On Dec 18, 2012, the following question was asked in the LinkedIn NASSP group. Here is Jill’s response.
Q – Does anyone have quick tips they would give on creating a positive climate and motivate positive behavior that has worked in their high schools? What really grabs students? What incentives have worked (and don’t work)?
In my experience, creating and maintaining a positive school climate is simple once you, the administrator, has made the commitment. If you are willing to follow some simple steps and use some simple programs, I can guarantee you the climate in your school will improve. Before I present these steps and programs, here are some important issues you must accept before you begin.
- Don’t ask your teachers and students to take a survey regarding the school climate or ask their suggestions on how to improve it unless you are truly committed to fixing the things they think are contributing to a negative school climate. If you ask people their opinions and don’t follow their advice or address their particular issue, many times they will conclude that you don’t care about their thoughts. In my experience, this leads to new resentments, anger and frustration and adds negativity to a school climate. My advice is if you don’t plan on following their advice, don’t ask for it. If you don’t plan on addressing their issues, don’t ask what their issues are.
- In order to change the climate, you must make certain changes, take specific actions, consistently evaluate the success of your efforts and programs and make the commitment to follow through with your goals and promises. One of the biggest mistakes I see school administrators make is claiming they will make change and never following through to the end goal.
- In order to create a positive school climate, you will have to get the “buy in” from all of the teachers and adults that work in your building. If you don’t, this idea of changing the climate in your building will never work.
- In order for these teachers and adults to “buy into” the plan and evaluation system of creating a positive school climate, they themselves have to feel positive and happy.
- It may make sense to start your positive school climate program on a small scale at first. This will enable you to test its success, listen to the feedback of your participants and make necessary changes. It will help to get the “buy in” from the other adults, once they see the proof that it works. Think about starting with one class, one department or even just your office staff.
- This will ONLY be successful if you have the true backing of your teachers. They must have the interest, the willingness to be consistent and you must hold your teachers accountable for what you ask them to do. Prior to presenting the Positive School Climate Program, it is best to set up a system by which you plan on holding each and every one of your staff accountable.
- In my experience, if you expect teachers to perform certain tasks, you must start by role modeling the behavior and actions you expect them to take. You must first work towards creating a positive school climate with the adults in your building!
It is my plan to share two simple exercises that will allow your administration and teachers to contribute to a positive school climate. The goal of each of these exercises is to demonstrate to the people in your building that “who they are,”“what they feel” and “what is going on in their lives” is important. The first program is something I developed called The Power of Hi. The second program is something I used in my 15 years of working with high school and college students in youth ministry. This program is called High/Lows. (Stay tuned…I need a couple of days to write up the details of these programs for my readers…)
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