Culture is the foundation of how we live, learn and behave. At school, culture is the landscape in which learning takes place. When students are involved in defining the culture of the school, they are empowered by their engagement and feel greater ownership in their learning experiences.
Throughout the school year, teachers and school personnel at Ridgeview assist students with a sense of purpose by clarifying our school “Culture” .
How do we introduce the concept of school culture?
In the early days of each school year, children learn that the classroom and school is like a family away from home. Class and schoolmates are all here to support one another as individuals and as learners.
Students learn about the culture in their own homes by reflecting on what they see and hear about their family if they were a newcomer in their homes. Questions to guide their reflections may include:
· “If I came to your home what would I see?
· “What would I see you doing together?”
· “Where would I see you sitting?”
· “Who would I see reading, cooking, or making lunches?”
· “Would the children be assisting with meal preparations and school readiness chores?”
· “How would I see you helping one another”
· “What would I see when there is a conflict or a problem?”
What one sees and hears when they enter a home is indicative of the culture of that home. These are the foundational values of the family members. The same is true in a classroom and in a school.
What students see and hear in a classroom and in a school is also indicative of culture.
Students learn about classroom and school culture in the same way they learn about their home culture, by observation. Questions to guide their observations may include:
· “How do students enter the school and classroom in the morning?”
· “How do the students greet the teacher and other adults in the building?”
· “How do the adults greet the students?”
· “How do students decide what to do first when they enter their classrooms?”
· “If another student approached you, what would you say? How could you invite him to join you?”
· “What does it look and sound like when you transition from one activity to another?”
Student-generated reflections about what is seen and heard help students understand classroom and school culture.
Helping students take part in discussing and understanding that a culture of kindness is inclusive, calm and joyful lays a foundation of mutual respect and engagement in school.
Using visual and auditory signals reinforces school culture and engages the students’ brains in a deeper and more meaningful way. Teaching students mindful alertness supports their ability to be ready and present to learn. To create a mindful, kind and compassionate classroom and school we begin each day with expected routines including active listening to our National Anthem and morning announcements. The practice of listening with a mindful body (still and quiet, and mindful breathing) is the first step in mindfulness and supporting mindful experiences where individuals can examine their thoughts, senses, emotions, feelings, physical and mental impulses.
Visual cues to support a culture of kindness are many and varied. You may have noticed in the front hallway, our blossoming heart tree. This tree helps us to celebrate “Real Acts of Caring”, RAC, at Ridgeview. A ‘Real Act of Caring” means to do something kind for another person without expecting anything in return. At Ridgeview, we are celebrating this generosity of spirit with a symbol, the heart, which is attached to the tree. Students and teachers are asked to identify real acts of caring by naming the caring act and identifying the caring individual. This visual cue will show students just how quickly kindness grows at Ridgeview. (A special thank you to Mrs. Meldrum for designing our RAC tree.)
Creating a culture with clear expectations and purposeful meaning establishes a place where children feel safe to learn. At Ridgeview, our favorite type of culture is a “Culture of Kindness”. Acts of kindness and our blossoming RAC tree are simple cues to promote positive school culture. Be part of the Ridgeview cultural challenge, be part of our school culture of kindness, and show you care!
The following caring acts are ideas that are helpful and important anytime. Choose one of these or select your own ideas each day to spread the culture of kindness.
1. Give a compliment
2. Make eye contact
4. Talk to someone new
5. Clean up after yourself at home or at school
6. Volunteer to help at home or in the classroom
7. Share your umbrella
8. Say Something if someone is talking negatively
9. Recommend a book. Better yet, lend a favorite book
10. Play with someone who is all alone
11. Apologize freely without a reminder
12. Hold a door open for someone and smile
13. Out of the blue, make a card for a friend to let them know what they mean to you
14. Say “please” and “thank you” and be sincere about it