As we discussed in last week’s blog on assessing your school’s sense of community by surveying your teachers and students for their opinions, principals and school administrators should be prepared to receive some negative feedback. Perhaps it’s a symptom of soliciting opinions, but it’s hard to poll a group without receiving some mixed feedback.
That being said, don’t be discouraged. You can use this negative feedback as well as the constructive feedback to build upon your international school’s sense of community. By nature, international schools already may feel fragmented – there are often students and teachers of various cultural backgrounds in attendance, and an international school is distinctly different from local public schools.
We’ve included some tips below for establishing and strengthening your school community that shouldn’t take too much administrative effort.
Communicate frequently your school’s values – if everyone within a school community understands what values are important, they will become part of the everyday conversations. When students are encouraged to rally around one another and support one another, it’s easier for them to see the value in being more compassionate with one another and building a classroom community.
Partner with the community – In order to create a real sense of community or to ensure that your school becomes part of a larger community, it’s important to offer your students and staff a chance to see the community-at-large. If possible, seek opportunities to open your school up to the community or to do activities that will benefit the community (arts events, fundraising, plan day trips to museums, etc). It’s important to show teachers and students that their school is part of a bigger community.
Make the classroom a democratic place – when students feel as though they have a say in their classroom activities, it makes them feel that much more engaged in the day to day and in a sense of community.
One way to make the classroom a democratic place is to suggest to each of your teachers that they take the time to draft a Classroom Contract at the beginning of the year that everyone will be responsible for upholding. The contract can then be posted in a visible place and reviewed frequently. Then, both students and teachers can feel responsible for making the classroom the best that it can be.
Once the contract has been drafted, teachers can then check in to ensure it is being met through class meetings. These meetings can help students and teachers to set classroom norms, goals, and take time to problem solve. They also help to build peer relationships.
Using the feedback that you receive from teachers and students to adapt school practices to build a stronger community should become an important focus at any school. It aids in academic achievement and in creating a space where teachers and students feel safe and encouraged to thrive.