How to Create a Positive School Climate Part 3

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2) Create a shared vision—but start with personal visions. Research suggests that bringing everyone together to create a shared vision of the kind of climate they want increases the likelihood that the vision will actually be carried out. But according to Peter Senge, director of the Society for Organizational Learning that originated at MIT, a shared vision must emerge from our personal visions—otherwise people won’t be committed to the shared vision.

Senge defines personal vision as “a specific destination, a picture of a desired future” that is rooted in a person’s values, concerns, and aspirations. For example, part of my personal vision is wanting schools to be socially and emotionally healthy places for everyone which comes from my deeply held belief that human beings thrive in positive environments.

So before creating a shared vision together, ask everyone to write down his or her personal vision. You might even have them read the section on personal vision in Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline. To ensure student participation, have teachers guide students through this process.

When you’re ready to create a shared vision, it’s important to create a safe space where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. I highly recommend using a positive approach to discussion such as World Café or Appreciative Inquiry. That way, positive emotions are generated, which will help to cultivate trust amongst group members and also make everyone’s thinking more creative and flexible. Be sure to include the students in whatever way possible.

3) Work together to carry out the shared vision—and make it fun! Creating a positive school climate is an ongoing process that never really ends, but it’s a joyful one. However, if you find your school off to a slow start, you might try one of these simple motivating ideas that will give a quick boost of positive emotions:

  • “Behind Your Back.”Click here for this fun twist on gossiping that can easily be done at the start of class or before a staff meeting. One participant at the Greater Good Summer Institute for Educators told us that when her school did it at a staff meeting, some long-held grudges between staff members were healed.
  • Gratitude Board.Provide places in the hallways and the teachers’ lounge where people can post notes expressing their gratitude for each others’ actions. Gratitude has the wonderful effect of helping us feel more connected to one another and also gives us a boost in our own self-worth—both important aspects of a positive school climate.

While it may seem like a lot of work, the tremendous benefits of a positive school climate far out-weigh the time and effort required. And, while researchers haven’t measured it yet, I would guess that a positive school climate can also bring the joy and fun back into teaching and learning. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a school like that?


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