Stopping the Violence by Setting an Inviting Environment

Developing a supportive school environment by encouraging students to know one another as potential friends instead of potential enemies.

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Students feel awkward when entering a new environment, whether beginning a new school because the student just moved into a new neighborhood, or transitioning from elementary to middle school, or a freshman entering high school. Many students stop attending school, refuse to participate in school activities, and inwardly retreat due to constant hurtful teasing.

Students must feel comfortable attending school; in order to, be fully engaged in the academics and curriculum. New, shy, or students who feel intimidated are paired with mentor leaders, or purposeful grouping of students to break up usual cliques, encouraging students to partner with someone with whom they are not already acquainted. Having an icebreaker day or period would help ease the feelings of isolation. The ice breaker activities would include the use of clickers or smart phones to participate in a variety of activities, such as campus scavenger hunts and other interactive smart phone activities.


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Ayisha, I love how you put this: "purposeful grouping of students to break up usual cliques, encouraging students to partner with someone with whom they are not already acquainted." Getting this kind of activity started in the beginning of the school year pays off so much in how students work together throughout the year. Even kids who have gone to school together for years can benefit from this.

Photo of Ayisha
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Thank you Betty for the support. I could use your ideas during collaboration phase to expand this idea.

Photo of Betty
Team

Ayisha,
I don't know what the collaboration step entails, and as you know things are about to get hectic (if they haven't already for you) with the beginning of the school year, but I will keep an eye out and add what I can. This is one of the main things I'm thinking about as the school year begins so we set the right tone from the beginning. One of the resources I've used over the past several years is called Caring School Community (https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/caring-school-community). Although this is for K-6, many of the activities would adapt well to older students, and I've added to and modified activities over the years. I aim for things that have students talking to a variety of classmates in pairs and small groups about topics we are learning as well as non-academic topics that will help them to find things in common and be at ease with one another. Class meetings are a huge part of the process, too, so students can have discussions as a group about how they will work together successfully, handle special situations like substitute teachers, and address challenges and conflicts that arise. The professional development director from the group behind Caring School Community, Peter Brunn, has a short book on building classroom community into lesson planning: https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/product/lsh000 . I should have thought of this when we were in the first step of this process as it is also about inspiring student thinking!

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