Creating Welcoming Environments in our Schools and Libraries

 

In many schools, there can be a lack of cultural diversitiy, symbols and practices that make students and parents feel welcome and important. This is unfortunate, because creating Welcoming Environments are essential to improving Student Learning.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning. Welcoming environments invariably increase parental involvement and support, and parental involvement is paramount to improving student learning both directly, via activities such as tutoring and homework help, and indirectly, via activities including reading aloud to a child and discussing the value of education. Parents and community only become invested in their schools when they feel invited and welcome!

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries and websites.

Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies
  • Restorative Practices
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through surveys or other assessment tools, parent groups

 

Personal Interaction:

  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment;
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents

Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters,
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level

Deborah McCallum

Resources:

Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming environment. http://www.education.ky.gov/users/OTL/Beginning_of_School_Year/Seeing%20Your%20School%20As%20Others%20See%20It.pdf

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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