“I prefer not to be in a space where the occupants don’t desire my presence or my well-being!”
Do all students and families truly feel welcomed at your school? Imagine if this was a top priority of educational leaders, to ensure that every scholar and their families feel welcomed and apart of the school. Welcoming environments are not just key to parents and community members, but it is key to the scholars, faculty and staff. The culture of the school is driven by how those within it maintain it. The success of a school is heavily determined by the faculty, staff and scholars. We must first make schools a place where people want to be. Where we may not be in state of the art schools, we do determine the atmosphere of the school. The upkeep of the grounds, the appearance and presence are built by us. We set the tone of excellence. Setting the tone also begins with how we start the morning. What the scholars see influences how they feel when they come into the school. “I can soar when I see the endless possibilities ahead are for me!”
Scholars have to see themselves in the success of the school. Every child, from those with physical disabilities, to special educational needs, the socially awkward or those who are seeking social acceptance. Everyone wants the sense of belonging to be affirmed. One of my responsibilities as the Dean of School Culture is to facilitate the morning program. There’s a lot of work that goes into ensuring that every scholar feels empowered, included and welcomed. Every morning the scholars are greeted by more than one leader including a faculty member, our Principal, the Executive Director and myself. There are morning greetings posted so that scholars can read expectations of success. Morning affirmations are placed around the meeting area to affirm expectations of success. We do morning announcements and affirmations during the community, morning meeting. The scholars sit by grade level and are encouraged to be socially engaged. Every morning I start the program with music:
- Monday: Jazz and classical musical
- Tuesday: Today’ s music
- Wednesday: Wellness Workout, slide/step music
- Thursday: Throwback Thursdays
- Friday: Fun Fridays/mixture of music
Music is a good way to connect with scholars. It connects culture and builds a sense of connectedness. Academic success is driven by how we capture the scholars mind. You can’t begin to knock at the door or someone’s mind when you haven’t taken a moment to engage their heart. Socialization is key to creating a stimulated academic atmosphere. It opens the door of limited possibilities when a scholars mind, heart and soul are opened to intellectual dialect. Music is a good way to create this type of atmosphere and engagement.
Student engagement is driven by the environment. This is why welcoming environments are key to scholar and school success. It doesn’t seem just consist of a warm, fuzzy place. Welcoming environments are inclusive, celebratory and acknowledges the fact our individual awkwardness can be embraced and no shunned. It’s our duty to ensure that every child feels acknowledged and safe when they enter our schools. This is determined by our abilities as adults to place the needs of children first while not neglecting or forgetting the needs of adults. There has to be balance in the work that we do in educating children and families. We too as Educators, must create a welcoming environment that allows us to learn from each other as well as those whose lives we seek to inspire.
Inspiration is created! It’s not just stumbled upon by coincidence. One of the things that I teach my scholars through the morning program is that engagement is a healthy part of the learning experience. It reaffirms time and space! If scholars have appropriate social outlets, they can focus their energies on successes as opposed to distractions. Students needs to see themselves, regardless of their race, ability, religion, gender, sexuality or social economic status within our educational programs. A welcoming environment celebrates individuals without labeling them.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.