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Building Safe Classroom Communities

Thank you to Kathleen, who gave me the great prompt to write more about building safe classrooms for our students… and with our students!

I hope I can explore that more, and please feel free to send some thoughts about ways you see it working well in your classes!

firstly, I feel like this is a really important thing to establish in the first months of school. We may have had experience seeing how teachers did this in our fourth year, so do share any experiences you had, although since we haven’t been in our classes since september this year- it could prove tricky.

Here’s some thoughts I had on this:

  1. be a team leader with your sponsor teacher (and EA if any in the room!). Make sure you are always asking if it’s okay to try new things for your classroom… new ways to arrange the desks… different routines… creating that classroom rule list with the kids. Having a good relationship with the other teacher mentors in the room will help you establish a safe place for you to grow as a teacher. We are guests in their classroom, and if you’re lucky enough- by the end of our time in May we could be considered co-teaching with them!
  2. build relationships with your students. one thing that stuck with me from my supervisor from last year was to spend 2 minutes with students who seem to have behaviour challenges per day. doesn’t mean it should be 2 minutes full on, it could be split up during the day. I took that in to account, and have practised it even this year with kids at my childcare job. Any child would love this. Ask them what they’re having for snack/lunch. Spend time shoulder to shoulder during work time and make conversation with them about their work- ask questions, get to know them as a learner. These connections we make with our students will go so far in having them understand you care about them in many different ways, not just how they’ve done on their work. Another thing I saw my sponsor teacher do with my grade 2/3’s is write a totally misspelled/grammatically wrong sentence on the board. She pretended like she was done, and the students told her NO! There’s a mistake! And she had them ‘help’ her figure out the mistakes and what to put instead. It was hilarious, the kids completely ate it up and everyone was laughing and having such a good time. it was so special to see her connecting with her kids in such a silly way, that really had them all interested in helping fix the mistakes! (remember how i said they had such bright ideas in my last post? they truly are bright students!)
  3. allow students to work together on different tasks. my current supervisor gave me some great tips on how to get students to work on different lessons. Does it have to be worksheet after worksheet? no. and it really should be minimal worksheets (that’s another topic altogether..) Here is one thing he said would be great to intertwine a PBL lesson while outside. You pose a question to students, or have them reflect about something- and they would walk through the forest/playground/wherever you were in pairs, having walking shoulder to shoulder conferences. Students can help eachother gather ideas and express them in the partners they are comfortable with. Utilize the friend groups they already have. Encourage them to expand that network and pair them with people they may not go with, too.

Now, we can talk about how to facilitate a safe learning space to branch off of those ideas above.

Something i’m passionate about is Indigenous Inclusion, and ways to implement that into our teaching life. Have you spent much time looking at the First People’s Principles of Learning? I’m going to link it herehttp://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PUB-LFP-POSTER-Principles-of-Learning-First-Peoples-poster-11×17.pdf. I really believe there’s a lot to learn here. Take some time to see how it can link to building a classroom community with holistic values.

Another resource is the Six Cedars. though it is not written by an indigenous author, it is still ok to use for many purposes in the classroom. I used it for a self reflection piece with my K’s last year. It can absolutely be used to build classroom rules/guidelines for learning.

Next up: growth mindset and inspiring students

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