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School Climate

What is School Climate?Like My School

Within the past 20 years, research has made it increasingly clear that school climate, defined as “the quality and character of school life,” profoundly affects student learning and achievement. According to the National School Climate Center, a safe and caring school environment is one in which students feel positively connected to others, feel respected, feel that their work is meaningful, and feel that they are good at what they do. School climate is a group phenomenon that reflects the school community’s norms, goals and values, and school climate emerges based on ways in which students, parents and school staff experience school life.

EducationWorld invites you to explore the following articles related to school climate. As this new content section grows, we invite you to offer your ideas for topics you’d like to read about in the future.

What's the Best Survey for Measuring Bullying and School Climate?
Consider these factors, then review this handy list of recommended survey instruments.

School Connectedness: 15 Quick-Start Tips
Implement these practical, free strategies for building positive school climate.

Cyber-Bullying and the Law: What Should School Leaders Know?
An attorney answers questions about how far schools can legally go when it comes to addressing off-campus student cyber-bullying.

Set Boundaries, Not Rules
An expert shares ways for teachers to get students’ cooperation without creating conflicts, resorting to authoritarian power dynamics, or compromising the emotional climate of the classroom.

Positive Consequences: A New Spin on Discipline
Inspire respectful and responsible student behaviors without threats, fear, anger, frustration, disappointment, or conditional approval.

Bullying and School Liability: What Administrators Should Know
EducationWorld offers a primer for school leaders concerned about civil liability for bullying and harassment.

Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools
Columnist Matthew Lynch discusses the negative student outcomes associated with corporal punishment.

Culturally Responsive Classroom Management
Learn how to take into account a student's cultural background when responding to classroom behavior.

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Give the Right Compliments to Kids
Praising fixed attributes can do more harm than good. Complimenting student effort is a much better strategy in the long run.

Top Ways to Advocate for Students
Administrators can use these practices to adopt a genuinely student-centered approach.

Why "I-Messages" Can Backfire
"Your behavior makes me sad." Learn why these types of statements can be counterproductive for young people.

Diversity: What Are We Really Teaching Students?
An expert offers sound advice for helping students build the diversity skills they'll need in the 21st century.

Getting Away With Success
Teachers are often faced with the unrealistic expectation that student grades reflect a "bell curve." Use these tips if you're experiencing "too much success" in your classroom.

Assess Teachers’ Discipline Style
Are you more “old school” or “21st century” when it comes to classroom management? Complete this quick assessment to find out.

Why “Just Say No” Won’t Stop Bullying
Bully is a moving documentary that deserved the attention it received. But I left the theater wondering about what message the film is leaving with viewers, particularly with students, its primary target audience.

Making New Students Feel Welcome
While every new-to-the-building student is different, there are a handful of key steps that educators can take to ensure that newcomers feel welcome.

Finland Pioneers Bullying Prevention Program
A key measure of this program’s success is that 98% of the students whose bullying incidents were tackled by a special school team said their situations improved.

Promote Social-Emotional Learning With Proven Programs
These 23 school-based programs have successfully boosted students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). These research-tested programs can be delivered by existing school staff during the school day.

Combating Racism in a Multicultural World
Here are nine tips for teaching diversity skills, defined as the ability to learn about differences, talk about them, accept them and (if conflict is involved) peacefully resolve them.

Building a Positive Classroom Community
In a win-win classroom, teachers recognize the impact a sense of community can have on learning and student behavior and attitudes. Use these key strategies.

Supporting Students in Crisis
Sometimes, instead of giving a student attention, acceptance and validation, we give advice and admonishment, or minimize the problem. Learn about better ways to support vulnerable kids.

Build Flexibility Into Your Homework Policy
Regardless of your feelings about the value of homework, it will be worth your while to develop a policy that eliminates excuses and minimizes stress to you and your students.

Offering Choices to Students
Offering choices maximizes students' potential for behaving appropriately. Learn the finer points of structuring and communicating choices.

Dealing With Difficult Colleagues
Everyone has at least one. Here's how to effectively communicate and collaborate with challenging co-workers.

Advice for New Teachers
The first year as a new teacher can be daunting and anxiety-provoking. These reassuring tips will help.

Dealing With Students' Feelings or Problems
When a child is worried, upset or angry, what's the right thing to say? An expert shares examples of dos and don'ts in a handy printable format.

Goodbye, Authoritarian Discipline: Gain Staff Buy-In
A 21st-century model of discipline is an ongoing, proactive set of behaviors used to create a cooperative environment which minimizes the likelihood of negative, disruptive behavior.

“Magic” Sentences Prevent Conflict 
"Magic Sentences” (or key phrases) are practical ways to use language to prevent, minimize or de-escalate conflicts with students.

Set Positive Behavior Expectations 
Learn how students’ involvement in rule-setting can make the evidence-based PBIS model even more powerful.

