Implement Activities that Increase School Connectedness

Research has consistently shown that school connectedness helps to protect adolescents against depression and suicide. The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health surveyed over 90,000 students in grades 7 through 12 and found that adolescents’ perceived school connectedness is the leading protective factor against student suicidal behavior. More specifically, students who feel connected to their school (e.g., feel their teachers treat them fairly, feel close to people at school, and feel a part of their school) are significantly less likely than students who did not feel connected to their school to seriously consider or attempt suicide.

School professionals should strive to provide an emotionally supportive environment in which students feel that they fit in, are cared for and are encouraged to approaching staff members for help when problems arise.

In order to achieve an emotionally supportive environment, schools should provide in-services to faculty and staff underscoring the importance of building a positive sense of school connectedness. Faculty and staff should be encouraged to consistently act in a caring and nurturing manner to students and remain attentive to students’ needs and wishes.

Faculty and staff should consider multiple approaches and activities in which they can help to build positive connections. Some strategies will work for some students while others will work for other students. Thus, it is imperative for schools to use an array of approaches.

 

Some examples of connection-building strategies include:

  • Positive teacher-student interactions
  • Icebreaker activities and boundary breakers
  • Responsibilities in class and school
  • Academic organizations and groups
  • Athletic teams and school clubs
  • Empowerment activities
  • Positive role-modeling
  • Mentoring programs
  • Team-building efforts
  • Peer teaching
  • Active listening

School professionals should seek to involve students in school decisions, develop peer mentoring programs, offer after-school student clubs, organizations, and activities, and create small-sized student learning groups. Creating small-sized learning groups allow for stronger connections among students.

In addition, the relationship between a school’s physical appearance and its emotional climate should not be ignored. Flaky ceilings, graffiti-tainted walls, scuffed-up floors, dirty bathrooms, and crumbling sidewalks can promote a “Why bother, no one cares” attitude among students. In turn, students may feel disconnected and isolated from their school.

 

School professionals can overcome these issues by:

  • Acknowledging the message a school’s physical appearance sends to students, faculty and staff.
  • Taking steps to clean up the physical appearance of the building, thus creating a a positive environment conducive to student learning, growth, and development.