Learning To Predict School Climate

The other day my elbow was aching. I have a scar there from when I broke it falling from a horse almost twenty years ago.
When it aches, I can usually be certain the weather will turn stormy. And it did later that afternoon.

My aching elbow reminds of another story.

When I was a boy, I often helped on my Granddad’s family farm.

His brother was my Uncle Jimmy. One day Uncle Jimmy and I were driving in his pick-up truck. The windows were down, and I was hanging my arm out of it and playing in the breeze as we rumbled down the gravel roadway.

As we passed a nearby pond, the cattle were gathering around for watering, and two calves were prancing about the field, butting heads and chasing one another.

Uncle Jimmy pulled the truck to a stop and nodded that direction.
“See those calves?” he asked.
“Yes sir.”
“There’s a storm coming.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.

The skies were blue, the weather warm. (This was long before the days of GPS or Smart-phones.)

“Whenever you see calves acting like that, you can be sure there’s bad weather on the way.”

I didn’t argue or ask anymore questions. He put the truck back in drive, and we went onto the next job in quiet thought.

The next morning I woke up to the crash of lightening and the rumble of a thunderstorm.

Uncle Jimmy had spent all his life on the farm, and it should have been no surprise that he could predict the weather by watching the behavior of his cattle.

Predicting School Climate
Sometimes I like to remind myself that the ups and downs of a school climate are often predictable.

Obviously, plenty of unpredictables happen too, but there are “seasons” we face each year that shouldn’t take us by surprise.

One of the those seasons is summer hiring. Another is the start of school.

Heads Up On Weather Ahead
In just a few weeks, you can expect that teachers, students, and parents will want answers to the following questions:

  • What is my schedule?
  • What can I expect each day?
  • What are the ground-rules in school-wide and in my classes?

It seems so simple in concept, but sometimes we forget to keep an eye out for the cues of what is coming next.

Start of School
For instance, from the principal’s office, start of school means:

  • Updating/printing faculty handbooks and duty rosters
  • Communicating with teachers dates of new teacher training and professional development
  • Updating websites and media outlets with dates for schedule pick-up, freshman orientation, and start of school

And as we approach day one, the anticipation, nervous energy, dread, and excitement all mix together for the rush we call beginning the school year.

Helpful Resources
Whatever season you are preparing to face, don’t forget to take time to study your landscape. One way to be prepare is by relying on those who have been down the road ahead of you.

For teachers, I like to recommend, Harry Wong’s First Days Of School for a great reminder on the processes, procedures, and ground-rules students need and expect day one of school.

The same common-sense approach works for all areas of school. The routines we create help set the tone and safe-environment students and adults both need to see learning flourish.

Sometimes when we get overwhelmed with the seemingly endless list of to-do’s that come with school life, we have to think back to simple lessons like the ones I have learned from my elbow and Uncle Jimmy.

You can’t stop the weather that’s coming, but you can look ahead, stay alert, and be prepared.

When the next season comes, you can trust God for what you can’t control and weather the sunshine or the storms ahead with confidence.

Because it takes both sunshine and rain to produce a good harvest.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some great ‘start of the school year’ routines or resources that you would recommend?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker