Investing in the Community

Would it be possible to support our learners if we do not first build a connection? Our learners are much more likely to be receptive to learning, creating, and communicating if they are part of the classroom and school community. We can start that this community building right away, even before they walk into our classrooms by making sure we have set up a successful and welcoming environment, that we give opportunities to build a classroom community and foster relationships, and that we encourage positive rapport and communication to provide a welcoming atmosphere!

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Classroom & School Environment

To me, this goes beyond what is on your walls and where your students are seated. While these are important, the environment is about the emotion that is felt when our learners walk onto our campus, across the blacktop, and eventually to their classroom. How many positive interactions are held in these moments when we are just walking across campus? Or, worse, are our learners bombarded with “NO” statements and ignored good mornings? We are all part of this school community, so we can all make it a positive one.

How powerful would it be if students saw other teachers outside, welcoming them, saying good morning, waving hello, sharing positive comments, and starting their morning off with a sense of belonging? What difference would that make when our students finally get across campus to our classrooms?

The YouTube Video, Every Opportunity,  shows this exact difference – how does it feel to be ignored and how does it feel to be welcomed. I am thinking that it may even be powerful to let your students see this YouTube video and have them own our school environment and culture as well. They are the biggest part of our community because they are why we are all here together! Bring them in by including them and discussing ways to make every moment on campus safe and positive.

Questions for Class Discussion:

  • How do you feel welcomed?
  • What does it mean to feel valued?
  • What makes you feel valued?

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Community Building & Relationships

How powerful would it be if the students actually saw how much we care and how passionate we are about their education and their character development? This is what the first week is all about, building those relationships. When I say that, I do not mean just building relationships with your students, but I mean building a community relationship. Learners in our classrooms should feel as connected to each other as they do to us. They should feel that we would all do anything to make sure they feel supported and successful as would the students next to them.

In my first years of teaching, I was too focused on building a relationship as the leader of the classroom and I did not effectively focus on building the community within the classroom. This caused an over-reliance on me as the teacher and when conflicts occurred, I was the only who seen as the problem solver. After reflecting on this, I realized that I had created a community where I was at the center. Instead, what we can do is work on building a community relationship where everyone feels as connected with each other as they do with the teacher.

Questions for Class Discussion: 

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Rapport & Atmosphere

When I think of this, I think of the “vibe” that I feel as soon as I enter a classroom. Over the summer, I spent time in a few other classrooms and got to experience that “vibe.” It was that instant feeling of belonging and support and confidence. It was like I knew this was a place I could be successful and empowered. How powerful would it be if our students felt that each time they walked into our classroom? When you step back from your class and just notice what is going on, what do you see? I would recommend taking time the first week to do this. When you are setting up routines and procedures, take a moment to notice and reflect on how the students are interacting, how they are walking during transitions, what does their posture say about their emotions? Taking time to reflect on verbal and non-verbal interactions and behaviors can help us learn how to better support our students.

Questions for Class Discussion:

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This first week back is exciting because it is what influences the rest of your school year! Take time to build those relationships, reflect on what worked, get input from your students, help them OWN your routines and procedures and communicate on what makes them most successful. You can do this by making sure they are part of the process!

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