Creating a Safe Classroom Environment
If you’re using interactive approaches such as cooperative learning, it’s important to create a classroom where students feel safe asking questions and contributing to discussions.

Classroom Practices for the Information Age
Compare Industrial-Age vs. Information-Age approaches as they apply to the classroom, and learn how updated practices can better prepare students for success in a 21st century world.

Establish a Positive Classroom Climate
Set a positive tone, reduce anxiety and facilitate achievement by trying these two classroom strategies.

Edgy “Bully” Movie Aims to Spur Change
While this documentary's mature content depicts the harsh realities of bullying, it is intended to educate and motivate both adults and youth.

Speak Up: A Video Lesson on Bullying
Explore Cartoon Network's free online documentary on bullying. Included: Student printable to organize note-taking and capture the video's teachable moments.

Getting Emotional: Learning About Feelings
Build emotional intelligence in the classroom! Through discussion, drama and art, students identify and express different feelings and emotions.

Ask Dr. Lynch: Teaching Students About Racism
Education is key to changing attitudes. Don't be afraid to approach the difficult issue of racial intolerance with students.

Stressful Student Experiences: What Not to Do
Build positive school climate by minimizing situations that cause student stress. Learn what educators should avoid.

The Beauty of Losing Control, Part 1
Explore the concept of "control" in the classroom. Learn how to foster responsible, cooperative student behavior that is motivated by something besides teachers' anger or approval.

The Beauty of Losing Control, Part 2
Learn more about fostering responsible, cooperative student behavior. Try revamping your use of rewards and consequences with these expert suggestions.

Tips for Positive Parent-Teacher Interaction
Dr. Jane Bluestein offers comprehensive advice on maintaining positive relationships and communication with parents.

The Art of Setting Boundaries
Boundaries, if not done well, risk demoralizing students. Learn the finer points of establishing boundaries that support positive behavior as well as a positive classroom climate.

Character Lesson: Making a Good Apology
Students explore serious misdeeds in history, learn about the art of making an apology, and then write or critique an apology statement.

Public Speaking Lesson: The Impact of Bullying
Students in grades 9-12 gain public speaking and presentation skills as they educate peers about the important topic of bullying.

Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate
The following excerpt shows teachers and administrators how to create a safe and connected school climate while concurrently implementing a threat assessment program.

Bullying and Cyberbullying: Six Things Teachers Can Do
Author Franklin Schargel offers common-sense advice that empowers educators to reduce future occurrences of bullying and peer mistreatment.

Defusing a Power Struggle
This book excerpt suggests ways in which educators can deal calmly and effectively with tense situations involving angry students.

Compassion and Empathy: School Climate Essentials
Learn about easy ways in which educators can build compassion and empathy into their everyday routines, in order to benefit colleagues, students, the larger school climate and even themselves.

Racial Inequities: What Schools Can Do
During Black History month, don't stop at teaching students about important contributions of African Americans. Consider whether your district is doing all it can to promote equity at the systems level.

Racial Inequities: What Schools Can Do, Part 2
Explore more systems-level strategies--including those related to professional development and instruction--that can eliminate racial inequities in schools.

Accommodating Student Sensory Differences
Dr. Jane Bluestein, expert in school climate and effective instruction, offers helpful tips on adjusting instructional style to ensure the success of every learner.

Survey: Is Your School an Emotionally Safe Place?
Try this powerful exercise for reflecting upon whether school practices--both intentional and unintentional--are helping or hurting your students.

A Lesson in Character: Connect With Yourself
Students learn about the importance of good character and express desired character traits through a personalized art activity.

Lesson to Celebrate Diversity: The Unity Necklace
Students use the activity of building a necklace to learn more about each other and explore diversity.

Be the Boss: A Lesson on Managing Feelings
This charming K-6 lesson creates a safe environment in which students can identify and share their feelings.

Join the Discussion on Bullying
Our educator community featured a lively discussion on the topic of bullying. Learn about best practices and junp inot the conversation.

Jump-Start Your School's Program Evaluation: Part 1
Why waste time and money? With this guide, plan a quality program evaluation to determine what works in your school.

Jump-Start Your School’s Program Evaluation: Part 2
Put your staff's critical thinking skills to the test regarding an often-neglected area of school programming: school climate and social-emotional interventions.

Is Your School Doing "Real" Youth Mentoring?
Mentoring program quality varies widely. Are you doing what it takes to benefit kids?

Simple Advice Takes Aim at Bullying
Here are three key tips for administrators, teachers and parents to prevent bullying and make school a safer and happier place.

Beyond Icebreakers: Building Student Connectedness
Students need to form bonds not only with their classmates, but with the school at large. Those who do show higher achievement.

Bullying Prevention: What Your School May be Missing
In this excerpt from Bullied Teacher: Bullied Student, Les Parsons explains how school bullying prevention approaches fall short.

