If you are like me, you can probably remember childhood moments when you felt particularly safe (or unsafe) in school, when you felt particularly connected to a caring adult (or frighteningly alone), or when you felt particularly engaged in meaningful learning (or not). These are school memories that we all tend to recall: positive or negative. It is not surprising that these kinds of experiences shape learning and development and why so many children have less-than-ideal school day memories.
Speaking personally, I can say that, on balance, all my years of schooling were positive and filled with promise. Why was this the case? For me, it can mostly be chalked up to what experts refer to as “school climate” – the quality and character of school life. School climate is based on patterns of students’, parents’ and teachers’ experiences and reflects the goals, values, relationships, classroom practices, and organizational structures found there. Real school climate, however, is larger than any one person’s experience.
When people work together, a group culture emerges that is bigger that any one person’s actions. A comprehensive understanding of school climate includes spheres of school life such as safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and the environment as well as larger organizational patterns. All of these things can be fragmented or shared; healthy or unhealthy. How we feel about being in school and in these larger groups tends to shape our learning, sense of belonging, and development.
While the quality of the teaching and learning at Matthews Hall is a significant factor in our reputation and success, the climate of our school community might also be a contender for top spot. I am very proud of the warm, welcoming, and responsive culture that exists among our faculty and staff team. It is the dimension to school life that ensures students are in a caring, balanced, and healthy place each day. People like, respect, and support one another and these qualities are directly observed and experienced by our students. When everyone “in a home” is mutually supportive and patient, the climate is in the comfort zone for optimal learning!
As parents, your part in promoting the “climate graph” of our school is key. Whether it’s your approach to communication with your child’s teacher or your willingness to lend a hand, the trust you demonstrate in the professionalism and expertise of our teachers (in the same way you’d trust another professional!) keeps the climate warm and temperate, especially when we have to roll up our sleeves and work together to solve a problem or overcome a challenge.
As we approach our first reporting period, it will be a time to engage in assessment “as learning” and “for learning”, so that when June rolls around, our assessment “of learning” will show clear growth and a job well done.
As the months unfold, let’s all be curious and conscientious, modelling the kind of learning and inquiry we all want for each of our kids!
Ric Anderson. Head of School