Jul 30, 2012 Filed in: Personal Reflections
A collection of nationally reknown educators recently started a Facebook Group built around Angela Maiers mantra “You Matter”. The “Choose 2 Matter” group asked for examples of how we have helped some one Choose 2 Matter. This blog post is a response to that question.
In my role as technology consultant, I work with relatively small groups of teachers in two cities a week during the summer and at least 1 group a month during the school year around the nation. Although it is not a required part of the curriculum, I always try and fit in a discussion / activity concerning Classroom Culture.
Classroom Culture is one of the last, but most important areas that teachers still have considerable control. As educators, we set the stage for our classroom. We can’t do much about the baggage that our students bring with them into the classroom, we don’t often get to choose the textbook or course standards, and we often are limited considerably by our physical environment (paint, temperature, sound levels, type of lighting, etc.). But we do have considerable control how learning activities are staged.
So the essential question is: What do the students say among themselves about your class?
Answering this question may be a depressing thing to contemplate. I think most all teachers want their students to like them, and maybe even more they want them to like their subject area and course.
So I believe this is a very important reflection activity for us as educators… What do they say? and What would we like them to say?… Once we have answered these questions, the next obvious question is How do we get there?
Some of the first answers to the last question from workshop participants is:
Respect your students, and teach them to show respect to each other. Make them feel safe (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) in the borders of your domain.
Carefully choose your words and perhaps watch video of your self interacting with your students in both whole group as well as small group settings. What does your body language say?
Provide not only wait time following questions, but give students time to reflect and interact with each other.
To create life long learners, passionately share your failures as opportunities to learn. Model life long learning. Props to David Warlick for this thought.
You will no doubt begin to come up with many more ideas, but I would like to leave you with one additional strategy to consider. Now that digital cameras are on most everyone’s phones, and cameras are readily available in other forms, MAKE PICTURES all the time! Capture your students working, struggling, discussing, debating, laughing, entertaining…. or better yet have a couple of students assigned to be photojournalists for the week.
Then display those images as bell ringer slideshows, learning celebrations, and possibly on review materials, in webpages, on parent emails and conferences.
What are you communicating to the students and what does this have to do with Classroom Culture?
- I care about you.
- I like you.
- I want to remember you.
- What you do in here is important.
- What your (brother, sister, kid down the street) did was important.
- People/Students are a focus of this classroom.
This is just one small (fun and easy) strategy for developing a positive classroom culture, and it will take many other strategies to complete that transformation. But there are many side benefits to having a visual record of your classroom… even curriculum goals will benefit: seeing themselves doing stuff in your class will cause the concepts to be revisited and reinforce the permanence of the cognitive structures being created.