Changing the Culture and Climate of a Middle School

Changing the Culture and Climate of a Middle School
Jan 08, 2019

This article originally appeared in Education Update Online

As a middle school principal for the past 11 years, I’ve seen how we as adults can significantly impact the behavior of middle schoolers. Every adult (teachers, administrators, security) needs to model kindness and respect for our students.

The middle school years are the most challenging for administrators and teachers. Historically and currently in most schools, we report on the number of incidents of inappropriate behavior, and number of suspensions. The punitive reporting does not help create a positive culture and climate. At IS 228 - David A. Boody, we have been able to create great positive feeling among staff, parents, and students that is extremely contagious.

It starts with a vision and then a plan for each year. The theme for our school community this year is P.U.L.S.E. We need to provide Patience, Understanding, Love, Support, and Empowerment to our students, parents, and teachers/staff. This proactive approach has begun to transform our school culture comprehensively. We are now a school community that strives to enhance one another. The simple act of showing patience, understanding, love, and support empowers and inspires members in our school community to do the same.

Students and staff are being acknowledged for their positive action and engagement. This in turn creates a snowball effect of positivity throughout the entire IS 228 school community. If a student is being acknowledged for showing an act of kindness toward another student, other students will follow. We positively reinforce when our students and staff demonstrate kind behavior. We empower and make it easy for our students to do acts of kindness to others.

Our staff leads by example. The adults need to model kindness and respect for our students. The interaction among adults creates teachable moments for our students. How adults address each other as “Mr.” or “Ms.” shows the students how we need to show respect to each other.

We recently started a positive digital engagement program where our students and staff can spread kindness by giving digital “shout outs”, going above and beyond the call of duty. One teacher gave a shout out to her student for getting 100 percent on his math test; and in turn, the student gave the teacher a shout out for explaining the math concepts so clearly that he understood everything perfectly leading to his 100 percent. Student and staff input on our shout out digital dashboard allow members of the school community to feel more connected to one another.

We were able to successfully implement this program through the use of our Bridgit digital platform. Students and staff are able and encouraged to compliment, acknowledge accomplishments, and show thankfulness, creating an environment that supports student empathy, caring, and positive communication. We are able to track and broadcast all of the positive communication (shout outs) throughout our school community in real time. We empower our students and staff to create their own culture of patience, understanding, love and support, and revive a positive PULSE at IS 228 - David A. Boody. #

Dominick D’Angelo is the Principal at IS 228 – David A. Boody in Brooklyn.