What our Classroom Community Looks Like
Norms & Values
Before students even enter the classroom for English class, they wait outside the door. At the beginning of every class, I greet them outside, explaining their seating arrangement for the day and instructing them to get ready for a Mindful Minute. This is the most prominent example of one of our classroom norms—a routine that we have established, and one that helps us to transition into class for the day. Occasionally, we will stop in the middle of lessons or activities to re-focus, even taking another Mindful Minute if necessary. These routines help the students to keep a balance of professionalism and personality, of focus and fun.
One of the most important things that I have learned from my mentor teacher is that as a teacher, all of our actions communicate our values in the classroom. Many of the values that I try to communicate are to be respectful and courteous to others, to respect each others’ ideas, to be willing to speak our minds and be open with each other, and to work hard and show what we know. I try to communicate these values in everything that I do, every lesson that I plan, every assignment that I give. Whether it is by pausing in the middle of a discussion to show that I will not talk over others in the classroom, or by planning an activity that asks students to compliment each other in order to foster a sense of mutual respect, my goal is to make sure that these values are values shared by my classroom community.
Equity & Access
Both of my 8th grade classes are very diverse, with English Language Learners, students with IEPs, and students from all different backgrounds with all different experience levels and learning styles. One of the main ways that I try to ensure access for all is by having students work often in pairs or groups, and making these groups strategically, so that students with higher needs are paired with students who are able to take on the challenge of motivating or assisting a fellow student. During class discussions, I try to make sure that as many voices as possible are heard, and during presentations, I make sure that everyone has the chance to share, while encouraging those who are shy to step out of their comfort zones.
Creating a space that has equity and access for all is always going to be something that I am conscious of as I continue to work with my students. As their needs change, I will be flexible, and try out new strategies to ensure that everyone is able to understand the content and participate in all aspects of the classroom community.