Our eager learners come to Meet the Teacher Night, hoping against hope that their new teacher will exhibit that most earnestly desired of all descriptors: NICE! Next, they excitedly peruse the list posted outside their new classroom to see what friends (and hopefully, no nemeses) with whom they will share the school year. If their family possesses financial means - and certainly not all of them do, which I try to keep in mind always - they go shopping with their parents, filling carts with sparkly new school supplies and a really cool back-to-school outfit.
And when these brand new students of ours return to our classroom on the first official day of school, we set about the very important task of building a community of learners.
How well we accomplish the process of community building will truly set the stage for the whole year.
But good news, fellow educators: It's never too late for community building in your classroom. And yes, I am writing from experience!
Because I am here to tell you - not every school year starts as well as those magical years -
Those special years of highly motivated students who all have supportive parents and perfect attendance...
Those years of amazing lesson plans where everything just seemed to click, every concept integrating itself into seamlessly standards-based, engaging, relevant lessons...
Those years of numerous occasions when the principal would walk in just as 95% of my little scholars were experiencing the AHA moment...
Those are the magical years that we love to recall so very fondly.
#REALLIFE :: Most teachers have at least one year that we relegate to the shadowed hidey-hole recesses of our memory banks, choosing to keep them hidden along with eschewed memories of poor fashion choices, horrific first dates, and that time I was trying so hard to look like Charlie's Angels-era Farrah Fawcett - simultaneously tossing back my hair and whipping off my snow machine helmet - only to knock my face with my helmet and give myself a bloody nose.
But I digress.
My point is: I believe strongly that building a safe, purposeful, respectful learning community is the single-most important thing we can do for effective instruction in our classroom.
And if it doesn't happen in the first few days of school, or even in the first weeks or months of school, you can and should bring the whole group together for a fresh start.
I believe also in the importance of being honest, telling my students what I am doing and why I am doing it. It is important that all concerned parties understand how truly important building a community is.
And what better way to learn this than to hear their teacher say, "Hey guys, we need to make sure our classroom is a place where we can all be our best. We need to take some time here to build a community. Who has some thoughts about why having a community of learners is so important in our classroom...?"
And just like that, the conversation has opened.
And in sharing that conversation, the teacher and students have begun to build the community, by the very nature of what that conversation is, and what a community is.
If you have read this far, thank you so much! Please join me at Hello Sunshine Teachers, where Teresa from Confessions of a Teaching Junkie and I have shared lots of activities (and three books!) on this very topic.
|To read more about these books and a TON of activities, just click here!|
I would love for you to share ways you teach, develop, and celebrate community building in your classroom here in the comments section. Or better yet, link up to your own blog post about community building!
And while you're at it, enter this giveaway to win your choice of The Invisible Boy, Crickwing, or Roxaboxen for your classroom library:
Click here to enter the Book Giveaway!
Happy Back to School!