For me, those last few weeks of summer are always a jumble of mixed thoughts in my head. On the one hand, I’m desperately trying to cross off every item on my “summer fun list” before I have to head back to school. Let’s go to the lake!
On the other hand, as I’m cruising around on one last boat ride, trying to soak it all in, I can’t help but start to daydream about my classroom. What will my setup look like this year? What will my students be like? What new ideas do I have to keep them engaged and make this the best year ever?
It occurs to me that there are three areas to any classroom: the physical environment, the emotional environment, and the academic environment. Each area requires its own amount of attention and thoughtful design. One area that I think can often be overlooked is the emotional environment. We can see the classroom setup, we can measure our progress through standards and test scores, but how do we know that our students are being fully supported emotionally in a way that allows them to feel safe and comfortable with taking risks?
The emotional environment of a classroom is designed to build authentic community, a community in which students actively and positively engage with one another and learn from one another, with a collective desire to achieve goals together as a team. When students are in a supportive emotional environment, they feel free to take risks and go outside their comfort zone, knowing that they will be fully supported even if they fail. Additionally, students are more likely to collaborate and engage in classroom projects if they feel like a valued member of the team. In this type of environment, learning thrives.
The first few weeks of school are a natural time to begin thinking about the emotional environment of your classroom. Building community starts with building in time for communication. When you build in time for communication, students get to know one another on a more personal level and it sets the tone for more academic discourse in the future.
In what ways do you build community in your teaching practice? How do you engage students in communicating and sharing during the first few weeks of school?
Share your ideas by responding to the conversation below.