Building a positive classroom environment isn’t just about what happens inside a classroom, it’s about building a classroom community without walls, one that includes and engages parents and caregivers. Research has shown that students with involved parents and caregivers, regardless of background, are more likely to be successful in academics and develop better social skills.
As a teacher, I’ve been blessed to have positive relationships with parents since the first day of my career. The friendships I’ve formed with parents last far longer than a 10-month school calendar, and they are among the aspects of teaching that I cherish most.
Recently, during a camping trip, a colleague asked how I knew so many of our students’ parents by name. Developing relationships with her students’ parents was difficult for her, she admitted. She’s a good teacher and a wonderful person, but parents have not warmed up to her easily. In speaking to other teachers, I learned she is not alone. Thankfully, there are several proactive steps teachers can take to ensure the relationships they have with their students’ parents are helpful and rewarding.
It’s M-M-M Mindset Monday! That’s what the students at Walter Reed Middle School, in Studio City, CA, hear over the loudspeaker each week. And they pay special attention because it’s an announcement made by their fellow students.
What is Mindset Monday all about? And why do we do it?
Five years ago our school had: children with fixed mindsets, no consistent school wide culture policy, and no way of instantly celebrating achievements with each other and parents. Fast forward to today and it’s like walking into a different school…
Why is that?
Today, they would call me an introvert, but when I was a child, the label was “shy.”
I remember the challenges of wanting to demonstrate to my teacher that I was paying attention or mastering concepts but often felt intimidated by participating in class.
The classroom was an overstimulating environment. The number of people and all that surrounded me was enough to hinder my thoughts, let alone the fact that I was expected to process and interact. Unable to keep up, I would quickly shut down.
Today, I teach at first grade in the very same school where I struggled as a student. Though I now enter this building as a teacher, I still struggle as an introvert in an extrovert-dominated career. But I’m reminded of why I became a teacher.
You may be one of those teachers who’s thinking about how ClassDojo and Responsive Classroom can go together. I know I was! If you’re not familiar with the term, Responsive Classroom is founded on the belief that students and teachers work as a team and create the rules and expectations of the classroom together. This gives them a sense of ownership and decision making in the classroom. It can be done during a morning meeting – which is the approach I take. Only the way I do it is to incorporate ClassDojo!
When I was growing up, my school’s math curriculum looked completely different than what it is today. We were taught that the only way to learn math facts was to memorize them, manipulatives were for little kids only, and using a calculator to solve a problem was a big no-no. The parents in my classroom had very similar school experiences as me. The difference between us — I went to university to study “new ways” of teaching, while most of them have studied different subjects such as nursing or business. Without knowledge of the Common Core curriculum, classroom parents find themselves unable to assist their own children with homework. So, as a teacher, how can we help these parents? ClassDojo is the answer.
“How do I say this in a way that everyone will understand?” This is a question I ask myself every time I speak in class. As an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, clarity is always my focus. However, this is easier said than done. As teachers, the odds are school was something we enjoyed, maybe even something that came easy to us. But that’s not the case for everyone and it’s something I always try to keep in mind when planning a lesson.
Every morning, I have three grades of children pile into my classroom, ready to learn and talk about how they can make a change in our school, our community, and our world. We call these groups our Community Groups, and we spend one half hour each morning working with these groups to teach character education.
President Trump’s first address to Congress last month was a reminder of the important role education plays in the future of our country. Many of my students are the children of immigrants, and this year I know that it will be more critical than ever to highlight the importance of empathy, inclusion, and community in my classroom. Something I know many other teachers are thinking about as well.