The Importance of Creating a Cohesive and Positive School Culture, Virtually
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
The school experience is about more than the cognitive development and factual learning - it allows children and young adults to further their social and emotional development. The school’s culture plays a large role in how the students develop socially and emotionally. It is easy to see how a culture can be created and reinforced when people are face-to-face and interacting every day. However, when many schools are going online for at least some of their curriculum, how do we best support the culture and continue to further social and emotional development? This article will provide some suggestions.
Importance of culture, especially a cohesive one:
School culture refers to a relationship of students with teachers and other staff members along with their shared beliefs, perceptions and values. As the Great Schools Partnership shares, when teachers and students feel the sense of a community, they are more likely to:
be satisfied with the assignments done;
enjoy participation in activities; and
Research shows that school cultures that focus on collaboration, communication, productivity, strengths, relationships, and kindness, will produce more successful students as a result of the encouragement from their unity rather than feeling ignored and isolated. It also serves to reduce teachers and students' stress and, in high school, can even improve the retention and graduation of students.
Where positive school culture affects the productivity of school, students and staff positively, toxic or negative school culture would influence its output too. Dr. Kent D. Peterson, a lecturer in the Department of Education Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also a co-author of Shaping School Culture: Fieldbook, suggests these possible traits of negative school culture:
lack of determination;
norms that reinforce lethargy;
blame culture with students blamed for lack of progress;
discouragement of teamwork; and
hostile relationships among staff.
Creating a Positive School Culture
It is easy to see why we all want to create a positive culture and have the benefits of that, but how do we do that?
It all starts at the top. The school administration should create a set of values and find ways to reinforce those values. There are three basic rules school administrators can play their role in creating these standards.
They observe their school by watching student-student, student-teacher, and teacher-teacher interactions.
They should then note the positive and negative aspects of those interactions.
Finally, create a list of the positive traits and, potentially, some positive traits that may counteract anything negative observed. Ideally this is a list of 3-7 traits. You then share out those traits across the school, students, and parent community.
What can teachers do to make an environment productive?
As a teacher, your role is to reinforce the school values. For example, finding classroom activities that reinforce sharing and kindness are great ways to foster a positive environment. Here are a few other things that can drive a positive classroom culture:
1. Give Help To Students That Need It
In order to promote sympathy between students, you need to help students the moment they ask for it. Teachers play a key role in creating a positive environment. As a teacher you shouldn’t pick favorites as it has a very bad effect on students mind. Help the students to be productive and make them stay motivated all the time.
2. Ensure Justice and Equality Among Students
To maintain a positive class environment it is essential to provide justice to your students and treat them equally. If you will be unjust they will take that as an advantage to perform unethical actions and will create disturbance in the classroom.
3. Create a Responsive Classroom (RC)
Consider employing the Responsive Classroom teaching methodology. A responsive classroom is a teaching methodology focused on the belief that the combination of intellectual and social-emotional abilities provides a good atmosphere for learning. Teachers using this method provide a caring, open, warm, and relationship-based classroom with a frequent exchange of dialogue. Studies show that students who have closer relationships with teachers are more engaged and achieve higher results.
Some important classroom practices to create a responsive classroom are to be highly interactive with your students and having a constant feedback loop. The feedback should include student feedback on the teaching methods as well as the more traditional teacher feedback to the students regarding their performance. Feedback-rich activities, such as quizzes, debates, question-answer sessions, or book reviews should be arranged so that students get to actively participate in healthy discussions.
Creating a Culture Virtually
Many of these tactics are easy to employ when you’re seeing your students 3-5 days a week, in person. But with many schools starting the fall 100% online, and other virtual-only schools, we have to adapt and find ways to create a positive culture virtually.