Bullying Prevention: Understanding Adult Bullying
Part 2 of our excerpts from Bullied Teacher, Bullied Student address adult bullying and how it can impact a school’s culture.

Site Review: Center for Mental Health in Schools
For administrators who want to take a systems-level view of student supports, this site offers extensive resources.

Facebook Joins Team to Banish Bullying
The partnership calls for Facebook and Time Warner to use their clout to raise awareness about online bullying and encourage more people to report abuses when they see them.

Motivating Students: Principals Share Best Ideas
How do savvy administrators keep students motivated to do their best all year? Here are some tried-and-true tactics that principals shared with EducationWorld.

Site Review:
Implementing Response to Intervention well is no small feat, but InterventionCentral puts this complicated model within reach.

Free Bullying Prevention Training for Bus Drivers
The National Association for Pupil Transportation and U.S. Dept. of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools made free professional training available to the school bus industry.

LGBT Adults Serve as Role Models for Students
The Homecoming Project urges successful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults to join its campaign to provide positive role models for LGBT high school students.

Prom Season: Lessons Learned
The stories of students James Tate and Craig Cassey can teach us all something about effective discipline and celebrating diversity. Resource links for administrators and students included.

Site Review: National School Climate Center
As the authoritative voice on all things school climate, the site is definitely one educators can use to plan their school, district’s or state’s next steps.

Prom Playbook: How Schools Can Keep Kids Safe
When it comes to keeping prom safe, not all strategies are created equal. The key is keeping as close an eye on teens as possible and ensuring that they understand the dangers.

When is Bullying a Hate Crime?
This provocative piece, contributed by EducationWorld guest columnists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, dispels common myths about bullying.

Is MTV’s “Teen Mom” Welcome in your Classroom?
What goes through the mind of a teen as he or she watches a television show that shows the hardships—as well as the “star treatment”—experienced by celebrity teen moms? Can a TV show help open fruitful discussion in the classroom?

Lesson Plan Booster: MTV’s “Teen Mom”
This discussion guide for high-school students helps teens think critically about “social norms” messages expressed by “Teen Mom,” a popular television “reality show.”

Your Drug Prevention Program Probably Isn’t Working
Many prevention approaches used—and loved—by schools simply don’t help to change students’ behavior when it comes to using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. We need to think differently about prevention, and here are a few places to start.

The Best Bullying Prevention Schools Aren’t Doing
We forget to examine the underlying causes of student bullying, says teacher educator and bullying expert Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown. Educators and kids need to get beyond talk of “perpetrators” and “victims” and embrace the complexity that characterizes student-to-student mistreatment.

Stan Davis: Ask Bullied Kids What Helps Them
Bullying prevention expert Stan Davis reminds us that if we want to know what helps kids who have been bullied, we need to ask them. Often the typical adult advice, such as “pretend the bullying doesn’t bother you,” actually does more harm than good.

Lesson Plan Booster: How Can Students Help a Bullied Peer?
This discussion guide for middle- and high-school students helps youth consider the impact of bullying on the school as a whole, and learn about safe ways to help a student who has been mistreated.

Elementary School Gets Flak for ‘Slavery Simulation'
When a teacher at one school used a “mock slave auction” to make history come alive, some believe a line was crossed. Learn about student leadership practices that might have prevented the “auction” from ever happening.

Michigan On-Court Tragedy Tests School Coping Skills
Following the death of a teen moments after his game-winning basket, faculty, teammates and students in Michigan provide a lesson in coping for schools nationwide. This article discusses best practices for helping students deal with grief.

Stanford University Expert: Effective School Response to Student Death
A Stanford University expert in youth stress reactions offers tips for educators to help them manage the aftermath of a student death.

Don’t Just Sit There: Use Detention Wisely
What should students be doing in detention so that they are less likely to end up there again? Educators who spend time actively generating discussion with students and teaching positive behaviors seem to be on the right track.

CT Voices for Children: Do Detentions and Suspensions Work?
Knowing that out-of-school suspensions aren’t effective, a Connecticut-based nonprofit studied alternatives and gathered some great ideas that are working for local schools. The consensus seems to be that if punishment must be given, kids should at least remain in school for it.


More resources

Read about the Responsive Classroom approach to connecting with students, parents and the community.

Addressing students’ physical health can also boost academic performance.

Social, emotional and physical safety are hallmarks of positive school climate.

Motivating kids is an ongoing challenge. Explore some great ideas here.

Check out this comprehensive guide that helps elementary school educators as well as school and district administrators develop and implement effective prevention and intervention strategies that promote positive student behavior.

Got classroom behavior challenges? Visit our Classroom Management 101 section for help.

We offer 60 volumes of tips to help teachers manage classrooms effectively.

This tip archive provides helpful advice for dealing with a wide variety of classroom situations.

Read a collection of articles explaining the benefits of smaller class size.