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Creating a Positive School Climate: A Foundation for Resilience

Abstract

Life is full of ups and downs. What allows some people to be able to “bounce back” and some not? Virtually all scholars appreciate that this capacity to “bounce back” or be resilient is a biopsychosocially informed interactive process that refers to the findings that some individuals have relatively good psychosocial outcomes despite suffering risk experience that would be expected to bring about complicating effects (Rutter, 2006a). There has been an important debate about the nature of resiliency that is reflected in many of the chapters in this book and elsewhere (e.g., Greenberg, 2006). This chapter will not address the history and controversies that have shaped our unfolding understanding of this fundamentally important capacity. Here we will use the term resiliency to refer to the person’s capacity to overcome stress or adversity. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can—at least to some extent—be learned and developed in anyone.

Keywords

  • School Climate
  • Resilient Mindset
  • School Improvement Efforts
  • Positive Youth Development
  • Social-emotional Learning (SEL)

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There is correlational support for this assumption. There is not experimental or quasi-experimental data yet to confirm or disconfirm that notion that enhanced social, emotional and civic abilities as well as safe, supportive, engaging and helpfully challenging learning environments promote resiliency.

  2. 2.

    The US Departments of Education’s Division of Safe and Drug Free Schools has recently suggested that States consider including an assessment of “wellness” as well as rates of substance use/abuse. This stems from mandates to “track” these public health-related concerns. Although school climate surveys do assess aspects of health (e.g., supportiveness; connectedness to school) “wellness” is a somewhat neglected element that most school climate scholars have not explicitly focused on. Another limitation of all current school climate measures is that they do not yet recognize the “voice” of community leaders and/or members.

  3. 3.

    It is interesting and often surprising to reflect on how powerfully measurement shapes all of our day-to-day lives. Consider how you identify people (e.g., health care providers or accountants) organizations (the school we send our children to; clubs; work places) to work with and/or join. Consider how we make judgments about “how did today go?” and/or how healthy or “rich” (in however we define “rich”) we are. And, when it is discovered that 1% of a community is spending 30% of its health care costs, these (shocking) measurements can actually set in motion meaningful health care reform (Gawande, 2011). We are continually making judgments based on formal and/or informal data and assessment systems.

  4. 4.

    As noted above the major limitation of all current school climate surveys is that they do not recognize the ‘voice” of community leaders. The Public Education Network has developed a Civic Index (http://civicindex4education.org/main/home.cfm?Category=What_is&Section=Main) and the federally funded Communities that Care program (http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/features/ctc/resources.aspx) are two important examples of data driven efforts that seek to recognize the essential voice of community leaders. In partnership with the Public Education Network, our Center is now developing a new forth scale for the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) (www.schoolclimate.org/climate/practice.php) that will recognize the voice of community leaders and members.

  5. 5.

    Over the last 2 decades there certainly has been extraordinary educational efforts to support pre-K educators about these issues. Organizations like Zero to Three (www.zerotothree.org) have had a profound and just impact on federal and state pre-K policy and practice. However, this has not become a facet of K-12 policy and practice.

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Cohen, J. (2013). Creating a Positive School Climate: A Foundation for Resilience. In: Goldstein, S., Brooks, R. (eds) Handbook of Resilience in Children. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3661-4_24

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