Changing a Culture of a School



If we stop and think for a minute, what is it that we need? What is it that our students need? Why is self-care brought up so much in conversations, lately? Our well being as educators has started to play a key role in how we interact with our students. There has been so much talk of how students are coming to us, with so many needs and parent expectations. Have our students really changed over the years? I am beginning to realize it is how our society is changing, and at the same time our roles as educators has changed, or shall I dare say increased.

For myself, this year has been a test for me. I decided early on, that I need to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone, family, friends, colleagues, and students.   This is the year I have learned to say no, and instead of solving a problem, I give advice and suggestions on where to find solutions or guidance. This year I have been spread too thin, with expectations from others and expectations I put on myself. It was around January when I realized what affect my well-being had on my students.

I was drawn to the three articles because I have started to dive into the First Peoples Learning Principles.  I am also a strong advocate for the importance of relationships in the school and with our students. I believe when we teach to the heart, understanding our students, their interests, their strengths, we can then teach to their minds, their wonderings, their interests, and curriculum. My focus has been on how I can create safe places for my students to express their emotions, feel their emotions, and dive into their learning and curiosities. Van Bockern’s articles have reminded me where I first wanted to start my inquiry, with teachers well being.

“Emotionally competent adults are the foundation of schools that matter,” (Van Brokern, 2014). When the adults are feeling safe to feel, to question, to wonder, to build on their capacities then we can begin to create a strong foundation to the school culture. When you think of the Circle of Courage it needs to relate to the adults as well as the students. Van Brokern and McDonald speak of how we should not be getting through a day, but to be grounded in what we are doing, and to get there we need to take care of ourselves. For myself this hits home, it takes so much energy our of me when I feel the need to survive the day. When I am fully engaged and feeling empowered with my students I am more actively engaged in what we are doing, and they are too. We are building on our relationships, giving back, accomplishing something together, and at the same time we are building on our confidences.

Van Brokern and McDonald speak about the five pillars in Martin Seligman’s research in 2011. “Seligman, a past president of the American Psychological Association, promotes the idea of thriving rather than merely surviving as human beings. His positive approach is grounded in what research suggests are the five pillars or factors od well-being: happiness or positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment” (2012). One can see how the pillars or factors can connect with the four segments of the Circle of Courage; independence, belonging, generosity, and mastery.

Espiner and Guild’s article speaks of drastic change the New Zealand schools took on because of they saw the need for change as their populations were changing. The decided to build a framework for creating a new school culture, embedded in the Circle of Courage.  Building a new culture would take time, and a great deal of professional development. The schools used the Response Ability Pathways for staff development. The program was a way for the teachers be a part of the change, the development, and it applied to ‘real’ situations. The training sessions focused on, connecting, clarifying and restoring all of which connect to the Circle of Courage.

Looking at the Circle of Courage now, I am not only beginning to see its value for students I am now seeing its value to me and to the educators we all work with.  If we take time and listen to why teachers are becoming frustrated, overly tired, stressed, and not present maybe we can begin to focus on creating a caring place for not only students, but our teachers as well. We need to support one another, and encourage each other for ourselves and our students.



Espiner, Deborah & Guild, Diane. (2010). Growing a circle of courage culture: one school’s journey.

Reclaiming Children and Youth 19(2), 21-27.


Van Bockern, Steve & Mcdonald, Tim. (2012) Creating circle of courage schools. Reclaiming Children and

Youth, 20(4), 13-17.


Van Bockern, Steve. (2014). School Life That Matters: Building circle of courage schools.  Reclaiming

Children and Youth 22(4), 14-16.


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