Paul Dietrich

VIA20

CA, USA

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Challenge

School climates can make or break the entire learning experience. At some point in our lives, all of us have found ourselves in a situation where we're dragging our feet to work or school because we do not want to be there. We may not feel welcome, safe, happy, or empowered to make a difference in ourselves or each other. In Rita Pierson's 2013 TED Talk "Every kid needs a champion", she says "You know, kids don't learn from people they don't like." I may be going out on a limb here, but I'm willing to bet that kids also don't learn in school climates that do not offer them a feeling of safety, positivity, support, or a sense of personal belonging. As an educator, I have had the experience of teaching in a school that truly valued every staff member, parent, and student. You feel like you're part of a family - you belong there. And because of that sense of belonging, there's a willingness to go above-and-beyond, despite the obstacles. I have also taught in a school where there is absolutely no positive school climate, and the results are devastating. Staff dread coming in to work, students are counting down the minutes to the final bell, and parents don't feel welcome on campus. When you have students starting the year with a positive outlook and attitude, and end the year not wanting to learn, there is a problem. When you cannot retain staff on account of misery, there is a problem. And when you have parents that want to send their children to another district because they do not feel a sense of belonging, there is a problem. For me, this project is my passion. Now, more than ever, we need to feel like we belong.

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