Does A School Environment Really Matter?

Does A School Environment Really Matter?

Cindy Young's picture

 

For those of us that appreciate, understand, and want to surround ourselves with a certain type of environment we will absolutely LOVE this topic.  For others who aren’t as picky or haven’t thought about it, you may possibly learn how environments can truly impact what you think, how you feel, learn, and perform.  When looking at a school environment it is important to understand that it is not just the building that influences the student’s educational performance.  There are many other factors that make up the elements in an educational environment.  All of us need to stop, unplug, turn off and look into the environments educators are working in.  In addition we must look at the environments we are placing our students in and how it impacts their ability to reach their full academic potential.

A school’s environment is the thread that connects all the activities on any given campus, which everyone involved experiences.  Positive social relationships among staff, students and their families in addition to attitudes about school are as important to the environment as are safe and well-kept buildings and grounds.  When there is a safe, clean, and well-maintained school with a positive climate and culture, there is a connectedness, which boosts student and staff health as well as the students’ educational achievement.  We are all aware how important the credentials and quality of staff and the curriculum are for all of our students. However, have you stopped and thought about the other things that are a part of the school environment such as the grounds, noise, temperature, lighting, smells, number of students per class, how busy or plain the walls and ceilings are, color of the exterior and interior, as well as the attitudes, feelings, and values of the students and staff?  Some students are affected more by these variables than others which can interfere with them achieving academic success. Of course there are other things that can affect the school’s environment such as the geography, economy, social, cultural, and religious influences, along with politics and the socioeconomic status of the students’ families.  After thinking about these things, do you suppose the school environment plays a significant role in learning?

By definition health is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.  There are many studies available in regards to a HEALTHY school environment.  A healthy school environment is one where the students and staff feel comfortable, secure, have a sense of well-being, and are given a message of caring; which is the essence of health. Many of the cases currently published illustrate the connection between environmental quality, comfort, health, well-being, positive attitudes and the behavior of staff and students with enhanced educational performance. The research is increasingly showing that there is a clear link between environmental quality of schools and the student’s educational performance. If the staff and students are comfortable, then learning becomes much easier.  WOW, what an awesome revelation to find the very environment the administrators provides for the staff to teach and students to learn directly affects their skills and abilities.  This information is significant for all students however; the students who have learning differences will likely be more affected by the environment.

The key is being able to create and sustain a healthy school environment. This requires a commitment from everyone involved and must be the top goal of any school since it has such a significant role in enhancing learning. Obviously the administration has the most responsibility when it comes to the environment.  There are laws, rules, and education codes that must be complied with that affect the school environment.  The schools’ administration must be able to identify problems quickly, analyze them to determine their impact and then make the necessary changes in order to offer an environment that is conducive to all students and their ability to learn.  If a healthy environment is top priority then school administration can quickly and efficiently make necessary changes all the while never losing sight of educating their students and providing the information and support families’ need. But this can be difficult because as solutions are being implemented there are new and different problems occurring. It is impossible to think about how complex this topic really is and not acknowledge the difficulty the administrators are faced with each and every day.

Here are a few bullets to ponder when thinking about an educational environment:

  • Student and teacher comfort has been indicated as the most important aspect of any school environment
  • The classroom is the most important area of a school
  • Effective lighting in classrooms has been related to high performance
  • Lower number of students per classroom increases teacher and student interaction and communication
  • Technology is at the center of the modern education process
  • Temperature of 68-72 is ideal and should be maintained year round
  • Cleanliness lowers illness and conveys caring to staff and students
  • Safety and security directly affects staff and students skills and abilities

The administration of a school campus has the ability to measure temperature, noise levels, cleanliness, health and accident reports, academic achievement, absenteeism, discipline incidents, parent involvement, teacher retainment, plus student and staff perceptions of the school environment. So the information is available for administrators to collect and then respond.  You have to remember the most pristine school environment has nothing to do with the process of learning.  There must be clear educational objectives, dedicated teachers and staff, and it is absolutely essential to have the support of parents and the community. 

As you make educational decisions for your child it is important to look not only at the administration, curriculum, and staff, but also into the environmental factors mentioned.  You will need to take into account your child’s specific strength, weaknesses, and learning style.  It is imperative for your child’s academic success to find a school that creates a HEALTHY learning environment in order to achieve their full academic potential.

Cindy A. Young, M.S. CCC-SLP

Founder & CEO All Children's Academy

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