Warren County High School has made some major improvements in the past few months when it comes to creating a deeper understanding between the staff and students. The focus is on enhancing the level of comfort while inside of school, as well as reducing the stress of faculty members and staff, to establish harmony and improve the educational experience.
“The goal is to change the climate for students and teachers because ultimately, we want to make school a place where kids can come and get something beneficial and feel like they belong,” says assistant principal Julie Wood.
After a grant was given to help improve the school environment, administrators and staff began implementing the tools learned at a seminar in November called “Building Better Brains.” The focus is destressing teachers, creating awareness of the day-to-day struggles that students face, and giving the school an overall sense of community.
WCHS was one of three high schools in the state and the only school in the Upper Cumberland region to receive the grant and training.
WCHS administrators are working hard to understand to the stress and struggles many of their students endure, resulting in becoming a trauma-informed school and using the knowledge and tactics to make the classroom a more welcoming place. The emphasis on the health of the faculty, specifically on reducing their stress levels, plays an important role in the comfort and success of the school.
Following a poverty simulation in January, a survey was given to staff members to identify their own main tensions. Like most students, the majority of the staff’s stressors are caused by situations outside of school, such as financial worries, relationship problems between spouses or children, and elderly parental care.
When asked what the school could do to help deal with these negative feelings, the faculty voted on a devotional every Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. led by a variety of staff members, as well as an exercise class that occurs every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 pm.
The survey showed many teachers didn’t feel like they were being recognized for their hard work, so the high school has started a teacher of the week tribute.
WCHS executive principal Jimmy Walker stated, “Being in this profession as long as I have, I’ve seen a vacancy of what school should be about. We’ve gotten away from the whole school as a learning community. It’s now more about testing and data instead of building relationships with our kids and taking care of our teachers. A study just recently released by USA Today and Wall Street says that teachers are leaving at a higher rate in the past three years than ever before. The reason for that is we’ve forgotten the comradery and collaboration of building ourselves up and doing what we’re doing because everything is geared toward a data point. Accountability is important. However, if you don’t have a positive learning environment and realize what kids and teachers have to deal with both in and outside of school, as well as have some kind of self-keep, then you won’t have a positive learning community.”
A parent-teacher conference will be held Tuesday, Jan. 29 and will help educate the parents and community on what changes are being made for the betterment of WCHS. More information is also available on the school’s website.