Building a community in the classroom means...
Getting to know every student (and their family). During the pandemic, when I was teaching students simultaneously in the classroom and via zoom, I logged in a few minutes early every day to chat with our remote students, who were scattered around the tri-state area. I also reached out to parents with frequent emails and updates, to ask about their children and make sure they felt connected to our community as well.
Making every student feel heard and understood. I like to begin lessons with questions that encourage students to share about themselves. For example, when we started our unit on water, we talked about how humans use water. Students shared their experiences of vacations, cooking, fishing, getting hot and thirsty, and going to the pool. As we compared experiences, we got to know each other better and built anticipation for the lesson.
Giving students opportunities to support each other and rely on each other for support. I use strategies like peer tutoring, shoutouts, trust games, and student-to-student interviews to build trust and connection. When students feel responsible for each other, they develop a sense of agency and self-esteem that makes them more resilient in the face of future challenges.
All of my students deserve to see their perspectives reflected and their cultural backgrounds honored in the work that we do.
This means not just seeing protagonists that look like them in literature, but being exposed to the voices of creators and scholars of color, those with disabilities, and people from various economic backgrounds and different parts of the world.
When I created my “Art and History” course, it was important that my students experience historical events through the eyes of the people most affected by them. When we talked about Buddhism, we read interviews with contemporary Tibetan artists and looked at their work. When we studied Europe in the middle ages, we looked at African-British artist Yinka Shonibare's responses to the depictions of Africa on medieval maps. We read about Spanish colonialism in the words of a traditional Hopi storyteller, and were fortunate enough to have a guest join us from Isleta Pueblo to talk about traditional Southwestern art. I gave students opportunities to speak from their own experiences, and I added a lesson on Andean art at the request of a student who has family in Peru.
I believe every student wants to make good choices and be a positive force in their community.
Our job is to support and guide them towards that goal.
My masters degree focused on educating students with social, emotional, and behavior disorders. I came away with an understanding of how much behavior is influenced by environment—not just the classroom environment, but the total of a student’s experiences in and out of school. The more I can understand what’s going on in their lives, the more I can help them in the classroom. My goal is to create an environment that supports appropriate behavior by implementing clear routines and rules, giving students age-appropriate responsibilities, and explicitly teaching them the skills they need to manage their emotions and control their actions.
Thank you for reading! I also have a lot of thoughts about pedagogy. You can read them here.