News and Updates
October 28, 2014
Despite a late start to the school year, we can still help students form strong connections to school.  The relationships formed between students and school staff members are at the heart of school connectedness. Think about your students and the things that you are already doing to build strong, positive relationships with them. How might you fine-tune your classroom/school environment to foster stronger connections? Are there ways you might make the classroom/school feel more welcoming to all students and their families? Are there ways that you can give students more responsibility and more opportunities to contribute? By doing this, you are signalling that their opinions are valuable, and that they are capable problem solvers. That contributes to a positive environment and strengthens connections.

The changes you make in your classroom and school to increase connectedness can be big or small. They can be as small as intensifying your effort to form a relationship with that one distant student, or as big as creating a peer mentoring program. Both ends of the spectrum (and everything in between) help students feel more engaged in their learning and more cared for by the adults in their school.

To feel even more inspired about school connectedness, watch Rita Pierson’s eight minute TED talk, Every Kid Needs a Champion!

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.
– James P. Comer, 1995

The tips below can help you reflect on the strengths of your current connectedness-supportive practices and identify new or modified strategies to consider. Try a small change, and then build on it. You have everything to gain – and so do your students.

Ten Tips for Teachers that Foster Connections to School

1.    Build a strong relationship with each student.
2.    Help students get to know each other’s (and your) strengths.
3.    Involve students in planning, problem solving, identifying issues and assessing curriculum in the classroom.
4.    Promote cooperation over competition. Post everyone’s best work. Offer opportunities for the class to work together to help everyone achieve their highest level of excellence.
5.    Convey attentiveness to students and excitement about learning through nonverbal gestures.
6.    Involve all students (especially new students) in chores and responsibilities in the classroom.
7.    Integrate concepts of discipline and respect for classmates through instruction.
8.    Give students more say in what they will learn.
9.    Involve students in developing the criteria by which their work will be assessed and provide guidelines so they clearly understand what is expected of them.
10.    Use first person plural (we, us, let’s) when presenting classroom activities.
(Military Child Initiative, 2005)

Ten Tips for School Administrators that Foster Connections to School
1.    Brainstorm with students, faculty, staff and parents simple changes that could make school more welcoming.
2.    Create policies that are based on student, family and neighbourhood strengths and assets.
3.    Turn mistakes into learning opportunities rather than failures that merit punishment.
4.    Acknowledge and honour accomplishments and all types of competencies (such as helpfulness, good citizenship, most improved performance, volunteerism, participation in decision making and cessation of negative behaviour).
5.    Set high standards and challenge students to meet them.
6.    Reinforce explicit expectations for positive behaviours and academic success.
7.    Encourage highly interactive teaching strategies.
8.    Create a welcoming environment for all who come to the school.
9.    Invite family and community members to take active and regular roles in the daily operation of the school.
10.    Create a common vision of success and keep the vision statement visible.
(Military Child Initiative, 2005)