Nothing in Education is Free, Except Creating a Positive School Climate
By Brandy Reeder
The office staff greets you in a kind manner, the world seems to pause, and you feel as if your visit to the school is the single most important thing happening right now in the whole world. You can’t help but notice the administrative team sitting around a large, circular table working together on what seems to be a solution-focused effort of some sort. When one of them looks up from the work to smile at you, it makes you feel like they would be happy to have you join in the fun.
The teachers at Happy School smile and seem as if they have also been waiting much too long for your visit. Maybe one of them even offers to show you around. You notice the beautiful student work on display throughout the halls, and you are elated when the teacher slows down her pace so you can look more closely. She even stops by one particular piece and talks with you about the processes involved in completing the project.
The best part about your visit to Happy School is seeing the students. They are excited about the work they are tackling, even though it seems to be incredibly challenging. They smile at you and tell you about their projects and the skills they are using to conquer the challenges they face. The students at Happy School rush back to class after breaks because the work they are doing is far more exciting than lunch and transitions.
When you finally leave, everyone makes you feel that you will be missed and that another visit cannot possibly happen soon enough. But the most amazing thing about your visit comes when you share it with parents and community members at the Happy School community fundraiser that night. Everyone seems to have the exact same experience you had when they visit.
How does Happy School make everyone feel so happy? Creating a positive and welcoming school climate is simple, really. It doesn’t take an expensive program, countless hours of research and problem solving, or even a leader with an advanced degree. All it takes is making each person involved in the goings on of the school the top priority during interactions. In our world, everything happens fast, gratification is instant, and people are glued to electronic devices 24/7. It stands out when people stop, give sustained eye contact, and pay true attention to the person with whom they are communicating.
When you think about school climate, think about the ripple effect. Having one positive spark can ignite a powerful chain reaction that can spread across a group of people faster than the world’s juiciest gossip on social media. Skeptics may say that it is not possible to make everyone happy. They may say that it takes too much time and that it is not part of their job to ensure satisfaction among all stakeholders. With a smile and true eye contact, I would beg to differ.
Now, more than ever, a positive and welcoming school climate is one of the most important things to cultivate. We must unite all stakeholders in order to work for the common good in our schools. And the only way to unite everyone is by placing value on human interactions and slowing down the communication process to honor people as we work together. After all, nothing in education is free . . . except, of course, cultivating and nurturing a positive school climate.
Brandy Reeder is an assistant principal for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school administration, and she is currently working on her doctorate in education leadership at Western Carolina University.