Creating Responsive Schools Through Invitational Education

In many respects, the success of AIS and RtI strategies are dependent upon how inviting the teacher is when delivering the instruction. If the teacher does not see the student as able, valued and responsible, the chances of the student accepting the invitation to learn are slim.

I'm interested in sharing information with my colleagues about Invitational Education. This practice provides simple and powerful strategies for school adults to maintain an intentional stance of respect, trust, optimism and care in order to create a dependable, safe environment. Imagine that you were solely responsible for a student's (or staff member's) self-regard. Most subject matter specialists learned little about self-concept in our teacher or administrative preparation programs. In a nutshell, self-concept is formed by the messages (positive and negative) we receive from others and our environment. If a student has been labeled a failure in reading, then that student may be fearful of trying to learn to read. You see, when a student who has a negative self-concept about reading makes that effort and still fails, it simply reinforces their belief that they are not able. That is more painful than not trying and failing.

So, what we say and do when trying to improve a student's self-confidence and willingness to try is critical. The more intentionally inviting our comments, the more our students will take a risk and make an effort. How we "see" our students is just as important. "By seeing students as they could be, rather than as they are, a teacher's vision becomes a student's reality." (Purkey and Stanley, 2002.)

Unfortunately, educators are sometimes unintentionally dis-inviting. For example, when a student asks for help with a math problem, and the teacher says, "Sure, that's the easiest one in the book, anyone can do it," That's a dis-inviting comment. When adults share a common framework for language and behavior, the entire school experience becomes a supportive and positive one for all students and staff members. When a school employs an invitational philosophy, academic achievement will increase and perhaps, we won't need so many interventions after all.....

Dr. William W. Purkey has spent a lifetime researching and developing Invitational Education. These easy to understand strategies are helpful to teachers, staff and especially administrators. More information can be found about this educational approach at the following website:

I think Invitational Education may just be the "First Aid" we need for our high stakes dilemmas. Feel free to contact me for information about Invitational Education or Social Emotional Learning! Joan Fretz :

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