“A Culture of Caring is not just an educational philosophy but a means of fostering an open, accepting, and inclusive environment.” Nancy Lindhjem from Children’s Resource Group Indianapolis shows us how a community member can be engaged in developing positive school culture.
We are often told that a caring community is essential to maximizing children’s growth and learning, but we seldom hear how that caring environment can be accomplished. A “Culture of Caring” is not just an educational philosophy but a means of fostering an open, accepting, and inclusive environment.
These communities don’t just happen. Instead, they must be carefully and intentionally developed over time. The process begins with dedicating oneself to skills like attentive listening, mutual respect, the right to pass (declining to personally share on occasion), and expressing appreciations while avoiding “put-downs.” If we all could adhere to such assurances, these simple expectations could be very powerful in developing a culture of caring in any community.
A positive school culture is characterized by the ease with which students interact with adults. In this environment, a culture of respect and equality exists among students, between adults and students, and among adults. It involves allowing students to have a voice, and ensuring leadership and lifelong learning is promoted for all. Teamwork, reflection, and open, honest communication are critical elements.
Another key to constructing a caring community is changing “at risk” students’ framework to “at promise,” meaning that the students focus less on risk and challenge and more on their promise and potential. Everyone needs to know that someone is in his or her corner and is ready to provide support, encouragement, and motivation.
Finally, all members of the community have to be authentically engaged. Learning through the arts is a perfect vehicle for that! For an example of the arts being used as a means of delivering an engaged and powerful message, visit www.engageinchange.com and watch the video entitled “Engage in Change,” written and performed by Indy-based singer-songwriter Chad Mills. For more information regarding positive school cultures, visit www.tribes.com.
Nancy Lindhjem is an Education Specialist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist at Children’s Resource Group.