We use the Danielson rubric in my district. One of the most important facets of the rubric is classroom environment.
Let’s take a look at what great teachers do….
Effective teachers organize their classrooms so that all students can learn. They maximize instructional time and foster respectful interactions with and among students, ensuring that students find the classroom a safe place to take intellectual risks.
We know that all students learn differently and have different needs but it is so important to consider their emotional needs as well as their learning needs. At the beginning of the school year I have seen many teachers create a safe place for students. This has been done by providing surveys for students and/or parents to complete. I have also observed teachers seeking student input from the very first day. This is a wonderful way to engage students and establish rapport.
- Ask students how they learn.
- Ask students where they like to sit, if they like to work alone, collaboratively, in small groups or in large groups.
- Establish non-verbal cues so that students can share important information with the teacher without other students knowing. This can be done using a sticky note or raising one finger instead of an entire hand.
- Have students help identify locations in the classroom that they feel safest in. This could be on a rug, by a window, or near the door. Seeking student input is essential.
- Have students create a code of conduct at the beginning of the school year but be creative. The phrase “code of conduct” does not necessarily have the best connotation. Try Class Agreements, Respectful Rules, The Students Say…, Code of Character or any number of other agreed upon respectful interactions that should be utilized on a daily basis.
- Create a Wish Board or a Parking Lot. The Parking Lot can be a bulletin board where students can leave questions about class, instruction, or classroom rules or behaviors. The Wish Board can be where students state, “I wish…” and they should complete that with an idea on how to positively impact the classroom like, “I wish we could fill buckets more often” or “I wish we had more classroom helpers because I like helping my classmates.”
It is always exciting to see the wonderful ways children blossom when they are in a safe learning environment. This works for all ages. Try this with middle and high school students as well. Don’t you produce better work when you are feeling comfortable, safe, and listened to? Creating safe spaces is essential for both children and adult learners.
~ Karen Wood