Partnerships have been a core of the Welcoming Schools approach since we began piloting Welcoming Schools in 2007. Partnerships not only make for better programing, they help us build on existing work and avoid the programs being seen like flavors of the month that will come and go.
Thinking about how school programs come and go took me down memory lane to my first staff meeting after I began working for the Massachusetts Department of Education.
Many of my new colleagues vehemently expressed their displeasure about a new program that we were slated to recommend. Chuck, a longtime veteran of the department, broke in, saying, " Programs come and programs go. Why get upset? This one will be gone before you know it."
Chuck's message has stayed with me. If we want to see change in schools, we can’t keep introducing the new program of the week or the flavor of the month. We need to find out what has already been successful in a school or district and build on these initiatives.
What does this look like?
- A Welcoming Schools consultant and a trainer from the Olweus bullying prevention program teamed up to present joint programs that have been met enthusiastically by school staff and parents.
- Starting with our first piloting of Welcoming Schools in 2007 schools aligned the Welcoming Schools approach with the Second Step program which focuses on social and emotional learning.
- In a school district where the needs of transgender students were being recognized we teamed up with Gender Spectrum to provide intensive training and technical assistance.
- One school that has used the program Responsive Classrooms for years, created a Responsive Classroom committee that, in consultation with Welcoming Schools, brought key elements of our program to school staff, parents and students.
These examples show that lasting change can be created by building on the strengths of compatible organizations. I think even Chuck, who happily retired from state government, would approve.