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Fostering a Positive School Culture

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?  Emotionally safe, connected, happy kids = engaged learners!  Some schools seem to have forgotten the importance of fostering connections between students, the value of promoting close parent and teacher relationships, the benefits of establishing a positive emotional climate in classrooms and in nurturing a warm and welcoming school community.  When our kids and their parents feel proud of their school, when our kids have a genuine relationship with their teachers, when our kids feel SEEN and HEARD and VALUED by the adults in their school community, they THRIVE!  And I’m not just referring to the straight A students who would thrive anywhere.  I’m speaking about all students, regardless of their ability level.  All kids, when they feel encouraged by their teachers to stretch, when they feel safe to try new things, to ask questions, to perhaps even fail at something, can truly SUCCEED in school and in life.

I’ve spoken with a lot of parents who’ve shared their education experiences with me.  Parents who had negative experiences in school bring to their own parenting a genuine distrust of the educational system.  Perhaps as a child, they felt misunderstood by their teachers, uninspired by their classes, bullied by their peers or simply invisible in their school community.  It’s takes time and effort to reach out to those parents, to build back their trust and to convince them that getting involved in their own kids’ school can be a positive, worthwhile experience.

The parents I’ve talked with who had mostly positive experiences in their K-12 education, on the other hand, tend to be eager to give back and support their schools by volunteering, by joining the PTA or a parent committee.  Since their own experiences with teachers and schools was positive, a “value add” to their life, they are excited to enter what they expect to be a welcoming and positive school community and a good use of their time.

When I was in Teach for America and a classroom teacher, I earned my teaching credential at UCLA’s Center X and in one of our classes I wrote an essay on the benefits of parental involvement in schools.  One of the things I found was that the most consistent predictors of a child’s academic achievement are the parents’ EXPECTATIONS of their child’s academic achievement and their level of satisfaction with their child’s education at school.

It is my sincere wish and hope that one day, ALL children in our nation will have access to an excellent education.  That all children will attend a school that values them for who they are, that INSPRIES them as they grow and as they discover WHO THEY ARE and who they want to become.

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