Caring school climate makes healthier, better adjusted youth

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Asset No. 5: Caring School Climate Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when their school provides a caring, encouraging environment. (Twenty-four percent of youth surveyed by Search Institute have this asset in their lives.)

School Climate: What's the Forecast?

Most people like the weather to be warm and sunny, and most students like their school climate to be the same. According to Quest International, an educator training organization, "School climate is the feel of a school -- the mood and atmosphere you sense the moment you enter a school building." You want a climate conducive to learning. A cold, dreary school climate isn't one your son or daughter would want to be in for very long.

What causes a school to have a warm, positive climate? It all depends on how people interact. When your son or daughter comes into contact with a lot of different people during the day, it impacts the school's climate. It may start out with the way the busy driver treats your child. Then there could be an interaction with a school secretary, counselor, teacher, coach, cook, custodian, and so on. The way each person feels about the school will affect how they treat each other, and vice versa. One key person's attitude can make a significant difference. At one school in Minneapolis, Minn., everyone could count on the school secretary. She always had a smile on her face and knew everyone by name. In fact, students often stopped by to see her because she always helped them feel so valued and cared for. When it came to her retirement, she received more than 1,000 flowers -- one from each student.

That school rarely had a rainy day in its climate.

Time to Advocate

Three ways to improve the climate at your child's school:

1. Learn as much as you can about your child's school: the policies, the politics and the general mood.

2. Get involved with a parent-teacher organization. Create a spirit of cooperation.

Teachers, administrators, volunteers and parents all want the best for kids.

3. Talk with your child about her or his thoughts and feelings about the school. Encourage your child to share those opinions with others through student government, a letter to the school newspaper, or simply talking to a teacher or administrator.

Talk Together

Questions to discuss:

  • If you were to compare your school's atmosphere to the weather, what would you say it is most of the time?
  • What do you think causes your school's climate to get better at times? Worse?
  • How do you think we could improve your school's climate?

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