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Building Relationships and School Climate


Author: Matt Schilit, Principal, North Middle/High School in Orangeburg 5

As a principal, I firmly believe that you must first build relationships with your students before you can expect to get the most learning from them. We as educators must have a heart and care about ALL of our students. Educators should approach each student they serve in the ways they would want others to serve their loved ones. J.M. Barrie has a quote that says, “Always be a little kinder than necessary.” Each person that works in a school should always want to go above and beyond for the students. We cannot control how they come to us, but we can control how they feel when they are with us.

The climate of the school starts with the tone the leader of the building sets, expects, and maintains with consistency. When working with school climate the principal must have a plan and be working with all the stakeholders they serve. We must focus on our students, faculty and staff, parents, community, etc. A school wide theme is something I place a lot of a value in each academic school year. It varies and builds upon the previous school year. The possibilities are endless and a few ideas can revolve around key words, attitude, self-reflection, teamwork, the school vision, etc. Baruti Kafele says it best with his quote on school climate, “You are brilliant, you are great.” He then poses the powerful question, “How many students get to hear that every day?” This is a question all school leaders should ask themselves often. It should be a true honor to positively impact students with our words and actions.

As I lead North Middle/High School in South Carolina, we have a focus on four words. These words are present in every intentional move we make regarding serving each student we serve in grades 6-12. Our four words are All, Relationships, Achievement, and Kindness. These words extend far beyond the opening inservice I had with my teaching staff. We have rebranded these words into our school. As we continue to build relationships and focus on school climate, it is imperative that all at or involved with my school live these words. I challenge you as a leader to find what is important to you with this very important topic and be able to answer the question, “How do your students truly feel in your building?” School leaders should know that answer.


About the author:

Matt Schilit is currently the proud Principal at North Middle/High School in Orangeburg 5.  North Middle/High School serves grades 6-12.  He has had the honor of serving as a Principal at the elementary, middle, and high school levels during his career.  Matt is a member of the South Carolina ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2018 and has had the pleasure of presenting at multiple school leadership conferences.  He has a strong interest and focus on providing positive opportunities and experiences for all students.  Matt is quite passionate about school climate, working with special needs students, teacher support and retention. Connect with Matt on Twitter @MattSchilit.


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