Achieving School Connectedness

Submitted by Melissa Myers, Associate Head of School


When we first made a move to expand the high school program here at Sterne, one of our Big Hairy Goals was creating a school culture of “connectedness” that links three key areas: family, school community, and self.

Why is connectedness so important?
Research points to a strong correlation between school connectedness and academic achievement, including school attendance, higher standardized and classroom test scores, and advanced degree acquisition.  To boot, students who feel supported by and are actively involved in their school communities have been found less likely to engage in “at-risk” behavior such as early sexual initiation, violence, emotional distress, self harm, and suicidal ideation.  You can read more about this CDC study here.

We also know the following:
-- School is more than just academics; a positive school culture and reliable adult/teacher support makes it easier for kids to come to school, stay here at school, and persist in the face of academic challenges.

-- School is a refuge; some kids and families have big challenges at home. School can be a predictable, stable place where kids belong to a positive peer group and check their worries at the classroom door.

-- Trying new things can develop career and hobby interests in addition to leadership skills

-- Being involved in co-curricular activities looks good on college applications

-- When you’re at school, you’re staying out of trouble

Today, we have a well-rounded suite of offerings and experiences developed to keep your teen engaged and active here at Sterne High School. But how do we get kids initially involved and encourage them to keep their commitments? (Hint: The answer is that we do this together)
Let's take a look at some common concerns regarding student engagement and some opportunities for parents and schools to work together for solutions!

How Family & School Can Partner to Support Connectedness

Concern: Fear of failure; trying a new sport or club is risky, especially in front of peers.  
Solution: Coaches and Advisors are key in creating a culture of support amongst a team or club. When students see that failure is just practice for success, the risk is significantly lowered.  (So is the rate of failure.)

Concern: Their friends aren’t involved in co-curriculars and are doing a lot of “hanging out” after school.
Solution: Parents can help their sons and daughters structure free time.  Encourage your kids to choose 1 or 2 days a week to engage in school-related activities.  The other days of the week can be “hang out” time.  As soon as one kid gets involved, the others in their peer group are soon to follow.  (Hint: We totally support “hanging out.” This is called Snax Club!)

Concern: Some kids (and parents) are afraid that after-school activities will suck up study time.
Solution: Express this concern to coaches or Advisors.  We can work out a schedule to ensure that academics don’t suffer.  Balance is important.

Concern: Parents don’t want to schedule their kids’ social calendars anymore.
Solution: That’s legit. And age-appropriate. Let us help. You’d be amazed at how receptive teenagers are when someone other than their parents are making a suggestion.

Concern: Self-starting; (“I’ll join a club next semester….”)
Solution: The more organized parents can be with turning in forms and getting kids signed up for things in advance, the easier it is for them to just jump in.