The topic of classroom climate is a very important one for teachers to address. A positive classroom climate is essential for students to learn, grow and thrive. Although I have been teaching in some capacity for the last 6 years, I must admit I have not spent nearly enough time dedicated to creating a positive classroom environment, one that expresses both care and concern for each student. It likely was a tacit goal that I had, but not one that I spent considerable time planning, preparing, pruning and providing.
The current module I am studying in TEACH-NOW was extremely thought provoking. It helped me put to words many thoughts I have had rattling around in the back of my mind for quite some time. Although my studies may have given voice to and answered a few of my questions, I find that I am left with even more. Which is probably a good thing.
My foremost thought is this: It’s hard to be a teacher! Especially in a multicultural environment.
I think all these points about fairness and inclusion and race and identity are very important. Having studied Anthropology in my undergrad career I feel it is akin to learning a new culture. Each of these categories are filled with many subcategories of their own. All are nuanced. All are important and contribute to student learning. I find it intimidating to embark on this journey, knowing there are so many variables to master. Yet mastery may not be the end goal. To me, the end goal is to start a genuine dialogue, one that gains momentum and gets the ball rolling in the right direction. That is the only way to produce lasting change.
As I shared in my Prezi, I believe deeply that as a teacher my primary job is to care about my students as whole people. I believe I will be most effective when I can genuinely say that I value and love each of my students for the unique individuals that they are. Right now I’m a “specials” teacher. I teach library and computer classes to our entire elementary school, so this goal can be hard to reach when you are responsible for so many students each week. For the sake of this assignment I will focus on my future plans of becoming an elementary homeroom teacher. When I see my kids more regularly in this capacity it will be easier to implement these strategies in more effective ways.
Let me start out by describing my background. I am a Caucasian American. I grew up both in Northern California and North-East Pennsylvania. However, I have spent the last eight years of my live abroad in Peru, Southern India, and South Korea. I was also home schooled from the 3rd grade through high school. I went on to graduate with a degree in anthropology and Spanish from a 4 year university just outside Philadelphia. All of these factors affect my expectations, norms, flexibility and ability to key in on student experiences in the classroom.
Future Classroom Plan
In the future I plan to work at international schools in various countries outside the USA. In these environments it is inevitable that many of not most of my students will come from widely different backgrounds than I do. (Even if I stay in the USA I expect to meet such differences within my own classroom).
As I dream about my future classroom I want to make sure that I create a space that is welcoming, inviting, caring and safe for all of my students, regardless of where they come from or how they identify (culturally, linguistically, sexually, etc).
A few policies and strategies I’d love to implement are:
- Teach, prioritize and demonstrate healthy social and emotional skills
- Teach techniques/skills of restorative justice and the role of peacemaker
- Teach and practice active listening skills
- Develop a classroom contract with clearly outlined rewards and consequences
- Depict values-based behavior management, showing respect for the dignity of every student, equity, respect for cultural differences and safety and inclusion of all groups (TeachPerspectives.org, 2014)
- Maintain constant use of this contract throughout the school year
- Welcome each student into class at the beginning of the day
- Checking in with them if someone seems sad or upset
- Advocate for Allies not bullies.
As I close my thoughts I am reminded that in order to effectively create an atmosphere where all of my students will feel safe and cared for, I have so much more to learn. Right now more than 95% of my students are Korean. In that way I feel my situation is somewhat unique. Most of them come from the same broad cultural background, so my job of learning about their culture is easier since there is one primary culture on which to focus my studies. However I know that this will not always be the case. Learning Korean will help me understand this group of students because it will give me valuable insights into how how this culture functions at its heart. It is unreasonable that I will be able to learn the heart language of every student who comes into my classroom in the future. Considering these factors I am left with attempting to get to know a little more about each of my student’s home cultures in more personal ways. Maybe my activities or papers could be reflective so that they will feel comfortable sharing about their cultures with me. I can meet with them one on one and learn more that way. I can also seek counsel from other teachers (in person or online) who may have worked with that particular cultural group and gain some insights from them.
Although this task seems overwhelming, it is also a worthwhile endeavor. I’m looking forward to being challenged, growing, and getting the ball rolling.
— — — — — — — —
My thoughts were informed by a few specific resources:
Ranftle, K. [Doing What Works]. (2014, July 1). Retrieved from https://wested.mediacore.tv/media/how-to-build-a-positive-classroom-environment
TeachPerspectives.org (2014). Critical practices for anti-bias education. . Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/PDA%20Critical%20Practices_0.pdf
Tolerance.org (2013). Common beliefs descriptions. . Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/common_beliefs_descriptions.pdf