Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Strategies to Promote Nurturing, Safe and Inclusive Schools

According to ASCA, school climate is the “quality and character of a school”. In a warm school climate, the school's “norms, values and expectations support all students feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe” (ASCA, 2015). Climate improvement must be inclusive of the entire school community, from staff members to parents to students. In regards to staff, this can be as simple as developing a social committee that celebrates special events in staff member’s lives (baby showers, birthdays, etc). For parents, educational workshops such as Love and Logic or phone calls home to celebrate success can help parents to feel supported. For students, the celebration of achievements and school spirit can vastly improve how students view their school. Efforts to improve school climate must look beyond students to include those that support them within the larger school community.

Key Elements of Warm School Climate

  • Targeted behavior and academic interventions
  • Bullying prevention
  • Support for all student's potential 
  • Multiple opportunities for student engagement
  • Recognition of student achievements 
  • Staff support for student's physical & emotional health (nurses, counselors, para-educators, etc.)
  • Opportunities for family involvement and education
  • Clear lines of communication between staff members and parents. 

Suggestions for Mitigating Risk and Promoting Resilience

Schools can develop systems that are preventative and teach students to persevere in spite of obstacles. Listed below are suggestions to mitigate risk and promote resilience in students:
  • School-Wide Bullying Intervention. This may involve guidance lessons, strict consequences for bullying that are clearly communicated and bully prevention training for staff and parents.
  • Depression Screening & Referral. Screening is a great way to target students for counseling that may otherwise fall through the cracks. Students needing extra support can be referred to outside counseling services as necessary. Parents must be involved in this.
  • Use of an RTI model. RTI models (at right) provide a stair step model for staff use when selecting interventions. Interventions become more targeted as students move up the ladder.
  • Restorative Justice and Skill Building. Rather than disciplining students through traditional methods (detention, reprimands), students can attend an after school program in which they are given the tools to change their behaviors.
The School Counselor’s Role in Developing a Warm School Climate

Traditionally, school counselors do the following to promote a warm school climate:
  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Guidance lessons (ex. healthy habits, mindfulness, goal setting)
  • Intentional class placements where students are at the right level and have the support to succeed
  • Referrals to community resources (to meet basic needs, counseling)
  • Career or college exploration

Innovative Ideas to Improve Climate

School counselors can be innovators. They can suggest and implement strategies that have never been used in their schools. The following strategies can be used to promote resilience within school communities and to turn up the school temperature: 

Guidance Lessons about Grit: Teach students about how one's mindset can determine future success. Use activities to teach students to have a growth mindset. A great lesson can be found here.
Workshops for Parents: Offer optional classes to parents that provide parenting strategies on topics from stress management to motivation to helping children to make smart choices. A great example of classes for parents can be found here.
Yoga class: Yoga classes can teach students about emotional regulation and mindfulness techniques. 
Climate Committee: Student, parent and staff representatives can meet together to participate in projects to improve the school climate. Projects this group may focus on may include anonymous acts of kindness around campus, beautification projects and welcoming new students.


In order for a school to be functional, students, staff and parents must feel safe and welcome. When students in particular do not feel safe, their ability to learn is jeopardized. Strategies that focus on giving students, staff and parents skills to cope and make good choices are key in creating change. All members of school communities must be targeted in order for school climate interventions to be truly effective.

ASCA (2015). School climate: Fostering student development [Web site]. Retrieved from development/2015-webinar-series/webinar-learn-more-pages/school-climate
C Miller. (2015, September 10). Getting gritty with 8th grade [Web log post]. Retrieved from 
Love and Logic Institute. (2015). Love and Logic [Web site]. Retrieved from

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