As I mentioned last week, we will return to our weekly rewinds following spring break. Until then, I will be sharing a deep, reflective book by Principal Kafele or Baruti Kafele titled, “Closing the Attitude Gap”. Over the next seven weeks, you will do one of two things; Embrace the words shared and take a deep look inward as you reflect and as a whole, we begin to craft our beliefs as a united Sigler Elementary or you will not give yourself the time to reflect which will leave you exactly where you are now.
I am dedicated to bringing us all closer together than we are today and expect the same from you. I know we can do it!
One thing you will recognize throughout our study is that each chapter begins with a series of reflective questions. I encourage you to answer these questions. Write down your answer. Keep them and refer to them as a part of your professional growth.
Chapter 1 – How Climate and Culture Shape Attitude
1. What do my students see in my classroom?
2. What do my students hear in my classroom?
3. What do my students feel in my classroom?
4. What do my students experience in my classroom?
5. Do I provide a learning environment that fosters the proper attitude for my students’ success?
What exactly do we mean by climate and culture. Principal Kafele shares one specific example of walking into a teacher’s classroom and immediately noticing a major problem with her classroom climate and culture. The room was chaotic and lacked organization, the walls were practically bare and there was no clear evidence that the teacher was in charge. Names were written on the board for after school detention; several had a string of check marks after their names. He diagnosed this problem as a teacher who focused to much on discipline and not enough on climate and culture.
After studying many different definitions of the word climate, it can be defined as with one word: mood. When measuring the climate within your room we are gauging how the overall feeling and tone of the environment affects the teachers’ ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn.
After studying many different definitions for the word culture, it can be reduced to a single word: lifestyle. When measuring the culture within your room, we are gauging how the overall way of life in the environment affects students and teachers.
When assessing the combined climate and culture of a classroom/school we want to gauge what the students see, hear, feel, and experience and whether the learning environment fosters the proper attitude and decision making necessary for student success. Even one room that does not meet this assessment jeopardizes student/teacher success.
How Climate and Culture Affect Bullying
The climate and culture can boldly state either that bullying is not allowed or that it is acceptable. C & C can speak even to the most subtle forms of bullying. Students that do not want to eat in the cafeteria, not wanting to play at recess, or work in small groups, but from the appearance we see, he/she gets along with everyone.
Teachers and staff must make it a priority to ensure a welcoming climate and culture for the safe of our students’ academic success. The mood of your classroom affects whether students or not your students can learn at optimal levels- what your students see, hear, feel, and experiences in your room will determine academic outcomes. Great instruction alone will not yield the results you desire for your students. You must pay close attention to the overall learning environment.
The Importance of What Students See, Hear, Feel and Experience in the Classroom
Think about what your students see when they walk into your room each day.
- The seating arrangement
- The walls
- The bulletin boards
- The overall use of classroom space
- The teacher
- The other students
What states did each of these observations makes to students.
Next, think about what students hear in your classrooms. What kind of initial interactions occur between teachers and students.
- What kinds of greetings take place?
- How does the teacher typically speak to the students and in what tone?
- What kinds of interactions occur among students?
- Were they cordial, orderly and productive
- Evidence of caring and compassion
- What kind of language is used?
- What is considered acceptable and unacceptable speech?
Now examine what students may feel when they enter the classroom.
- What emotions do they experience?
- Is the classroom a relaxed environment?
- Was it conducive to learning?
- Do students appear comfortable?
- Is there a possibility that bullying exists in the classroom that the teacher may not be aware of?
- Do students feel valued, appreciated, and respected?
- Do students feel safe and free from harassment?
- Do students feel good about themselves?
Finally, examine the overall experience in the classroom. What is it like to be a student in the classroom? Is it an environment that students look forward to being in everyday?
- Is instruction student-centered?
- Is it rigorous?
- Is learning occurring?
- What kind of impression does the experience have on students?
- Are students able to learn without peer pressure to conform to counterproductive expectations?
In some classrooms (generally speaking in the text) there is an unspoken notion in too many, that students must act a certain way to “be smart”. A classroom experience must encourage students to display their intelligence without risking repercussions for their classmates.
Getting Students to Drop Their Masks
We should be reminded that some students arrive at school wearing an invisible mask. Some teachers spend entire careers teaching to masks instead of children, either because they are not aware of the mask or do not know how to get students to take them off. The masks are due to peer pressure, pretending something they are not. The only way to get the mask off is to create positive classroom climate and culture. Ask yourself, do students in my class wear a mask? Do they act a certain way because of the mask they wear? To acknowledge discipline or classroom management issues without seeing the bigger picture of C & C is detrimental to a school.
Students must be able to check their mask at the door. Wearing the mask in the neighborhood, on the bus or the walk to school is understandable. It may not be right, but knowing the realities of our students’ lives it is understandable.
Poverty and the Attitude Gap
In his workshops, Principal Kafele frequently asks the audience to tell him the main reason why so many urban schools under perform. The answer is always the same: Poverty.
As a staff member at Sigler, we have zero control over poverty. We cannot change the conditions that students go home to every day. At best, we strive to inspire students on day to rise above their situation, but we cannot change it, so why dwell on it or use it as an excuse?
Because poverty is a variable we can do nothing about, our energy must be devoted to areas we have absolute control – C & C of the classrooms. Classroom teachers are in a position to create an oasis for students. Whatever is going on in their lives outside of school can be left outside, and students look forward to entering our doors each morning for a productive day of learning.
If poverty is allowed to be made an excuse for underachievement, students do not stand a chance. YOU are the number one determinant of your students’ success! YOU are the difference maker! YOU are the game changer!
The upcoming weeks or chapters in this book examine a framework comprised of five strands that will systematically create a climate and culture conducive to closing the attitude gap.
1. Attitude toward students (do I believe in them?) – Strand focuses on the teacher’s attitude toward his/her students. You cannot effectively teach and inspire if you do not believe.
2. Relationship with students (do I know them?) – Strand focuses on teacher’s relationship with his/her students. You cannot effectively teach and inspire if you do not know them.
3. Compassion for students (do I care about them?) – Strand focuses on teacher’s care, concern, and compassion his/her students. You cannot effectively teach and inspire if you do not care about them.
4. Environment for learning (do I provide my students with an environment of excellence?) – Strand focuses on the classroom environment you have created. You cannot effectively teach and inspire if the classroom environment is not conducive to learning.
5. Relevance in instruction (do I realize who my students are?) – Strand focuses on culturally responsive teaching and learning. You cannot effectively teach and inspire if you do not take into account who they are historically and culturally.
Here is to teaching and inspiring, strengthening strengths, and building non-strengths!
Make is a TRRFCC week!