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Building a Collaborative School Community

A healthy, collaborative school community is a requirement for academic success. Students who have higher social and emotional intelligence capabilities find it easier to achieve academically, and creating an environment that fosters the development of responsibility, willingness to learn and capability to serve the common good is essential for the school community.

Teaching students and faculty to cultivate and sustain a caring, collaborative community is not a quick process, and must include earnest role-modeling as well as a genuine effort to create a safe, warm and connected environment.

The sense of responsibility, willingness and capability to serve the common good is only possible in a school environment that promotes these values in the every day classroom setting and the opportunities that are created for the children and faculty.

Crucial Aspects of a Collaborative School Community

  1. Student opportunity for choice, expression of values
  2. Student opportunity to collaborate
  3. Student opportunity to reflect, determine values
  4. Cross-Age dialogue (eg Peer Group Connection)
  5. Whole community (Parent, Faculty, Student) activity & interaction
  6. Genuine faculty role-modeling

Retreats

Berkshire Outdoor Center proposes a sequence of three retreats. By bringing select groups from the school to our facilities for an overnight retreat, you are creating an opportunity to focus on the task at hand: developing new ways of thinking and acting at school that can make the shift to a collaborative school community.

Restorative Practices

Building a culture where everyone feels like an equally valuable member, that is seen, heard and respected, is crucial to a collaborative community. By attending a retreat in a third party location, you will create an environment where every member begins on equal footing. Without the distraction of day-to-day life back home, students and faculty alike can focus on the task at hand:

  • Using circles to have conversations
  • Using pro-active, positive language
  • Listening to ideas from all members of the group
  • Make new connections and see each other in new ways

Circles

Berkshire Outdoor Center has all conversations in a circle. Activities that the students participate in are facilitated, but the facilitator is not the leader. Within each group, each student has the opportunity to be a leader, and by consistently returning to the circle, we ensure that all members of the group feel equally responsible for the community that they are creating and no single person is more authoritative or responsible for shaping that community than any other member.




General Themes

Circles

Restorative Language - Shifting away from punishment-oriented language and discussions around "what you're doing wrong" or "what you need to do differently or better", we can begin to

Social and Emotional Learning & Development

Berkshire Outdoor Center proposes three congruent retreat programs to assist in building a collaborative school community.

Faculty Retreat

The success of this endeavor depends on getting all faculty members on board. The

Developing character does not need to happen at the expense of academic focus, but can happen in concert. Building quality relationships between students, as well as students and faculty, providing opportunities for students to share their opinion, make their own choices, collaborate with others and reflect on their experiences are crucial.

A retreat focused on building a collaborative school community begins with all students on equal-footing, in a new environment where the activities that help develop self-awareness & self-management skills, then an awareness of others and relationship management skills are the central focus. This will help students feel that they belong to and are connected to a community. This belongingness and connectedness is crucial to the community's success (Resnick et al, 1997).


Developing Character

Developing Tolerance

Developing Spirit

Peer Mentors

Multiple Visits

Faculty Retreat

SEL

Classroom Circles

Restorative Justice

Resnick, M. D., Bearman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., Tabor, J., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R. E., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L. H., & Udry, J. R. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the national longitudinal study on adolescent health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 823–832.

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