For the last few years Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) has worked on developing a positive culture and environment within our school community. WYVA staff and administrators have embraced theories such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as well as strengths-based approaches which concentrate on the inherent strengths of individuals and groups.
I recently presented at a K12 Promising Practices seminar on the topic of positive school culture. I shared that I have seen our school thrive in the last few years in ways since implementing these new approaches.
At our school, students in kindergarten through high school are given weekly assemblies and strategies to develop life skills, create personal goals, and to help them find ways to better organize their learning approaches. WYVA teachers work to have consistent communication with students that show that we are not just invested in them as teachers, but that we truly care about all of our students and families as individuals.
As a high school advisor and 7-12 music teacher, I’ve found that one of the perks of being an online educator is getting to know all of my families at a much deeper level than at many traditional brick-and-mortar schools. After working with the same families for several years on the positive culture concepts, we are seeing more students embrace new methods of finding their individual successes. I love getting to celebrate with our families, not only because these students are truly learning, but also because of my investment in their journey — it truly gives me joy to see them meet their goals.
As a teacher I have found that my job is that much more rewarding when I have taken the time to truly get to know my students. They come to class more often and they ask more questions and seem more open in replying back to me when I reach out to them. Students seem to be asking more clarifying questions and coming to office hours. They want to do well and I see that! Where I see the most change is in my struggling students. Trust is built and when they see we care- I believe that is when the barriers fall away for them and true learning and success can be found for them.
The advice that I give other teachers is to be yourself and let your personality shine. Allow your families to get to know you and witness how a positive teacher-student culture can make the online experience that much more awesome!