Helping School Leaders Create a Healthy and Supportive School Environment
More than 95% of our nation’s young people are in school for about 6 hours a day for up to 13 years. And these years are a critical time for social, psychological, physical, and intellectual development.
As a school administrator, you have a challenging job. You oversee school operations, instruction, and daily school activities. At the same time, you need to create a healthy and supportive school environment for your students and staff.
Here are ways you can promote a healthy and supportive school environment. Most of the actions under each tip can be done with limited resources.
A healthy and supportive school environment can:
- Improve student conduct, attendance rates, academic achievement, and graduation rates. It can also help you retain employees. (Source: Critical connections: health and academics. J Sch Health. 2015;85(11):740–758.)
- Help reduce gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color who may be underserved by the schools they attend. (Source: Making ESSA’s Equity Promise Real: State Strategies to Close the Opportunity Gap. Learning Policy Institute; 2018.)
- Give students enough time to eat school meals (at least 20 minutes).
- Provide access to healthy foods and drinks for school meals, including smart snacks and water.
- Offer daily physical education.
- Encourage classroom physical activity, like stretch breaks.
- Start an employee wellness program to support the physical and mental health of your staff
- Get to know your staff and students as individuals. Make sure everyone feel connected and part of your school community.
- Check in with students regularly to find out how they’re feeling. Use journals or electronic polling tools.
- Encourage students to take mindfulness breaks.
- Encourage students to identify their emotions. Talk with them about how to express emotions in a healthy way.
- Teach staff how to use role modeling and interpersonal skills to improve teacher-student relationships.
See the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model to identify more ways to promote student health and well-being.
- Hire certified school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers to provide these services.
- Adopt policies and practices that take into account potential trauma experienced by students.
- Make sure staff know how to connect students to school and community support services if they need them. Encourage staff to use these support services themselves if needed.
- Keep parents informed about healthy and supportive school environment policies and practices. Use your school’s website to describe how these policies and practices support student health and achievement.
- Provide ways for parents to give regular feedback—for example, through surveys, emails, phone calls, and text messaging.
- Ask parents to help you plan and organize activities designed to improve the school environment.
The tips above can help you create a healthy and supportive school environment. For more information on this topic to help schools and parents, visit our Creating a Healthy and Supportive School Environment website.
You can also use these resources to guide your efforts: