Welcoming School? Yes Please!

04/15/2015 02:34 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015

Switching my kids' school was the best thing we've done in their young lives thus far. While elementary school for many families will be a blip on the radar when the kids are older, for some, it isn't so easy. You can read about our situation here

I often hear parents say "well my kid only has two years left," or "I've been thinking about different schools for a while now..." The understanding side of me says I totally get it... it's not easy to switch schools, while simultaneously the Capricorn in me wants to sing the chorus of a song I unfortunately hear all the time on the Disney Channel, that goes something like this "What are you waiting foooooooooor!"

Fast forward three months and my kids are nicely settled and we couldn't be happier. I am grateful every day when I drop them off. They happily exit my car and enter the doors of the building. Each day on the way home we go over the "peak" and the "pit" of their day, and oftentimes they can only reference peaks.

The differences between their current school from their former school, are marked.

The latest example of this is one that deserves a standing ovation. Our new/current school has just become the first in the region to receive the amazing Human Rights Campaign Seal of Excellence Welcoming School recognition.

"I can't say enough about the quality of the Welcoming Schools curriculum and training we've had with HRC. The great thing about Welcoming Schools is that it's really about how we value and appreciate similarities and differences, so that it overlays everything from bully prevention to value for diversity to how we interact with each other day-to-day." Mesa Elementary Principal, Josh Baldner.

The Welcoming Schools website explains their expectations to be considered for this honor, and one of the things I love most about their points is something a lot of schools miss. When kids are truly happy, validated, understood, loved for who they are and the differences are appreciated... they perform better naturally. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Improved academic achievement and better school climate are linked.

From their website, "Students who experience acceptance at school are more highly motivated, engaged in learning and committed to school... Schools should be places where all children feel safe and secure."

Whether thinking in terms of bullying, or differences in learning ability, it seems many schools these days are more concerned with their reputation and scores. Instead of being supportive and walking the talk of being accepting, they become defensive about what they've done for you, how lucky you are to be there, how the system "is what it is" and you can either take it or leave it. That's how our former school acted towards us.

While there were many great teachers there, I'm not really sure how a few people at the helm of our old ship, slept at night. All I can say is my children and I have exited the Titanic and our lifeboat has safely arrived at our destination.

So many congratulations to Mesa Elementary, Josh Baldner and all of the teachers who are sparking a love of learning and appreciation for others, in my kids and their entire learning community. Every school should aspire to achieve the status as a Welcoming School, and I am grateful to be able to watch you lead the way.