Creating a positive school climate
In classrooms across the school this week, students met with teachers to talk about creating their “Classroom Charter.” The Charter is a tool used schoolwide developed by The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. It is designed to build and sustain positive emotional climates by creating agreed-upon norms for how people want to feel and how they can help each other to experience those feelings.
Creating a classroom charter is a regular part of every student’s experience at Oak Meadow in the opening of the school year. This requires many conversations with the whole class, with everyone listening to each other and learning more about how others want to feel in their school environment. The next step is to decide what students will do each day to make sure all members of the class can experience those feelings as often as possible. And finally, it takes the practical work of living, as individuals, in a way that is true to the shared agreements made by the class, including making amends when inevitable missteps and conflicts occur.
Students across the school are just beginning the work this week of creating classroom charters. In one Lower Elementary classroom, students worked together to narrow their list of “Ways we want to feel” to just four words. Selecting one best choice from a list that included “cared-for, safe, and trusted,” the students agreed on “safe,” because “when you feel safe you also feel cared-for and trusted.” And in narrowing a list that included “mindful, peaceful, calm, and relaxed,” the students selected “mindful” with some help from their teacher, who shared, “being mindful is being aware of your surroundings and adjusting to your surroundings.” That helped the students understand that it’s okay if students are not calm in PE or recess, and can then adjust and be calm in the classroom and hallways. The final four words selected by the class were “safe, amazing, mindful, and motivated.” As the next step, students will go through just as much work to arrive at how they will interact with each other throughout the school year so that all students can experience these feelings as often as possible.
Creating a positive classroom climate has so many powerful benefits in a child’s school experience, including improvements in academic performance, relationships and friendships with others, and health and wellbeing. It’s an essential first step in helping students to build social and emotional skills that support success in school and beyond.