Today’s classrooms are more diverse than ever before. As a result, teachers find themselves searching for ways to meet the needs of each student. Add to it the pressures of academic achievement goals mandated by NCLB and many may feel ill-equipped to meet the challenges of diversity in the classroom.
Planning perfect lessons with exciting activities looks great on paper, but will it help your students reach their potential? Probably not. If there is anything I learned during my time as a public school teacher is this: The height of student achievement is directly correlated with the strength of the classroom community. By building community in the classroom, you build an environment where students feel safe to learn, grow and be themselves.
Building a caring classroom is the surest way to achieve the results you desire.
Here are a few ways to build a community of caring learners, focused on achievement and inclusion:
- Know your students: A favorite saying of my former principal was “they don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” In other words, take the time to build a relationshipwith all students in the class. Each Monday before the week began I would make time for students to share what they did over the weekend. This is a simple gesture but one that opens the doors to communication and builds in the students a sense that “my teacher cares about me.”
- Value contributions: For students to achieve, they must feel they are valued and that the classroom is a safe place to be and work. Regardless of abilities or background, each child brings something unique to the classroom. Work to discover those special points and capitalize on them.
- Promote teamwork: Classrooms where student achievement is highest are often those that allow student to work together in teams to reach a common goal. Group collaboration allows student to work in a way that is less competitive and leads to greater understanding of content overall and of each other.
- Make respect for all a requirement: This component is truly the one which binds all the others together. A teacher should first and foremost be the champion of every child in his or her classroom. Nip issues such as name calling or unwillingness to work with certain people in the bud. Take the time to teach lessons on respecting others or hold classroom meetings to resolve issues. As students see teachers consistently uphold respect as a requirement, they will respond with respect, increasing the strength of classroom ties.
Find more resources for building a classroom community here:
Do you have any particular tips for building community in your classroom?