In 2017, NSCC convened a national cross-section of leaders and practitioners to discuss why and how to create positive school climate. With support from Facebook for Education , we learned that creating caring schools for all requires acting consistently with courage. Our 2018 follow-up report, Creating Communities of Courage: Lessons from the Field (LFTF), distilled seven best practices in six schools and districts across the country, each of which has prioritized positive school climate as necessary for learning and well-being.  

Building on Lessons from The Field , NSCC is launching a series of communications and virtual events to distill best practices for maintaining our commitments to safe, supportive and engaging school communities when conditions on the ground change and many members of the community are in real crisis. 

This week we begin with the Leader’s role in
  • Collaboratively promoting engagement and connectedness (LFTF#1)
  • Confronting challenges to deepen trust (LFTF#3)
  • Maintaining a commitment to equity through inclusive and representative (LFTF#4)

In the coming weeks, we will offer further guidance on Safety, Engagement, Inclusion and Equity.
Big Ideas
  • Students and staff may not be in the same space, but the school community nevertheless has an ongoing climate
  • Schools are more likely to be resilient through disruption where supportive relationships among staff, students and caregivers are the norm
  • While promoting a positive school climate is always important, it is especially important through a crisis, and it can be done remotely 
Best Practices
  1. Promote Connectedness and Engagement to Prioritize Well-Being.
These practices help staff’s and students’ abilities to cope with the current challenges by fostering school connectedness and engagement, facilitating a sense of collective efficacy, encouraging hope, and building resilience to meet future challenges:
  • Clearly and frequently communicating essential information to reduce the likelihood of people’s fears filling in the gaps
  • Being visible to help with basic needs where/when you are able (e.g, food and tech distribution)
  • Displaying and modeling sensitivity to the primary and secondary stress and trauma you, staff, students, and families are experiencing
  • Being present to staff and students by calmly, empathetically listening to fear and discouragement
  • Fostering a sense of social-emotional safety by attending to negative behaviors, such as bullying and gossip
  • Finding places where continuity is possible and creating new routines where needed 
  • Clearly saying what is known and unknown – leaders do not have to know everything.

2.      Collaborate with Others to Address Challenges and Promote Collective Caring
Positive school climate empowers all school community members to actively contribute to a school’s ongoing development. It reinforces that citizenship in a community means collective care for the community, offering a communal opportunity for hands-on and project-based learning while encouraging students to be stewards of their environment and investing in the health of the school community. Inherent to this collective caring is an inclusive and collaborative leadership approach that distributes power throughout the school community. Given the number and depth of challenges schools face right now, this is arguably the only way leaders can hope to meet them.
  • If your school already has an inclusive and collaborative school climate leadership team (or something similar), consider bringing them together sooner rather than later. If not, think about pulling one together now to help guide your community through the remainder of this year and into the next.
  • The people who are closest to problems often have the best solutions, so think of inclusion beyond demographic representation. What new skillsets are needed to solve new and emerging problems?
 
3.      Act for Equity Now to Curb the Long-Terms Effects of Trauma
School climate is influenced by many non-school factors, such as varying levels of well-being within communities and the policies and practices of local, state, federal, and other governing organizations. In times of crisis like we are experiencing right now, and especially in already under-resourced or otherwise traumatized communities, an equitable and positive school climate requires community engagement and collaboration to meet students’ myriad needs. Leaders can act now for equity and to curb the long-terms effects of individual and community trauma by
NSCC at Ramapo for Children Supports
Administer a school climate survey to understand the health of your school community and plan for next year now. We offer custom questions related to COVID-19 responses, remote learning, and more.

The updated version of NSCC at Ramapo’s School Climate Leadership Certification is ready for enrollment this summer. It features distance learning, customized coaching and access to a national learning community of like-minded leaders.

For more information, contact info@schoolclimate.org .
Virtual coaching and PD Offerings Through Ramapo Training
  • Strategies for using remote learning to deepen adult social-emotional skills and build healthy relationships
  • Designing supports for young people struggling with engagement, participation and attendance in virtual learning
  • Designing virtual systems to support connections within your community, including staff circles, small group reflections, advisory conversation prompts and intentional moments for joy and laughter.
  • Facilitating opportunities for adults to develop behavior plans and strategic interventions
  • Planning for next year: re-thinking and designing programs and protocols such as advisory, Restorative Justice Action Teams, behavioral supports, staff onboarding, student orientation and more.
  • Coaching conversations with parent coordinators and other community liaisons to support the creation of outreach and support plans
  • Small group community circles for parents and caregivers
  • A series of 1-hour videos to support parents and caregivers working with their children at home

For more information, visit Ramapo for Children .
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