What is an Orderly School Environment?

This month we’ve focused in on the effective school correlate, safe and orderly environment. Our first discussions focused on the emotional side of school safety, and now we turn to the question, What is an orderly school environment?

Trends from the latest #822Chat include:

  • Connections between restorative practices and orderly environments
  • Fluctuating meanings and connotations of orderly environment
  • School order and structures

What Does Orderly Environment Mean?

In #822chat, we recently discussed Emotional Safety. On May 14, 2019 we asked principals and school leaders, “What does the phrase, orderly environment, mean to you?”

Restorative Practices and Orderly Environment

“Orderly means safe and has less to do with the physical space and more to do with clear consistent expectations where relationships come first. Restorative practice works only in an orderly environment. If you don’t have anything, you don’t have anything to restore.” – Erika Garcia

A restorative approach to school management is one that highlights the negative impact of disruptive behaviors and seeks to restore a sense of order and justice for all students.

It contrasts to a punitive approach to student management where punishments are doled out and schooling continues on without addressing underlying relationships.

Fluctuating Meanings of Orderly

Schools of the past typically don’t look like schools of today. Likewise the phrase orderly environment, conveys different meanings based on its context.

“Orderly environment to me is a changing concept. I think it used to mean, in terms of a classroom, rows, kids in seats, etc. Now, it might mean organized chaos. Differentiation. A method to the madness.” – Cristobal Saldana

“Orderly environment gives the perception that everyone is quite and following rules. From my perspective, today’s schools should have a ‘learner-centered environment’ where kids are given choice/voice, flexibility and opportunities to make learning mistakes.” – Chris Legleiter

“Orderly Environment” makes the learning seem stale and regimented. Doesn’t make it sound like there is a lot of creation or opportunity to think outside of the box.” – AJ Bianco

School Order and Structure

“If you want students to feel safe, you have to implement structures and processes to help them feel that way. Chaos makes people nervous and fearful.” – Mrs. Higgins

There can be many freedoms and choices within an orderly environment. Choice does not equal chaos so long as structures and processes are in place to maintain order.

Likewise, order can mean you know to expect.

“Perhaps it’s knowing what you’ll get from your admin, sup, teaching partners no matter the risk. It’s about structures that lend themselves to a discussion, not finger pointing.” – Sheila Jurke


The fourth school-level factor is “a safe and orderly environment.” Its importance is evident. If teachers and students do not feel safe, they will not have the necessary psychological energy for teaching and learning. This factor’s fourth place rating among the five school-level factors does not imply that it is unimportant. Without a minimum level of safety and order, a school has little chance of positively affecting student achievement. – Chapter 6 of What Works in Schools, ASCD

Academic success for students begins with a trusting and mutually respectful relationship between student and teacher, extends to classroom order, and culminates in a safe and supportive school climate. – Cornell & Mayer, 2010, Why do school order and safety matter? Educational Research

Thanks for reading this week’s post. We look forward to chatting with you at #822Chat on Saturday morning at 8:22am CST or Tuesday evening at 8:22pm CST.

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