School Climate Update
All of our schools are dedicated to providing a school environment that is physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually safe for all students. In these efforts, we nurture and strengthen the existing positive climates with a focus on respect, ethical behavior, and global citizenship within and among all members of our school community. At all ages and levels, our schools aim to be kind, caring, and supportive environments, places where our students can safely strive towards and achieve lofty and ambitious goals. District wide we are committed to these efforts as we continuously improve the school experience for our entire educational community.
Our Elementary Schools work with their students on developing responsibility, kindness, and positive relationships. In the spirit of cooperation and responsibility, teams of students collaborate with teachers and counselors to give back to their community in various ways. Some recent examples include: celebrating Veterans on Veteran’s Day, collecting donations for “Homes for our Troops,” delivering Halloween candy to “Operation Gratitude,” creating placemats for residents at Waveny House, and collecting supplies for homeless shelters. South School recently held an assembly recognizing students who exemplify responsibility, and assemblies were held at all three buildings focused on promoting a positive school climate. At East, “Ambassadors” have identified a list of action items for the year, including respectful behavior and inclusiveness on the bus and during recess. At West, the “TURTLE” (Together, Understanding, Respectful, Trustworthy, Loyal, Equal) group works alongside teachers with a focus on enhancing school climate through a variety of initiatives. Our elementary schools also promote a sense of community by having students meet in small circles to share their thinking during the school day. These “circles” allow students to improve their skills in active listening and communication while at the same time promoting understanding between students and strengthening the positive school climate. Thanks to these and other efforts, our elementary schools are wonderful places where our youngest students explore, learn, and grow every day.
At Saxe Middle School, teams of students partner with teachers and counselors on their goal to enhance respect and positive relationships between all members of the Saxe community. At the beginning of the year, students led many aspects of the “Celebrate Saxe” fundraiser, and worked together to build school spirit. More recently, students and faculty worked together, along with school climate specialist Dr. Bill Preble, to learn new classroom strategies for increasing student engagement, respect and relationships in school. Through these and other efforts, students are actively engaged in developing their voices with ongoing leadership and communication opportunities in Student Leadership Team. In addition, a group of educators are involved in studying and piloting models to improve relationships and discipline practices in the school. Finally, students are encouraged to provide leadership by demonstrating kindness and respect to all members of the community. One example of this kindness was the recent initiative to express gratitude by making personalized cards for custodians, cafeteria workers and other important members of the Saxe staff. These acts of kindness, and the focus on gratitude, respect, and relationships, nurture and strengthen the positive school climate experienced by our middle schoolers.
At New Canaan High School, a team of teachers, social workers, psychologists, school counselors, and administrators continues to lead the implementation of the school-wide Connections program. Connections is an advisory meeting that builds relationships between students and staff by creating a non-evaluative environment for students in small groups where they discuss relevant topics and practice appropriate skills. By establishing this positive environment, Connections also teaches students many of the social-emotional skills important for success. This year’s Connections themes are Acceptance and Balance, with a focus on helping students recognize the need to understand themselves as students, teenagers, and community members. Additionally, Connections provides a forum to help students develop tools to manage the stress they’re likely to experience during their high school years. NCHS has also developed “New Norms” of positive citizenship, and celebrates student success by presenting awards to students who best represent the goals of showing kindness and respect. The Student Advocates Club continues to find ways to bolster social acceptance and understanding school-wide; for example, they organize a “Mix-it-up Friday” where students are encouraged to change where they sit in the cafeteria. This simple act effectively promotes open communication across grade levels and helps generate wider appreciation for students outside of their typical social group.
In this spirit of continuous learning and improvement, the district recently invited Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, to speak to parents and teachers on the topic of “Emotional Intelligence.” The Parent Teacher Councils and Parent Faculty Association generously sponsored the event for parents. In his presentation, Dr. Brackett reminded us all of the important role that emotions play in the lives of our students, and their impact on learning, relationships and decision making. Dr. Brackett emphasized that students need to be self-aware in order to manage emotions- and need specific strategies to regulate their feelings so that they are available to learning. The feedback from Dr. Brackett’s presentation was very positive, with both parents and teachers feeling they were reminded that “emotions matter,” and that there is much that we can be doing to help our children manage them constructively.
While these efforts throughout our schools have been quite successful, such work is never done. District-wide, we are unequivocally committed to providing school environments that are kind, respectful, and supportive. By doing so, we ensure that every student has multiple opportunities to excel throughout school and in the future.
The New Canaan Public Schools are committed to this important work on behalf of our students. We are grateful for the ongoing efforts of our staff, parents and community members, especially those who our students admire as leaders and role models in these domains. Together, we can ensure that all students experience nurturing and respectful school environments that empower them to strive, achieve, and excel, now and in the complex, dynamic, and exciting future ahead.
If you have any questions, please email Susan Bliss, Student Support Coordinator, or phone her at 203-594-4655. Of course, if you have any concerns about your child's experience at school please contact your principal directly.