The first day of school is never easy. But when it’s also your first day as a teacher, in a new country, teaching a foreign language, it’s even more so. I remember walking into class for the first time as a teacher and feeling more nervous than I had ever felt as a student. I truly felt like a stranger in a strange land.
One of the hardest things any teacher has to grapple with first is: how do I create the best environment for learning so every child feels secure in taking risks and exploring their innate creativity? For that, it all comes down the culture you build within your classroom. The question is, how do you do that?
That’s where I turn to ClassDojo. At the beginning of the year, I use ClassDojo to establish the skills and values for us to focus on as a class, which will lead to greater success for students individually and for the class as a whole
The top 3 (and only three to start) expectations of my English classroom are:
- Being safe
These expectations do not admonish my students but rather give students feedback that shapes their attitude in the classroom. By using ClassDojo points (along with explanation), I now have a shared language I can use with my students so they better understand what these skills mean and the impact us doing (or not doing) them has on the class.
For instance: When sharing with students, “listening to others is important”, they may nod their heads but not actually understand. But if you point out instances when they take the time to understand another’s perspective on solving a problem — or when they speak over their fellow student — they will begin to build an understanding of what “listening” means so they can better pull that knowledge through to all aspects of their life.
Using ClassDojo to recognize and provide feedback during these moments allows me to keep my expectations positively-framed and at a small enough number so that my classroom runs smoothly — something that benefits us all.
As a new parent, I understand that children must learn to crawl, walk, and then run (in the right place, at the right time). I teach my boys how to walk responsibly; I do not give them a map of where to step and where not to step. Similarly, I am not interested in making a list of do’s and don’ts that micromanage every step a student takes throughout the day. I want to teach students to walk on their own.
ClassDojo has given me a way to effectively do just this this for my students and my classroom. I’d love to hear what skills and values you’re encouraging this school year!
Bryan Betz has been an English teacher in South Korean public schools for the last decade. Over this time he has served as a teacher trainer for the Gimpo Office of Education, a mentor in the GEPIK program, and written two ESL textbooks “Table Talk” and “Storytelling the News”. He is the founder and owner of Kaizen Teaching a training organization dedicated to the continual improvement of teachers with a focus on conversation-based learning. Bryan can be reached at BBetz1985@gmail.com.