School climate, also known as organizational health, has been described as the atmosphere, culture, resources, and social networks of a school (Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2011). School climate involves three dimensions: the relationships between members of the organization, the personal development of the members, and the maintenance and change of the organization (Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2011).
As we consider the relationships between the members of the organization we must consider all of the relationships that make up the school environment. The student/teacher relationship is the most commonly thought of relationship in the school, and rightly so. For effective instruction to take place teachers must be able to build strong quality relationships with their students (Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005). These relationships must move past the surface level and evolve into relationships build to handle the often complex intricacies of the student/teacher dynamic.
Peer-to-peer relationships serve another important dynamic in the overall school culture. These peer-to-peer relationships include both student-to-student and teacher-to-teacher. For an effective environment to exist each of these sets of peers must have quality working relationships built for collaboration.
The personal development of the members within the school environment is an important part in the overall school culture (Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2011). For growth of the culture to take place there must be growth of the individuals within the culture. This is true of students as well as teachers. Students must not only continually grow academically, but must also, demonstrate growth within the culture of the school. Likewise, teachers require continually professional development in not only effective teaching strategies but also in building and maintaining an effective school climate.
Just as personal development must exist within the member of the school for a strong culture to exist, so must an environment for change (Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2011). Students, teachers, and school leaders must be willing to look for opportunities for improvement within themselves and the overall school environment. A sense of collaboration and unification must exist for individuals to look past their own needs to the needs of the school community. This sense of community can be strong within small rural schools.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Rural Schools
There are many advantages to rural education. Of the advantages, a student’s sense of belonging may be the greatest. Students report a greater sense of belonging in small, rural schools. “People seem to learn, to change, and to grow in situations in which they feel they have some control, some personal influence, some efficacy” (Berlin & Cienkus, 1989). With the small size of many rural schools there is often a great feeling of control among students and staff. Students believe they have greater control of their surrounds as well as the...