Respect + Recognize + Reward + Reinforce + Relationships = Results™
When an educator is new to Jostens Renaissance, they’ll often express amazement about the stories of connection, love and gratitude they hear from veteran administrators. Renaissance educators are passionate about the work they do. And when they start talking about building positive relationships between students, Staffulty and the broader community, the excitement is infectious.
But we wouldn’t blame you for being a little skeptical. Sure, it sounds wonderful, to have a school climate defined by positive, thriving relationships. In fact, a study by the National School Climate Council found empirical evidence that a sustainable, positive school climate reduces dropouts, fosters youth development, and improves academic achievement along with the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for students to become responsible members of society. In short, when positive relationships are helping school members to feel safe, valued, engaged and respected, learning measurably increases, and staff satisfaction and retention improves. All incredible things! But the questions remains; how exactly is such a climate, full of positive relationships, achieved?
Building Positive Relationships Starts with Love and Renaissance
When starting a Jostens Renaissance program, it’s vital to gather a team that loves your school and all its people. Such a team will be well positioned to see your school both for what it is now and what it can become. Together, your team will start with identifying what your school Respects, Recognizes, Rewards, and Reinforces – the first four R’s of Renaissance. Once these values are established, they become the foundation for policies, events and programs that help to build positive relationships across your school community.
It sounds simple because, frankly, it is. But it also requires thoughtfulness and creativity to make it happen.
Below are a few ideas for building positive relationships that are based on the values many schools chose to begin focusing on right away; academic performance, attendance and character traits.
Be a Warm and Welcoming Community
Creating a positive vibe in each classroom starts the moment students walk through the door. Staffulty can make it a welcoming start to the day with little gestures like:
- Standing at the door to welcome students in.
- Making eye contact with each student.
- Greeting them with a gesture, such as a nod, a high five or a pat on the back.
- Saying their names as they come in.
- Making personal connections, asking about their weekends or their activities and hobbies.
For those who work in the office instead of classrooms, the start of day, end of day and passing times can be great opportunities to use similar, welcoming gestures. You can even try implementing little themes, like “high five Mondays”. Do whatever works best for your school, just always keep in mind that every Monday matters!
A Culture that Empowers Others
Sharing power with the student members of your Jostens Renaissance team is vital, but it needs to happen at the right time. For the first month to six weeks of the school year, Renaissance student leaders should be focused on learning about habits, philosophy, service and character. After the student leaders have developed a strong grasp of these concepts, planning for the year can begin, with students leading the way. In fact, many Renaissance schools have their student leaders create and manage events, from start to finish. And their leadership is what makes them authentic and meaningful experiences.
Take, for example, one school’s Staffulty Brunches. Renaissance student leaders decorate the Staffulty lounge, setting up and serving brunch treats, coffee and tea. They play music, and even stand in a row clapping and cheering as the Staffulty enter the lounge. It’s a wonderful idea, regardless. But when it’s thought of, planned and implemented by enthusiastic student leaders, the relationships that result are so much more powerful.
Embrace the Why
Part of a Jostens Renaissance team’s responsibility is to establish the ‘why’ of your school, i.e. the mission and the vision. But to make the ‘why’ meaningful, it must be taken seriously. Look for ways to share your why with the entire community, helping everyone to feel they are part of something much bigger than themselves.
One idea is to have students organize large, community-wide service projects. Another is to plan unique recognition events where students honor and elevate the actions of others. Giving students the opportunity to make a difference in the school community and the local community is fundamentally invaluable.
Create Belonging for Everyone
The world and our schools are incredibly diverse, and that’s something to embrace. We all need to celebrate diversity and strive to create inclusion that provides all students with a deep sense of belonging.
Pretty much every Staffulty member has heard of or seen The lives of these students can be radically transformed by a fellow classmate or Staffulty member simply taking the time to get to know them and learn about their interests. Such a basic action can open the door for these students to get connected and involved. All it takes is time and empathy; someone taking the time to see, hear and love the student and create a place for them to belong.
Pause and Reflect
There is honor in all work, in all tasks, but take it one step further. Make what you do a labor of love. Then your work will truly touch and change the world in the way you desire. The work you do, whatever your chosen field, will be work that heals – Melody Beattie, Author
Oftentimes, prior to being in the Jostens Renaissance Leadership class, students are unaware of the extent of the labor that so many school community members do all year long. It’s an eye-opening discovery, and one worth taking the time to sit with and think about.
Every year, Renaissance student leaders should be given the chance to pause, reflect and write a short testimonial about what they’ve learned about themselves, their fellow students and the Staffulty. Ask them to speak to the leadership, love, service and opportunities they’ve experienced. If they’re willing to share their reflections with you, we do want to offer a word of warning; get a tissue ready. Because after a year being Renaissance student leaders, building positive relationships and connecting with so many different community members, these testimonials have a tendency to really get the waterworks flowing.
Energize Your Team
Finally, look for ways to pump your Jostens Renaissance leaders up. Building positive relationships among others becomes markedly easier when you have an inspired, strongly-bonded group leading the charge!
The annual Jostens Renaissance Global Conference (JRGC) is a three-day even dedicated to energizing, informing and networking. Student and adult leaders who travel to the conference are immersed in equal parts education, celebration and fun – essentially, an environment purpose-built for bonding and inspiration. After three days of non-stop Renaissance action, attendees carry the fire of JRGC back with them to their schools, ready to share the love with the rest of their community.
Article inspired by Renaissance Educator, Sara Cowey
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