Our school mission includes encouraging personal integrity and creating a safe learning environment for everyone. I feel that if all stakeholders create and uphold a genuine sense of welcome, similar to that of a quality resort, that the learning environment would foster constructive learning practices, as well as integrity. Students would want to come to school more, and all stakeholders would realize that the overall energy in the school is evident when everyone makes an effort to acknowledge those around them with sincerity and warmth.
What did you do to assess which stakeholder group (or subgroup) could be more effectively welcomed? And what did you find?
In order to assess the fact that parents and students could be more effectively welcomed in our school, I simply asked some of my students how they feel when they enter their classes each day. I realized that I, myself, am guilty of not always welcoming students the way I feel I should. In addition, after speaking with some of my departmental colleagues, we agreed that our entire staff could do a better job of regularly calling home to invite parents to participate in school events (other than routine back-to-school and open-house nights). My AVID department conducts parent outreach nights to promote college and standards for success, but my colleagues and I agreed that we could do more.
Future Sphere of Influence: What would you do to improve welcoming this group if you were the school leader?
To improve welcoming students, I would initiate a summer program to promote excitement with the students. I would have the upperclassmen of the school organize water balloons, music, games, food, and lots of enthusiasm to conduct a team-building day on our campus with all underclassmen students (organized by grade) in order to foster a real sense of welcome with these students. I would create an authentic peer mediation group for older students to mentor younger students, and to teach the value of a smile and laughter, as well as acknowledging others by name.
To improve the welcoming of parents, I would have staff members invite parents to a school BBQ or similar event and have the staff focus on authentic conversations to get to know the parents for who they are, aside from the usual data-driven, student-centered conversations. I would want my staff members to create a sense of familiarity and comfortability for the parents to want to seek out ways to become more involved with the school. I would train my staff to lead team-building initiatives (the way I did for eight summers, as a summer camp counselor) so that they could lead small groups of parents and other teachers through fun, engaging activities that build community.
Current Sphere of Influence: What can you do in your present position to enhance welcoming these stakeholders?
Currently, I can be proactive in meeting each of my students at the door with a smile each and every day, giving them a high-five as they come in. I can engage in small talk or even tell a cheesy joke at the start of class to ease the tension so students feel welcome and invited to belong. I often do these things, but I don’t make it a point to do these things every day. In addition, I can share these thoughts with staff members at faculty meetings and encourage others to do the same, as we share the importance of highlighting this aspect of our school mission. I could also start making positive phone calls home to parents, going out of my way to call them to give them compliments for supporting their children. I think parents rarely get that sort of positive feedback they really need, which could encourage them to become more proactive with school/class events, knowing they have at least some allies on campus.
Current Sphere of Influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more welcoming place:
1. I will make an effort to welcome every person I encounter at school with a smile each day.
2. I will make at least 5 phone calls home to address positive feedback for parents each week.
3. I will greet my students with warmth each day when they arrive to my classroom.
4. I will visit the school office once a day to thank them for the great work they do for everyone.
5. I will write each and every student a card during finals week to thank them for their diligence.