Ensuring a Positive Learning Environment
We believe we are called to love our neighbors and to treat them with respect. SJB is committed to providing a physically safe and emotionally secure learning environment that is free from bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, and intimidation.
Bullying, harassment, and intimidation are prohibited. When an incident is reported, we investigate and treat it seriously. When the behavior is observed, it is addressed right away.
SJB policy is spelled out in the Parent Handbook. It is also taught in the classroom throughout the school year.
Here are the bullying guidelines we follow.
Here are our guidelines for creating a positive classroom environment.
Our goal is a positive learning environment where, as the SJB slogan goes, "you feel you belong.”
The coordinator of our positive-environment and anti-bullying program is SJB's guidance counselor, Mrs. Doreen May. The program is followed on the class and school levels.
Hold staff discussions
Follow and enforce policies set in the Parent Handbook
Involve parents and seek their active support
Enforce school rules against bullying
Hold regular discussions with students
Hold meetings with Students/Parents
Adopt Stop, Walk, Talk as a school-wide program in an effort to empower students to create positive change in their environment
Guide students in Stop, Walk, Talk at the start of the school year and follow up regularly with positive-environment skills and anti-bullying measures
Guidance counselor meets with classes bimonthly on community building, character development, and life/social skills
Supervise student activities in the classroom, during lunch, and on the playground.
Ensure that all staff intervene on the spot when teasing and physical behavior begins and respond when such behavior is reported.
Offer “Lunch Bunch” meetings with students to discuss all areas of student life.
Develop individual intervention plans for students who have shown signs of bullying.
Meet with parents of involved students, seek their support, require counseling and specific improvements when necessary.
The Climate at SJB
At St. John the Baptist School, students are supported in many ways to enhance motivation and encourage engagement in both academic and social activities. Across the curriculum, students work in small differentiated groups, both in resource and enrichment, to enhance language arts and math skills. In accordance with the Backward Design theory of planning, instructing and assessing students in alternative ways, students are given opportunities to apply knowledge through various projects and assignments that focus on specific talents and gifts, sometimes overlooked in traditional testing situations. Students might work within Makerspace program to create special projects and creative responses to learned material.
A Buddy Bench sits on the periphery of our playground, reminding all students that no one should be without a friend at SJB and that all are welcome in our community.
A Service Committee, headed by faculty members, works with the Student Council to plan specific activities throughout the year. Students and teachers, together with parents, participate in various opportunities that encourage active participation in not only the parish community, but also as an outreach to surrounding communities, and to our military serving our country around the world.
An important component to a positive school climate is the ability of all students to interact with one another on many levels. Students in upper and lower grades pair up in our Buddy Program which regularly brings students together as Mass and Hot Lunch partners. In addition, throughout the year, classes pair up to do service projects, and participate in activities such as Roll Out and Read Day, Fairy Tale Writing, and other athletic competitions. Buddies in the upper grades read to students in our Kindergarten and First Grade on a regular basis.
Teachers and staff are highly valued at SJB and given opportunities for professional development in many areas including cultural proficiency throughout the year.
Addressing Potential Trauma
When world, national, or local events cause students to be fearful and anxious, teachers at SJB provide an outlet for the children to talk about their feelings, if they wish. These conversations usually occur during homeroom, centered on the morning prayer, or in religion class, where we can draw from the teachings of Jesus. It can help a child to identify his or her emotions and learn that friends and classmates have been feeling the same way. If a child can reduce his or her fear or anxiety by talking about it, the child will more receptive to learning. Here are the guidelines for these discussions:
Tough Talks with Kids
1. Give children the space to ask questions.
The first step in opening a dialogue with children is creating a safe space for it. That means remaining calm, nonjudgmental, and approaching the conversation with your listening hat on. Children need room to share what they're thinking and feeling.
Ask them, “What do you already know? What have you seen on the news? What have you heard from friends?”
Their answers allow the teacher to fill in the gaps without assuming that they know more or less than they really do. Ask them, and then listen.
Make sure the children know that it's OK to ask questions. The teacher must remember that it's OK to not have all of the answers to their questions.
2. Limit media exposure based on the child’s age.
There can be tension between shielding children from real life versus exposing them to too much. What’s too much? Studies have shown that images can elicit stronger emotional reactions in children than in adults. Children also have a tendency to emulate what they see. Talking together about what happened, instead, allows the information to be delivered to your child in a safer, more effective way.
3. Reassure children that they're safe.
Make it a priority to comfort children before digging into the tough stuff. Brains don't work as well when stress and fear are high. Younger kids tend to wonder if something bad is going to happen to them or their parents. Reassuring them not only brings them peace; it allows them to feel like a kid. Make sure they're in a state that's calm and receptive to information.
4. Be transparent and honest.
Do not lie or be purposely vague about facts. You don’t have to share everything. It's better not to say anything than to say something vague that leaves them confused and anxious. Be direct and calm as you share facts. Kids can tell when you aren't being honest.
5. Emphasize bad actions, not bad people.
Labeling people as "bad" or "good' is confusing, and it makes it harder for children to learn the important lesson that people can act good and bad. Even more important, children will shut down if they feel an association with something “bad.” A student whose uncle is a police officer may feel shame after hearing that “the police are bad.”
6. Highlight the helpers.
There are always helpers during times of crisis. You just need to look for them. Highlighting helpers instills hope and balance in kids. Without seeing the helpers, only a negative memory remains.
7. Name your feelings.
This is an opportunity to teach kids emotional literacy, the ability to recognize and name their own emotions.
8. Keep your own feelings in check.
They are watching closely and taking their cue from you. Your strong opinions will silence some voices. Your fear will scare them. Your anxiety will add stress. Remember to practice your own self-care.
9. Teach healthy coping skills.
How do you deal with big feelings? This is an opportunity to model healthy coping through deep breathing or exercise.
10. This is a springboard for tough conversations.
We should not pretend everything is fine or that nothing scary happened. We must be willing to talk about racism and injustice. Young, school-age kids may focus on rules and how they could be broken. It’s OK to explain that some people don't always follow rules.
The guidelines above are based on a CNN column by Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a double-board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and cofounder of Brainstorm, Stanford's Lab for Mental Health Innovation. Dr. Chaudhary’s original guide was written for parents. It’s been rewritten in places, revised, and edited for teachers.