Connecting the Dots
Volume 44 Issue 1
By Todd A. Savage
I hope the transition to the new academic year has been a good one for all of you! As I continue to transition into the role of NASP president, I would like to share with you a bit about who I am professionally and personally; I'd also like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the theme I will emphasize throughout the year: School Climate: #Connect-TheDots. The theme highlights the essential components of positive school climates and encourages everyone associated with NASP—members, leaders, and staff alike—to share via social media how you see and create positive school climates in which all students thrive.
The impact of school climate is both personal and professional to me. Born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, I was surrounded by amazing teachers throughout my schooling experience. These teachers worked arduously to teach content, and they also established climates that both optimized my potential for academic success and allowed me to thrive socially and emotionally despite some challenging circumstances I faced. I benefited personally because the adults in my school made me feel valued, capable, and safe.
After finishing high school, I went to the University of Minnesota as a first-generation college student, graduating with a degree in psychology. Working with children and adolescents in a clinical setting following college inspired me to pursue graduate education in order to make the type of impact on youth that I found fulfilling, and eventually found my home in school psychology. I consulted with various school districts around culturally responsive education from a practice perspective before moving on to my first academic position at New Mexico State University. Throughout the past 8 years, I have been on faculty in the school psychology graduate education program at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls.
My history as a NASP member goes back 20 years now, and my journey through NASP leadership has been a decade in the making. I feel so privileged and honored to represent NASP, most importantly you as a member, working to make a difference in the lives of children, adolescents, and their families.
My professional experiences have reinforced for me the importance of school climate, which Beth Doll has called the fourth leg of school success. A positive school climate has been demonstrated to enhance academic achievement and other positive outcomes in students. These include but are not limited to: increased self-esteem and self-efficacy; higher attendance rates; augmented internal resiliency among students and staff; greater connectedness; decreased rates of bullying; higher levels of satisfaction for students, families, and school personnel; improved behavior and a decrease in discipline referrals; and increased perceptions of safety and security.
A positive school climate is predicated on a number of factors, including a rigorous curriculum, high quality instruction, and the teaching staff, among others. Undergirding all of these constructs are the relationships upon which connectedness is built, for if students, staff members, and families do not have a sense of being connected to one another and to the efforts being carried out in the schooling process, little else matters. That is why I chose connecting the dots as a way to frame the theme. The add-on of the hashtag, a microblog (e.g., Twitter) convention for a trending topic on social media, is intended to serve as a catalyst for engagement around school climate across the experience spectrum, throughout the association, and in the field. Periodic discussion starters, interesting stories related to school climate, and other opportunities for connecting on the subject during the year will be sent out on social media, and I encourage you to initiate something on social media around school climate, as well. We have developed a number of brief resources for you to help spread awareness of the factors (or dots) that help children and youth thrive in school, at home, and throughout life at http://www.nasponline.org/communications/school-climate.aspx.
Finally, I cannot do what I do without the love and support of my family, including my partner of 21 years, Bill, and our wonderful son, Andrew, who just started fifth grade. I am truly fortunate in that they help me connect the dots in so many ways.Let's get the conversation started. Tell us who helps you connect the dots and how it makes a difference at #ConnectTheDots and @nasponline.
Here's to a great year ahead!
Todd A. Savage, PhD, NCSP, is the president of the National Association of School Psychologists