What to change in a school? I have reflected upon what change would have the greatest impact based just upon my own observations.
Counseling and supervision. More and more effective supervision and counseling. Kids learn better when their minds are focused. Internal and external conditions affect their ability to be successful in school, therefore counseling and supervision.
Counseling usually indicates a counselor working in scheduling classes and sometimes personal intervention with parents and kids. Of course keep this, adding more opportunities for individual students and groups to interact with trained counselors. Have a variety of topics, a variety of groups. Maybe even a club. A qualified counselor atevery school site.
Classes and class activities can identify and/or aid in relief of tensions and stressors. Activities can give kids confidence and bolster their ability to learn.
One year when I was teaching a Special Day Class for the Severely Handicapped, a group of students from the student government class came once a week for a class period for peer interaction. My students and the gen. ed. student leaders interacted while I ran a very simple self-esteem class. The benefits? The gen ed. kids were exposed to new career choices (SPED teacher, counselor, etc.) and my students gained language and other academic skills, plus great self-confidence and new friends. It was like pouring Miracle-Gro on them.
Here are a few activities I developed to help students relieve stress:
Writing Prompts to Sooth Kids' Toxic Stress
Books to Relieve Kids' Toxic Stress http://melanielinktaylor.mzteachuh.org/2012/01/books-to-sooth-kids-toxic-stress.html?spref=bl
Here are curriculum sources for self-esteem:
Writing prompts have therapeutic effects for students, too. The counseling comes in with discussion, either through teacher's written response or carefully guided group discussion. Kids are eloquent when narrating their own feelings and experiences. Teachers are professionals who interact with students at least 35 hours a week--we need to know them and how they are doing. Reading their thoughts in writing will do that. Then it is up to us to interact personally with them. Identify a student's internal stressor a student leads to getting them the help she/he needs.
Here are sources for writing prompts for self-esteem:
Self Esteem & Confidence 52 Journal Prompts for Kids
Reflective Journal Writing Prompts
Supervision-oh my! By my observation, only one school I taught with in the about a dozen in the past two decades actually followed the principal's directives on supervision consistently. On the playground, at the classroom doors before and after school, during assemblies. It was amazing. It was as though that principal had somehow cornered the teacher market on efficiency and cooperation. As a result, the kids were more secure, cooperative and generally happier. School rules were consistently enforced. The teachers were dependable in their appearances to supervise. At this school, the principal was also present on the campus, even making surprise visits to the classrooms, where he was welcome.
No teachers at any other school I encountered, except for the one above, even consistently enforced supervising passing time between classes. Every year the principal of these schools would announce the importance of teachers being at the door during this time, and in about a week most of the teachers stopped doing it. Why? Because people do what you inspect, not was you expect. The principals had no system to verify if teachers were doing this, except the increase of horseplay, fights and other misbehavior in the hallways based on referrals. Parents of my students would tell me their child was afraid to go down the fall, to lunch or even to the restroom.
Supervision, or lack thereof, enhances the student's learning environment or detracts from it. Personally, I believe the leadership in the admin. building needs to step up on this matter.
FAILURE TO PROPERLY SUPERVISE STUDENTS
CAN LEAD TO EXPENSIVE LITIGATION
School Supervision Problem Areas