Administrator’s corner: Helping students feel connected and safe while they are at school

Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 1, 2021

Administrator’s corner by John Mahal

Within Albert Lea Area Schools, school staff are 30 school days into our year with students and working diligently to support students in a variety of ways as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. As I wrote about last week around Hawthorne’s star class, our staff have been doing an outstanding job of meeting each student where they are at academically, socially and emotionally. All of this work is centered around Responsive Classroom, in order to not only create daily procedures and routines but also to establish meaningful relationships that will carry on throughout the school year.

John Mahal

These early connections matter for each student as we get to know each other as it helps support students to feel accepted and belonging to our Hawthorne community. This also sets up a respectful culture around the building as we try to provide the best education possible. Once students feel connected, research has shown that there are short and long-term improvements in attendance, academic engagement, fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates.

Also important with early positive relationships is helping students feel safe about school. Feeling safe helps them participate in more class discussions, give more effort on an assignment that may be challenging for them, or regulate themselves behaviorally for any situation that might come up. This is a big reason our teachers and staff praise the daily effort that each student brings and have discussions with their class or individuals that there are times that are going to be challenging and they might not do as well as the student would like. This provides a wonderful opportunity for personal growth in that situation and that what we are looking for from them is their best effort.

Hawthorne’s intentional early connections with students help us create what I like to call our “Hawthorne family!” We are a family because we value meaningful relationships that help support our academic, social and emotional learning that also helps keep a well-managed classroom. Also, regardless of being in a pandemic or not, we know these early connections will pay off in the short term while we have our students in our building but also once they graduate from high school and live successful lives within our great community!

John Mahal is principal of Hawthorne Elementary School.