culture. As you consider the opportunities, make note of your findings and invite your staff and students to weigh in too! Together, you can cultivate a culture and climate that is more energizing, motivating and meaningful for all its members.

Interested in learning how Emergenetics can help you create a more positive, productive climate and culture? Explore our website or fill out the form below to speak with one of our team members today!

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