Tools for School Culture and Climate
Holidays/Initiatives that Can Be Utilized to Teach SEL to Students and/or Staff
You can click on each of the events listed below to find out more about them and/or find resources to use this day as a learning opportunity in your school (for students and/or staff):
- National Mentor Month
- Martin Luther King Day of Service (Third Monday of January)
- No Name Calling Week (Jan 16-20)
- National Hugging Day (Jan 21)
- National Compliment Day (Jan 24)
- Black History Month
- Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb 12-18)
- Valentine's Day (Feb 14)
- Presidents' Day (Third Monday in Feb)
- National Child Abuse Prevention Month
- World Autism Awareness Day (April 2)
- National Blue Ribbon Week (April 2-8)
- Global Youth Service Days (Third Weekend in April)
- Earth Day (April 22)
- National Superhero Day (April 28)
- Children Mental Health Awareness Week (May 7-13)
- Teacher Appreciation Week (First full week of May)
- Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day (Second Saturday in May)
- Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
- Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
- National Grandparents Day (Sep 10)
- Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance (Sep 11)
- International Day of Peace (Sep 21)
- Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month
- National Bullying Prevention Month
- National Boss Day (Oct 16 or closest week day)
- Mix it Up Day (Last Tuesday in Oct)
- National Gratitude Month
- Veterans Day (Nov 11)
- National Educational Support Professionals Day (Nov 17, moves date but always on a Wednesday)
- National Parent Involvement Day (Third Thursday in Nov.)
- Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in Nov.)
Student Climate and Culture
Students as Teachers:
Use your older students as the leaders they are in the school. Have them break into small groups or pairs and create a presentation to share with each of the younger classrooms about the core values of your school (7 Habits, SOAR, 4Rs, Character Traits, SOLE, etc.). You could also do this as an assembly with the class(es) working together on a skit. Teaching these values will better ingrain the older students' knowledge of these skills. Younger students will also be much more eager to listen to their older peers than their teachers preach the same thing over and over.
Partnering younger grade levels with older grades levels such as 5th with 1st and 6th with 2nd can be a lot of fun, mix things up, and have social emotional benefits too. These partnerships promote leadership skills, problem solving skills, and a sense of accomplishment for older students and can be very influential for the younger students as well. These partnerships can build a sense of community throughout the school as students meet and work with students outside of their individual classrooms and older students can model positive school cultural practices to younger students.
Mix it Up Day:
Mix it Up Day is a national campaign that occurs on the last Tuesday in October each school year but can occur as often as a school would like. It can be a great tool for promoting diversity and building relationships across classes or grade levels. Follow this link for more resources about Mix It Up Day: http://www.tolerance.org/mix-it-up/what-is-mix
A Peer Mediation program is another way to utilize older students as leaders in the school. These leaders are taught conflict mediation/problem solving skills and then are utilized to help mediate student conflicts as they arise. When successful, these types of programs can reduce office referrals and disciplinary actions as students learn to solve their own conflicts instead of letting the conflict increase or going to an adult to solve the problem for them.
Host a student night for older students in 5th and/or 6th (such as a dance, or lock-in at the school). In addition to adult supervisors try to recruit alumni of your school that are currently in middle school or high school to serve as a positive role model and facilitate an activity. This type of event can also be used as a reward for a class meeting a predetermined goal.
These types of events can promote relationship skills and the culture of the school as a safe and fun place for students.
Create a student council or other student committee to give students a voice in the school. If there is no student committee then invite student representatives to another committee meeting once a month to voice their opinions and ideas of how to improve school culture and climate.
Make a safe and peaceful place somewhere on the school grounds. Have students be in charge of the creation and maintenance of this place through classroom, whole school, and/or after school activities. This may be a place that is utilized by classes as an outside classroom or for small break out groups or that is used only for problem solving or conflict resolution. Some good ideas for creating a place like this can be found through The Kindness Rocks Project. AISD Social and Emotional Learning Department also has some great ideas of how to create this type of area with a Peace Path and to create matching areas inside the school building. Jeffco Health and Wellness even has stencils to use to create a Peace Path at your own school.
Staff Climate and Culture
There are multiple factors that contribute to staff burnout and high retention rates. The following are some ideas on how to combat just a few of those factors.
