A Nudge in the direction of better school communities

There is much we can do, big or small, to contribute to creating the school community of our dreams. I hope this blog will solicit different voices, each contributing to the change that builds capacities in children, youth and families. So, what are these capacities and how do they relate to the creation of positive, caring school climates?

A caring school climate improves academic performance

I believe it is essential that we provide children with the tools to help them understand and regulate their own emotions, build confidence and improve academic performance. Programs teach children skills but even the best of these, along with policies, rules and protocols will fail unless they take root in a positive, caring school climate. This involves much more than changing a negative behaviour. It means cultivating a school community where:

  • everyone is treated with warmth, respect, and compassion
  • kids are taught not only to read but also to relate, and
  • children’s hearts are opened up.

Empathy is key

We have a shared responsibility to develop more empathy in ourselves and others. Empathy, the base of pro-social behaviour, is an essential part of human health. It requires relational interaction. It is connection. Empathy promotes creativity, intelligence and productivity. It encourages us to be better problem solvers by bringing out our humility and inclusiveness. The essence of empathy, exquisite as it is, is the ability to stand in another’s shoes, to see and take on their perspective, to feel their experience as human.

It is a sobering reality that empathy is threatened in the modern world. Too little time is being spent in face-to-face interactions. Our devices have taken over. Although technology and social media are here to stay, it is more important than ever before that human beings learn how to become humane. We need to receive or witness empathy. We need to experience it through connecting and practice it to become more empathetic. If we do not interact with people, we cannot improve our connections to them.

A strategy from the heart trumps programmes and policies

Today I attended a presentation on bullying. Much of it focused on social media, programs and policies. Little attention was given to practices, to the best anecdote to bullying behaviours: healthy relationships with adults. When the workshop facilitator asked me to provide a strategy or intervention for connectedness, I replied “me, the person that I am, my heart, my belief in the power of relationships, and my unwavering commitment to connect with children, youth, families and each other.” The workshop presenter once again asked if I might provide just one intervention, one strategy to combat bullying. My response was “I am my best intervention.  Just plain and simple. Me, the person, the connector.” He looked at me, lost for words, perplexed at the notion of a caring adult being an effective strategy in bully prevention.

A nudge to action, a call for connection

My hope for today’s workshop is this: maybe, just maybe, I nudged a workshop participant into action, to follow the path they intuitively know is the right one. I hope I spurred someone to think about how they might become involved in warding off a culture of disengagement in our schools. I hope someone there reconnected with a place within where they feel responsible for children and each other. I realize heart work is hard work but if we are to right the ship, we need to open our hearts to the range of possibilities for communities of care.

How might you turn to someone to support, comfort and connect?

I look forward to receiving your comments here.

Bev Ogilvie

Bev is Associate Professor at City University and temporary instructor at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. Bev has 30 years of professional teaching experience in public schools, colleges and universities. She is a Master Instructor with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a member of the BC School Counsellors Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the BC Association of School Centered Mental Health Coalition. She is co-founder of Project Hope and the Collaborative for the Study of Connectedness in School Communities. Bev was awarded the 2009-2010 British Columbia Registered Clinical Counsellor Professional Care Award for exhibiting special creativity and effectiveness in providing counselling and professional care.

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