For me, September is a month of laying the foundation for creating a positive classroom community and a culture that supports learning.
That sounds all well and good, but what exactly does it mean? What does it look like? I need to be able to answer those questions if I want to pay the idea of a classroom culture more than just lip-service.
Looking back, I can say that some years I have been more successful at it than others, so I know that this doesn’t happen on it’s own.
In years where I was more successful, it was because I started with a clear sense of what I wanted my classroom to look like, the culture I wanted to cultivate, the values I wanted the students to share, and the sense of community and belonging I wanted the students to feel. It starts with a vision.
- Students Feel Safe. I want students to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. I want my students to be willing to take risks, make mistakes, and grow. Without this, learning cannot take place.
- Students Know What to Expect. This can actually tie into making students feel safe since knowing what to expect can support students feeling safe. Walking into a classroom everyday blind, not knowing what they will be doing can make even confident students feel anxious. I want my students to enter our classroom ready to learn because they know how the classroom functions, what they are supposed to be doing, where they are supposed to be. Students also know what to expect from me because I am consistent, and consequences are not surprises. Students feel honoured, and respected, and heard.
- Students Know What is Expected. I want students to walk in to my classroom feeling confident because they know how the classroom functions, how they are supposed to behave, and how they are to treat other students in the class. Students know what success looks like, and they know their role in getting there.
- Students Have a Growth Mindset. Students meet challenges with perseverance and a positive attitude because they know they are capable. They don’t give up and they can think and problem-solve creatively because they know it is possible.
I have been intentional in how I have been developing the culture in my classroom. With the culture as the focal point, I have been designing my lessons and the structure of my day around these elements so that they are more than just ideals that have no practical application to the day-to day running of my classroom.