Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Students

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 6, 2019, 11:56 a.m.

This August, Sanford Elementary rolled out the red carpet for their students. Literally! Students were greeted by high school football players, cheerleaders, administrators, teachers, and even the district mascot (Panthy) as they walked the red carpet to their new classrooms!

As I walked my child into his new school, I was struck by the sense of school spirit and excitement that filled the entire building. The theme for this school year at Sanford is "Sanford Stars Shine Brighter". This made me think of how students are immediately a part of something great the moment they walk into school. The sense of community was instantly built and promoted unity through school spirit and the common goal of learning from day one.

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Peter Demerath, PhD, says school culture is the secret to school success. A healthy school culture promotes student achievement. Feeling safe and having a sense of belonging ensures that students can get into a learning mode. Schools accomplish this by creating school spirit and sharing rituals and traditions, like school songs and chants. This creates an atmosphere where everyone feels part of something bigger than themselves!

Culture must be developed at the classroom level, as well. When I taught 4th grade at Elkins Elementary, my class name was "The A Team" (my last name is Anderson). We had a chant and on the first day we had a Classroom Pep Rally (the kids thought I was crazy). We also had Friday dance parties to celebrate the effort and learning each week. Everyday I met students at the door to greet them and let them know I was excited for them to be in class. We started class with class meetings and shared exciting news and kicked off class with positive words.

My students soared that year! It was that sense of belonging that happened on the very first day of school when I told them that they were on "The A Team" this year and it was their year to show the entire school what they were made of. My class was known as the"The A Team" from that year on!

Remember the saying "culture eats strategy for breakfast!" You can have the best instructional strategies and they won't work if the culture in the school or classroom isn't positive and safe for all community members. Taking time to establish a positive school/classroom culture daily helps everyone feel like part of the community so that they are safe to take responsible learning risks! Check out Every Student Matters for more ideas.

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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