Lack of Autonomy:
- Create opportunities for ALL staff members to provide feedback and ideas about all aspects of the school day. These channels need to be accessible to all employees (not just staff who attend the weekly staff meetings). This can include such things as suggestion boxes in the staff lounge or a google forms survey. There also needs to be an understanding of how this feedback will be followed up on.
- Make sure work groups at your school are representative of staff and that staff representatives are checking in to confirm they are accurately reflecting the opinions and ideas of their counterparts.
- At the beginning of the year have staff members write down the best non-monetary rewards they could receive throughout the year (whether this is first pick at a time slot, a prized parking space, coming to work 30 minutes late, etc.).
Lack of Connection/Relationships:
- Create a school tradition of welcoming new staff members by pairing them up with a mentor, giving them a small school pride gift (such as a t-shirt or lanyard), or playing a game with the staff to get to know each other.
- During staff meetings mix up staff into different table groups to ensure everyone is getting to know each other or purposely use the same groups each meeting to build deeper relationships among group members.
Lack of Recognition:
- Create a gratitude board in the staff lounge where people can easily post a "thank you" to a co-worker that they are grateful for that day.
- Take the time out of each staff meeting, or every other meeting to do shout outs to co-workers for their accomplishments.
- Participating in holidays such as birthdays, Teacher Appreciation, Office Staff Appreciation, Bosses Day, etc. is an easy reminder to celebrate those individuals.
- Use the non-monetary rewards that staff members wrote down at the beginning of the year (mentioned under lack of autonomy) to reward them when you have noticed them going above and beyond. This could be used as a reward for teacher of the month or for staff challenges.
Everyone loves a good challenge (well, most of us)! Staff challenges are a great opportunity to improve wellness, build relationships, and participate in a little friendly competition. Try some of the following challenges with your staff:
- Maintain Your Weight Challenge during the Holiday Break: Have staff members team up and weigh in before the holiday season and then again when the season winds down. Whichever team has most consistently maintained their weight wins a prize.
- Get Fit in Five Challenge: Have the P.E. teacher (or another individual) lead staff in 5-10 minutes of exercise each day for a month. The individual(s) who misses the least amount of days wins a prize.
- This challenge can also be adapted if your school is more interested in doing a 5-10 minute mindfulness challenge.
Whole School Culture and Climate
Whole school challenges are also a great opportunity to improve wellness, build relationships, and participate in a little friendly competition. Try some of the following challenges:
- Decorate the Door Challenge: This can also be a decorate a bulletin board or large poster that is presented at an assembly depending on fire codes... Pick a topic that is important to your school. Is it healthy foods? Understanding your schools PBIS acronym? Classroom rules? Veterans Day? All members of the class should work together to create the visual. A couple staff members (and even student representatives) can judge the visuals on creativity, teamwork, and whether it is topical.
- Fruit and Vegetable Challenge: Challenge staff and students to eat more fruits and vegetables. Keep track by classroom or grade each time someone eats a cup of fruit or vegetables. At the end of the week add up the cups. Keep the challenge going for several months by awarding the winning class with a traveling trophy, such as a golden apple.
- Brain Break Challenges: Utilize a brain break as a source of friendly competition between classrooms. For example, use the pencil tap brain break in which students go around in a circle or zigzag formation and tap their pencil (or hand or whatever) on the table as quickly as they can. As soon as your neighbor taps their pencil, you tap yours and so on. Have someone keep time for the class and the classes best time recorded. See which classroom can do it the fastest or who has the most improved time over the school year.
Staff and/or Student Mentors:
Do you have some students who could use some extra love and support? Do they just need a positive relationship with someone who can be a good role model for them? Why not start a staff mentoring or peer mentoring program?
Research shows how powerful positive relationships can be in student success. Recruit staff who would be willing to eat lunch with an individual student or two 1-4 times per month. If more staff volunteer than students who are identified, keep a running list through the year of staff who can jump in if a new student is identified. If using peer mentors make sure to vet students for their ability to be a good role model and maintain confidentiality when necessary.
Incorporating Whole School Community
Host different events throughout the school year (carnivals, reading nights, outings in the community, etc.) for students and their families to come socialize and get to know each other. Invite staff to bring their family as well.