How We Changed the Culture of Our School – And You Can Too!

Claire Jones

2017-06-02

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?

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Ideas and TipsStories

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!

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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.

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Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce our new collaboration with Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence to bring Mindfulness to millions of classrooms around the world! Together with Yale, we’ve created a set of activities related to Mindfulness for home and school; these will be coming out over the next two weeks.

Why mindfulness?

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Following a contentious debate over our new Secretary of Education, it is crucial to keep empathy in mind when we engage with one another.

We may not use the word “empathy” with our kindergarteners at Beacon Elementary School, the preK-3 school in the Detroit area where I’ve taught for 32 years, but we still try to teach it, by encouraging them to think of how their actions impact others.

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