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Jan 16

An Evening with the Chancellor On School Climate and Culture

Posted by BSCAA in The Alumni Blog on Jan 16, 2018

On October 18, recent Bank Street graduate Olinka Crusoe, GSE '18, moderated an evening for over 200 educators including Olinka’s father Irvin Crusoe, GSE '10, and Chancellor Carmen Fariña at an Educators for Excellence event. Pictured (left to right): Irvin Crusoe, Chancellor Fariña, and Olinka Crusoe. I wanted to become a teacher to fulfill my passion of ensuring that students in urban neighborhoods receive a quality and equitable education.

In my first few years of teaching, I spent a lot of time lesson planning, attending professional development on practices that would grow my students academically, and calling for the removal of disruptive students. I thrived on a discipline approach which consistently relied on reactive solutions instead of proactive planning. It wasn’t until I began working at my current school that I went through trainings to learn to become more empathetic to students social and emotional needs and more proactive in supporting students with the tools necessary to overcome emotional barriers. By working on these issues, I was able to learn more about the policy and politics behind school reform and how to make real change for our schools and students. I became a member of the Educators for Excellence Teacher Advocacy Team on School Climate, which advocates for the expanded funding and support of non-punitive practices. Educators for Excellence is a teacher-led organization that ensures teachers have a leading voice in the policies that impact their students and profession.

On October 18, Educators for Excellence hosted an event at John Jay College with over 200 educators for an evening with Chancellor Carmen Fariña. I had the wonderful opportunity to moderate this event, which allowed for conversation between Chancellor Fariña and other educators like myself to chat about current DOE initiatives that aim to improve school climate, including social emotional learning, restorative justice, and other non-punitive initiatives. During the discussion, Chancellor Fariña described features of a positive school climate that fosters a culture of appreciation and respect. She spoke of a safe and nurturing environment where adults and children show empathy toward one another and where the school culture celebrates student growth and supports and appreciates the uniqueness of all families. Chancellor Fariña urged the group of educators to "lead by example to begin to improve your school's climate. Without trust, you cannot do anything in the building."

This culture of appreciation and respect, which is the heart of student-educator relationships, can only be achieved if trust, care, and respect is developed between students and educators. In order to support educators in their development towards such standards, the Educators for Excellence Teacher Advocacy Team on School Climate will continue to advocate for positive school climate reform by giving our individual testimonies to the city council. On October 30, 2017, the city dedicated $8 million to support new community workshops, mental health training, the expansion of student clubs, and increased protection for students, which will enhance supports for students, families, and staff. Chancellor Fariña announced the reforms to strengthen and expand anti bullying programs in DOE schools.

Ensuring educators have the tools and resources to support students and families expands equity and success in our schools. I can only imagine the impact I would have had on my former students who were removed from class repeatedly for disruptive behavior if I was trained earlier on how to equally prioritize social-emotional learning in core subjects.  

tagged alumni, blog, carmen, chancellor, crusoe, farina, institute, leadership, olinka, principal
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