A caring school climate requires positive relationships among staff, among students, and between staff and students. Unfortunately, only 24% of local young people surveyed say they experience this asset, defined as "school provides a caring, encouraging environment." School staff can try the following strategies to build a caring environment: • Invite students or groups of students to join you for lunch. • Make a list of all of the students in your school. Ask each staff person to identify the students they know beyond just a name and face. When you discover which students are “falling through the cracks,” make an effort to connect each of them with at least one caring adult in the school. Check out the book Great Places to Learn: How Asset Building Schools Help Students Succeed. It is filled with ideas that have been tested and refined by schools around the country. The book is available for loan at Sheffield Township Library, Sugar Grove Free Library, Tidioute Public Library, Warren Public Library, and the Youngsville Public Library through a donation by the Exchange Club of Warren. Parents can help promote a caring environment at school, too: • Find out what kinds of activities are available in your children’s schools. Encourage them to find things they are interested in and get involved. • Volunteer in a classroom or as part of a special event (or join the PTO). Students take a second and make a difference for their school in the following ways: • Volunteer to tutor or mentor younger students.
• Thank a teacher or staff member for their hard work.
• Organize a “school cleanup day.” Improve the physical environment of the campus by painting, cleaning, creating new displays, and so on.
• There are many big and small ways that people can express caring. It can make a huge difference to school bonding and academic performance!
I.F. Eastman coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. Portions of this article were adapted from Get the Word Out: Communication Tools and Ideas for Asset Builders Everywhere with permission from the publisher.