Distrust is growing among students towards educational institutions. The good news? A positive school climate might help.

Generally speaking, educators and schools work hard at creating positive learning environments for their students—but for many, there are serious obstacles that get in the way. In a recent Education Week article, Dr. Peter DeWitt shares how many schools are derailed in their attempts to create a positive school climate.

Challenge: Federal and State Initiatives

Despite the best of intentions, many initiatives become restrictive or cumbersome for educators, which keeps them from trying new approaches. These initiatives, like “high-stakes testing” and “all of the compliance type initiatives” often do not reflect the current evidence or best practices in achieving higher performance.

Challenge: Leadership Not On Board

Positive school climates require quality leadership—from the boardroom to the classroom. The leadership mentality of a positive school climate is one of inclusion, collaboration, and communication—not compliance or coercion.

Challenge: Poverty

Poverty presents a multitude of problems for educators to overcome. As a result, educators often lower their expectations of poorer students through a false sense of sympathy, which damages the chances a student has to rise above their current circumstance.

Challenge: Lack of Student Voice

When students have a say in what and how they’re learning, they perform better than when they feel as though they have no voice in the process at all. Unfortunately, many schools have no process or strategy to create and maintain an ongoing dialogue between educators, students, and parents.

Despite these challenges, any school can work to engage students and build trust using these four practices, cited by Dr. DeWitt.

1. Provide feedback around learning for both teachers and students.

Improved communication is a first step towards building trust. Providing feedback on a student’s academic and behavioral progress helps create the right environment for communication and teamwork between students and teachers.

2. Cultivate student-teacher relationships.

It’s important for students to know that teachers care about them and their interests. It can be difficult, but remembering the details, such as a student’s name and the issues they face, goes a long way to winning their trust.

3. Set goals with the students.

Of course, it’s important to set academic goals, but behavioral goals are another critical part of a student’s success.

When working with a student through behavioral issues, it works better in the long run if the student has a say in what behavioral goals they wish to achieve. By helping to set the goals, they’ll have a sense of ownership over their behavior and academic work.

4. Establish a common language around values and behavioral expectations.

Dr. Peter DeWitt encourages educators to create a common vocabulary around the learning process so the student and parents can understand exactly what the teacher is looking for.

This advice can certainly be extended to behavioral issues. It’s important that educators and administrators identify the behaviors they wish to see students adopt and the misbehaviors they require to be changed.

Creating language to describe expected behaviors and then teaching that vocabulary to students is helpful in promoting a positive school climate and appropriate student behavior.

Despite the many challenges, schools can promote a positive school climate by adopting these four practices.

Even when up against negative student behavior, a positive school climate leads to teacher-student relationships based on trust and respect.

And while forming quality relationships between educators and students, it’s important to remember that these relationships have positive effects that last for a lifetime outside of the classroom.

Source: Education Week