One of the things administrators often overlook in terms of what affects students’ performance is school culture. The way you do things in your community is one of those invisible yet pervasive factors that dictate pupils’ behaviour, making or breaking academic success.
A positive culture allows children to be respected for who they are and at the same time, gives space for each one to belong. A negative one, on the other hand, breeds bullies, delinquents, and the insecure. If you want to improve your students’ performance, improve your school culture. Here are ways to do that:
Improve relationships inside the classroom
Students spend most of their school hours in the classroom. It is where most interactions happen. The quantity of interactions does not equate to quality, however. You very well know that not all interactions contribute to a positive social climate. In fact, bullies find vulnerable victims inside classrooms. It should be your goal to improve relationships inside the classroom.
What you want to do is to create a safe space in your class wherein there is respect, humility, and kindness. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage collaboration in projects. When kids work together and share a common goal, they are ‘forced’ to get to know each other. By learning one another’s background, personality, strengths, and weaknesses, the students can exercise empathy and build better relationships.
Broaden interaction opportunities
Beyond the classroom, there should be other avenues where students can meet with other students. This will expose them further to other people’s life experiences and make them proactive in looking out for the best interests of others. Why not invest in creating community zones around your campus?
Dedicate spaces for reading areas in outdoor spaces. Improve the look of the playground. Rethink seating layouts in your cafeteria. Invest in cycle shelters for schools, as you roll out a biking-buddy-system. Of course, it is also important to keep doing your school-wide activities, like sports weeks or nutrition days, but this time, with special consideration in letting children embrace the community spirit. Focus on maximising interaction among the pupils. Be inclusive in planning out activities.
Set a good example
Students imitate what adults do. In the eyes of your students, you (as a teacher) are not just any other adult — you are an authoritative figure at school and a living standard for what is good and what is acceptable. That is both a privilege and a responsibility.
Be conscious of your actions as they resonate to your pupils, whether you like it or not. Build strong rapport with them and reach out to their parents. Offer help to those underperforming. More importantly, be especially sensitive to the bullied. There is a high chance of stopping bullying on its tracks when the discriminated kid is treated kindly by an authoritative figure. The bottom line is be a good role model. When you radiate kindness, your class catches it.
Whether you are aware or not, there is a pervading culture in your school. You cannot just hope it is the good kind; you have to be intentional in building it.