1. How is the challenge of making stakeholders feel welcome to your school (or place of work) connected to your school mission?
With the mission involving a “ committed family joined in school to home learning” the obvious welcome of students and their families and their involvement is not the greatest challenges since it is embedded in the mission. The principal is the most welcoming, outwardly sensitive and caring person on campus which then trickles down. To a certain extent.
2. What did you do to assess which stakeholder group (or subgroup) could be more effectively welcomed? And what did you find?
In addition to my own experience as new to this campus, along with my fourth and fifth grade daughters, the welcome is fresh in our experience having been only a couple months ago. Because I came from a negative school culture at my previous site which started from day one, I experienced a “secret shopper” assessment to compare the first week of school. I moved in over the summer when no one was on campus and I had only met the principal and Resource Teacher who recruited me for the position. I found that the office manager practiced very few welcoming practices which was consistent with me and my husband who came separately as a parent. However, after that discouraging encounter I received many hellos, smiles and introduction stops which was a new experience for me, but only time would tell the first day was ahead.
On the first day I met a senior volunteer the students and staff call “Grandma Gert” who made cookies and described why she loves coming to campus. Other parents and grandparents were on campus visiting and joining in welcoming each other back to school. While the first week may have been very crowded for the first week of school greetings, I still see many of those parents and grandparents volunteering and making regular appearances during school and other functions. A special welcoming event was organized before Back to School Night, intended not to review rules and procedures, but simply have a potluck barbecue for families and staff to come together around dinner and get acquainted or reacquainted.
Perhaps the most telling was my 4th and 5th grade daughter's reports of this school compared to the other school they attended located a few miles away. They shared glowing reports of how nice everyone is and that they wonder why this school is so much friendlier than their previous school. However, it is my daughters who include my students in the general education recesses. Despite the friendly welcoming culture of this school, my student with disabilities are examples of the challenge of Welcoming Some or All? section of the second chapter of How to Create A Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom. It is a true indicator of how deep the welcoming extends when looking at the minutes of students in my Mild/Moderate Special Day Class spend with their grade level peers in general education. It is not a surprise that it is difficult for me to get them to leave the stairs in front of my classroom door at recess.
3. Future Sphere of Influence: What would you do to improve welcoming this group if you were the school leader?
As the school year is full swing and I am better acquainted there are two main areas where I see welcoming can be improved. New teachers need a special welcome and introductions beyond the assembly. Perhaps it is because the school is a friendly welcoming place that it gets overlooked, but there is no official welcome for new teachers with pertinent information. It is left to their grade level team to show them along the way I guess? There needs to be a systematic welcome for new teachers and other service providers who serve multiple sites.
4. Current Sphere of Influence: What can you do in your present position to enhance welcoming these stakeholders?
I can offer my feedback to administration prior to hiring another teacher to suggest a welcoming system for new teachers and start an awareness campaign for inclusion.
Current Sphere of Influence: Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school a more welcoming place:
1. Start with recesses. I can have class meetings with my students about how to participate in unstructured activities at recess.
2. I can send resources to the general education classes in my students’ grades 3-5 to educate teachers and students on inclusion as well as learning disabilities, Tourette's Syndrome, anxiety disorders/selective mutism and Autism.
3. Send thank you notes/messages to families after IEP meetings as a follow up.
4. Take an active role in the Sunshine Committee to facilitate welcoming and shared information for new teachers, and all teachers.
5. Create a social story iMovie resource made available for all students for who struggle with shifting to a welcoming mindset.