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Focus On...

Building School Community,
Culture, and Climate

How do students, staff, and strangers feel when they walk into your school building? Many principals work hard to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, warm, and productive. The articles below from Education World's archive share stories and practical tips that will help you create a climate that is positive and ensures success.

Principals Strive to Boost School Spirit
Every school experiences its share of challenges, but an invisible were-all-in-this-together spirit can go a long way toward carrying a school community through the highs and lows of a year. Included: Principals share their favorite spirit-building activities.

Daily "School Pledge" Builds Community
While discussing morning rituals that would be meaningful for teachers and students, the staff at the Adams School in Castine, Maine, decided to introduce five daily pledges -- a different one each day. They got their inspiration from literature, history, and pop culture.


Find more articles of interest in the following Education World resources:

Back to School

A Year of Exceptional Events

Team Building

Fund Raising

Health and Wellness

Just for Fun

Parent Involvement

PR for Principals

Team Building


See our complete archive of Focus On articles. More than three dozen hot topics of interest to principals.

"Together We Can" Motto Spurs Columbia Elementary's Success
Columbia Elementary's school motto is "Together We Can!" Together, principal Lori Musser and staff members have adopted initiatives such as after-school clubs and intensive reading instruction to help students achieve.

Yearlong Themes: Principals Use Them to Build Spirit, Achievement
Does your school use a yearlong theme to motivate students and increase student achievement? Education World's "Principal Files" team shares a dozen ideas to help others see the power and potential of using yearlong, school-wide themes.

Does Your School's Atmosphere Shout "Welcome!"?
Does your school's atmosphere shout "Welcome!" to parents, students, and staff? Our "Principal Files" team shares how they've created welcoming atmospheres in their schools. Most of their ideas are easy to duplicate. Learn from their ideas, share your own.

Twenty-Five Activities for Building Student Character, School Community
In an already packed school day, finding time for character education can be a challenge. Most of these 25 activity ideas can be worked seamlessly into the school day to build student character and to develop a sense of community in your school.

Study Circles Help Gather Input, Solve Problems
Many schools and communities use study circles to ensure that diverse perspectives are represented as they address issues such as the achievement gap, redistricting, building projects, racism, and bullying. Included: Tips for starting a study circle.

Pete Hall: T2 -- Togetherness and Teamwork
There is a Kilimanjaro-sized mountain of research supporting the importance of teamwork in our schools. Quotes such as "many hands make light work" and "two heads are better than one" could not be more apropos than they are in today's schoolhouses.

Bulletin Boards: Powerful Teaching, Community-Building Tools
Bulletin boards loaded with student work add personality to school hallways and speak volumes about what teachers value most. Included: Ed World's "Principal Files" team speaks about the power of bulletin boards from the primary grades to high school.

Got Motto? -- Twelve Slogans to Help Build School-Wide Community
You've seen those celebrity-filled "Got Milk" magazine ads? Now it's time to meet the "Got Motto" poster principals. They're using school-wide slogans to spur enthusiasm, inspire teamwork, and build community. Included: Twelve mottos for your consideration.

BRAVO Principals Celebrate Diversity
Columnist Sandra Harris says principals make their schools stronger by valuing their students' diversity. By highlighting-- even encouraging -- diversity, they make kids who might feel "different" feel welcomed instead. They limit bullying and harassment too.

BRAVO Principals Rekindle the Spirit
Sandra Harris says principals who encourage others "rekindle the spirit" of their schools. Harris shares ten ways in which principals are encouraging teachers and students and, as a result, creating a school-wide atmosphere of encouragement and achievement.

School-Wide Rules Creation
Learn about one school's efforts to improve school climate by developing a more consistent approach to discipline from classroom to classroom and in common school areas, such as the playground, lunchroom, and hallways.

What Makes Effective Teaching Teams Tick?
Many of the most successful schools teem with the spirit of team teaching. Educators agree that teaming has huge benefits for students' academic and social growth, but what makes the most effective teams tick? Included: "Ten Commandments" for team teaching.

Improving School Culture
What kind of culture pervades your school? Do staff members feel like a family? Or is it like a factory or a Little Shop of Horrors? One way to assess school culture, and then strive to improve it, is through the Center for Improving School Culture's triage survey.

"Survivor" Fosters Community Through Friendly Competition
Schools are capitalizing on the popularity of the TV program Survivor by establishing their own competitions to promote community spirit and teamwork. Should your school host a sequel to "Survivor"? Included: Ideas for starting your own program.

Good Morning! -- A.M. Announcements Build School Community
Are morning announcements at your school deadly dreary and dull? Education World's "Principal Files" team shares how they have used their daily announcements to build school "community." Included: Ideas for spicing things up, getting kids involved, more.

Celebrating Students: Schools Recognize Achievement in Many Ways
When we asked our Principal Files team to share the ways in which their schools celebrate students' accomplishments, we had no idea how many and varied the responses would be. Included: Practical ideas, food-for-thought for all school leaders.

Party! A Year of Special School Events
Getting parents involved is no easy task. But Education World's "Principal Files" team offers some great ideas for school-wide events that are sure to draw parents in large numbers. Included: More than 30 events to add to your school calendar.

Schools Find Many Ways to Say "Welcome Back"
Will open house be before school opens or sometime after students arrive? How about holding an ice cream social? A scavenger hunt for new students? A meet-the-principal lunch? Included: Our "Principal Files" team shares ideas for welcoming students.

Principals Caught Up in FISH! Philosophy
Long popular in the business world, the FISH! Philosophy, developed by ChartHouse Learning, has many fans in education circles as well. Principals say that employing FISH!'s four guidelines in their schools has brought spark back to working and learning.

25 Ways to Motivate Teachers
What special things do principals do to inspire teachers to keep on learning and improving? What do they do to make their schools fun places to work? Included: Principals share more than two dozen practical ideas for motivating teachers.

Is Your School's Culture Toxic or Positive?
"School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the 'persona' of the school," says Dr. Kent D. Peterson. Peterson shares how you can create a positive culture in your school.

50 Signs Your School Is a Great School
Education World invited our "Principal Files" principals to share the great things that are happening in their schools -- and share they did. Included: The opportunity to add your school's great ideas to the list.

Logos Help Schools Define Missions
A unique project led by two parents has rallied an entire school community. The project led to the creation of a logo for one Seattle elementary school -- a logo that expresses the mission and spirit of the school, focuses classroom instruction, and unifies the community.

Mission Statements With Vision: Where Is Your School Going?
What is your school's mission? If you have to search through your handbook or you can't recall the entire lengthy statement, you probably aren't making the most of your school's mantra. Included: Tips for keeping the mission statement alive once it's written.

Three Ways to Make Values Last at Your School
Elaine L. Lindy documents the process and benefits of creating a set of core values at any school. Included: Tips for helping your school team develop a dynamic list of core values.

WANTED: Rewards, Rewards, and More Rewards
Do rewards motivate students? Some say no, but many teachers think they do. Education World takes a look at a wide variety of rewards used by teachers in the classroom. If you are looking for a way to reward successful students or good behavior, you will find it here.

Familiar Ground: Traditions That Build School Community
An inspiring new book from the Northeast Foundation for Children (The Responsive Classroom) describes how a school staff uses traditions to weave a school of individual students, staff, and families into one community.

Copyright 2008 Education World

Last updated 06/26/2008